Sax on the Web Forum banner

Periodic Cleaning

1620 Views 13 Replies 9 Participants Last post by  Gordon (NZ)
Hi All;

I am a new player who started about 5 months ago. The sax I bought was used but overhauled and very clean. The keywork was smooth and all the pads sealed. I made a swab with a piece of string tied to a cloth with a pencil erasor for a weight on the other end of the string to help pass the string through the horn. After I play I slowly pull the swab through the horn three or four times to remove moisture. (Or at least I thought I was). I do not use one of those pad saver loofa things as I seem to recall reading that they actually retain moisture and contribute to pad degradation.

About a month ago I noticed my C sharp key sticking to the point where I thought the pad was going to get pulled right out of the cup. When I finally got it open there was a deposit of really sticky gunk on the pad and in the tone hole. I used some WD 40 on a swab to clean it out but I have not figured out what it was or how it go there.

Additionally last week I was getting a lot of squeeking so I started to look to see if any keys were no longer sealing. What I found was that one of my left hand palm keys had a deposit of smudge which almost looked like mildew on the key pad. I wiped that out with a piece of cloth and the horn now plays fine.

Clearly whatever I am doing before I put the horn away is not enough. What kind of cleaning regimen or technique should I follow?
1 - 14 of 14 Posts

sticking pads...

Are you putting the sax back in a closed case after practicing? If so leave the case open for a bit to allow air to circulate. I leave mine on a stand and almost never swab and have no problems with sticky pads.

also... make certain to rinse your mouth before practicing. Perhaps this will help.

Best regards,
Hi Hutmo

I brush and Listorene before playing. I'll start leaving the case open.

If the horn was clean on the inside when you got it, not necessarily a given, then you probably want to look at yourself and how you store it.

If you are eating or drinking anything other than water between brushing your teeth and playing, that could be part of the problem.

If you are getting a mildewy deposit, it could be coming from an older case or still being wet when you close it up. Try letting it sit on a stand for an hour or so when you're done playing and keep the case off the floor and on a shelf or table.

There is no real agreement about the shove-it padsaver type things and I don't ever leave one in a horn, but they do a pretty fair job as a swab, especially if you also use a bell brush (search "bell brush" at WWBW.)

Does the case have a noticeable odor? Where do you store the horn?
Hi Saintsday
No the case is pretty new and smells fine. As I said in my previous post. I brush, rinse and gargle before playing. Lesson learned 32 years ago way back in sixth grade when I first tried learning sax. One night I forgot to brush and started practicing after having brocoli for dinner. The reed forever tasted like brocolli. Probably one of the contributers which caused me to give up sax back then.

I'l start leaving the case open after playing and see if that does the trick.
I use a regular swab and I also have a tenor padsaver gizmo. After swabbing, I put the padsaver all the way in and then slowly lift it up about 10cm, then back down. I repeat this a few times and then remove the padsaver. By lifting it up, the padsaver "fingers" tend to go into the tone holes and touch the pads especially in the upper part of the horn. I use the tenor padsaver on my tenor and my alto in this manner. I never leave it in.

I always store my saxes on stands out of harms way because I believe there is better air circulation. Also, a horn that is out of site is a horn that is less likely to get played.
I'd also suggest getting a book of Yamaha powder papers. These are very good to use occasionally when a pad starts to stick.
But as everyone else has said, whatever "gets in there" can only have come out of your mouth.
Try buying a saxophone stand at your local dealer. If that isn't possible, leave your saxophone lying down, keys facing the ground on the ground where no one will step on it.

By the way, its really ok if you don't brush rinse and gargle before playing - all you probably need to do is do a quick rinse, then if you cant smell any strong odours coming from your mouth, you're good to go.
That's odd.
I've always been taught to set the sax keys/rods facing up to avoid bending the rods or mechanisms in the sax.

I do suggest airing out the sax a little bit agter playing. Could there be a possibility that the way the case is being held/set that the C# key is the lowest pad to the ground? So that all the leftover moisture still in the sax runs to that pad and causes it to stick?

Also, I think WD-40 wasn't the wisest choice to use. Something about the compounds its made of staying on the pad and resulting in smoe kind of bad effect. Next time I recommend using lighter fluid on a q-tip or those yamaha powder sheets, I've found good results with those.
Hi Kaplac;

Thanks for the feedback. I read that WD-40 had a relatively unknow quality as a good degunker which will remove most sticky substances including old stickers and tape residue which is why I picked it. I didn't apply the WD-40 to the pad itself but sprayed a Q-tip and swabbed the sound hole and then passed a paper towel through to clean off any residue. Nonetheless I cannot guarentee that some did not get on the pad so I'll skip this method in the future. Never knew lighter fluid was a cleaner but I have some and will use that in the future. Thanks again!.
I'm a bit late to the game but will add my 2-cents here.

You mention that your sax had an overhaul. An overhaul usually means the horn is stripped, cleaned (professionally), completely repadded, adjusted and reassembled. Was that the case or was this more of a tuneup (bad pads replaced, adjustments made as needed, etc.)?

Between my own personal experience and the posts I have read, you are a lot more diligent cleaning your sax than most players. That said, something is definetly making your pads stick and that thing is usually gunk either on the pads or on the tonehole.

Lighter fluid and powder papers should help you out. Clean first with the lighter fluid and then follow the directions with the powder papers.

I read a post challenging the "non-stickiness" of new pads vs. old pads. It seems that some if not most new pads tend to stick more than older style pads. Maybe this is what you're running into.

I guess my point is that if you're playing regularly (once a week or more) and you're swabbing your horn regularly as you say you are, then you shouldn't be having that severe a problem and you shouldn't have to be taking such drastic measures. You may want to take the horn back to the tech. who gave you the overhaul to see what he/she thinks.
See less See more
Bluesblaster, I don't think you have said what brand this sax is. Some low quality brands, and at times even top quality brands, use pads with a VERY sticky surface, because of the substandard type of treatment they have had to make them waterproof &/or airproof.

Using solvents on such pad will likely make them MORE sticky. Talc or Teflon powder will not stay on the surface. They simply need replacing.

Perhaps yours are in this category.
Hi Gordon;

It was an Alpine tenor but the problem has now gone away. I traded it in for a Buescher Aristocrat last week.
If it is a brand that is not well established and well known, there is a very good chance it has pads where the leather is treated/coated with an inherently sticky material, to reduce porosity.

Indeed, the leather itself may not have its original surface, but rather a synthetic laminate instead.
1 - 14 of 14 Posts
This is an older thread, you may not receive a response, and could be reviving an old thread. Please consider creating a new thread.