We have been contacted by some school authorities who have started sterilising brass instrument mouthpieces in solutions such as sterilising fluids designed for babies’ bottles. We would never recommend this! These solutions are mostly based on sodium hypochlorite – i.e. bleach. Bleach will seriously damage the silver plating of a mouthpiece and should never be used. Sodium hypochlorite is a strong oxidant and will cause the silver to tarnish very rapidly. In addition, it will generate sodium hydroxide, which will etch into the silver and cause pitting, thus ruining the mouthpiece.
Never use bleach on a mouthpiece!
We recommend regularly cleaning with a mouthpiece brush in hot, soapy water. If this is your own personal mouthpiece, clean at least once a week. If it is a shared mouthpiece (in a school or band, for instance) it MUST be cleaned after every use. Cleaning with hot water and washing-up liquid will not damage the mouthpiece and should kill any germs.
Use a mouthpiece brush to scrub the bore of the mouthpiece, where the dirt builds up. The brushes generally come in two sizes; small, for cornet, trumpet, flugelhorn, French horn and so on, and large, for trombone, euphonium, tuba and all the larger instruments. Allow the mouthpiece to air dry. This will keep the mouthpiece clean and hygienic, and will prevent infections and cross contamination.
Never use any abrasive material, such as toothpaste (which we have seen recommended!), on a mouthpiece. It will scratch it and damage the plating. Use a soft cloth such as a Denis Wick Silver Cloth which will remove any tarnish.