How to Clean Pads on a Saxophone

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The pads of a saxophone perform the essential function of forming an air-tight seal over the holes of a saxophone, creating a sound of the right pitch and tone. Every saxophone's pads must be cleaned regularly to remove buildup of oils and moisture that can damage pads and make them stick. While pad cleaning is not time-consuming, it is important to do it right to ensure long-term functioning of the instrument.

Things You'll Need

  • Saxophone
  • Woodwind cleaning papers
  • Woodwind powder papers
  • Small square of scrap silk
  • Pad cleaning solution
  • Compress the key to open the button with the pad you want to clean. If you don't play sax yourself, find the right key by following the mechanisms connected to the metal disc the pad is attached to, or just try keys until you find the right one.

  • Clean the metal ring below the pad. Soak a cotton swab in rubbing alcohol and swab around the inside and outside edge of the metal ring around the hole; this will
    prevent any grime from transferring back onto the pad after you clean it. Let the alcohol dry for a few seconds.

  • Place a sheet of cleaning paper between the pad and the hole. Try to insert the paper far enough to cover as much of the hole and pad area as possible.

  • Gently let the button close over the cleaning paper.

  • Slowly pull the cleaning paper out. If it sticks or tears, open the pad and pull it out to try again; it should slide out easily. (If any torn pieces of paper get stuck in the gears, don't worry: Just pull them out with your fingers or a pair of tweezers.)

  • Repeat steps 3 through 5 as needed. The pad is clean when it opens and closes without sticking and you no longer hear a sticking sound when you press the key.
    If repeated use of cleaning paper isn't enough, go on to the next step.

  • Open the saxophone button and insert a sheet of powder paper. Close the button over it and pull the paper through only once (powder paper deposits powder on the pad, so you don't want to overdo it). If the pad is still sticky after this, go on to the next step.

  • Place two or three drops of pad cleaning solution on a small piece of clean silk. Scrunch and rub the silk together to distribute the solution.

  • Run the silk square once between the pad and the hole in the same way you did with the papers. Repeat until pads are clean.

  • Repeat all steps with every pad on the saxophone, as needed.

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