Care and Cleaning of the Recorder


The following information was presented by Neil Seely and Stan Gross at the January 10, 2012 Rochester ARS Chapter Meeting with the wish that it will help us keep our recorders in good condition and increase our music-making enjoyment.


Your recorder may need cleaning if it is played a lot and is a year or more old. Wooden instruments can have the block removed (by an expert) so the surfaces of the windway can be easily cleaned. Plastic instruments, on the other hand, cannot be taken apart. This makes cleaning difficult and less successful, but still worthwhile.

How to proceed! First, hold up a dry head joint and look through the beak end of the windway toward a bright light source. If it is nice and clean, maybe you should practice more. Most likely you will see surface dirt, scum, even mold.

To remove the dirt, I find that Velcro--the thinnest sew-on type (NOT with adhesive backing)--will slip through the windway of sopranos and altos. Cut a piece off the strip of loop Velcro (not the hook strip) about twice as long as the windway. Cut a narrow strip from the piece about half as wide as the windway. Since the loops stand up but lean somewhat, to ease the task of inserting this strip into the beak end of the head joint, trim the corners away from the direction of the leaning. Slide the Velcro through the windway and out at the window. Use a toothpick to lift the end up so you can grab it. Slide the Velcro back and forth and work it over to both sides of the windway. When you are satisfied the windway is clean, pull out the Velcro. Turn it over and insert it as before to clean the other side. This operation should clean most of the accumulation of debris but will not restore a pristine condition of newness.

The next step is to wash the recorder in a dishpan with just enough warm water to cover half the head joint. Add a drop of liquid dishwashing soap (Joy is recommended). Before wetting the head joint, feed the Velcro through the windway again. Now dip the head joint in the solution. Scrub the windway again with the Velcro, back and forth, making sure to get both corners. Rinse with clean warm water and blow out dry. Check for residual dirt. Take a second dry Velcro strip, insert the loops toward any remaining dirt and rewash. Rinse, dry, and check. When satisfied, treat with anti-clogging solution.


Water condensation and the resulting hoarseness and muffled tones are annoyances we chronically endure, especially during our cold Rochester winters. “Blowing out” our instruments provides temporary respite. Adding detergent to the windway delivers a longer-lasting result.

To use the ACS, simply apply 2 to 3 drops to the windway at the window end, let the solution run through, then blow out. I use the ACS with my plastic recorders as often as needed while practicing and once more after playing. Frequent treatment makes sense because the detergent is only deposited on the plastic surface and condensation soon washes it away. For wooden recorders, the ACS soaks into the wood grain to just below the surface where the detergent can remain for many days or weeks. Therefore, wooden recorders should only need a single application which I recommend be done no more than once or twice a month.

Excellent information for de-clogging and cleaning your recorders is found under “Recorder Care and Feeding” on "Lazars Early Music" Web site. You are urged to read it completely. Here’s a summary, which also includes a detail from

For plastic instruments: Remove the head joint and run some warm to hot water through the windway from the large end or window. Then fill the windway from the window end with ACS and let stand for several minutes. Drain and blow out the excess liquid, then let dry. In addition to cleaning the windway, the detergent residue lowers the surface tension of (future) condensed water droplets and causes them to form a smooth film that drains readily.

For wooden instruments: Do not follow the procedure described for plastic instruments. Running water through the windway can cause severe damage to the recorder. Instead, allow the instrument to dry thoroughly overnight. Then put a few drops of ACS into the windway from the window end, covering the surface of the cedar block. Let the excess liquid drain, blow out as above and let dry.


Sooner or later it happens to all of us: No matter how diligent we are in applying cork grease, one of our recorder joints freezes up! Recent heroic efforts to disassemble my great bass probably produced a (thumb) trigger finger, which required a cortisone shot (ouch!) to cure. In an attempt to prevent a recurrence (a stuck joint - not a trigger finger!) I’ve been experimenting with readily available silicone grease. Results are surprisingly superior to standard cork grease for both plastic and wooden instruments. Joints rotate smoothly, yet firmly, neither too loose nor too tight. One application lasts for days or weeks.

First use a soft paper towel to wipe off as much of the existing grease as possible from the inner and outer joint(s). Then use a small wooden stick, a round toothpick or the stick from a Q-Tip® to apply a tiny amount of silicone grease to both joints. Avoid getting any grease on the outside of your recorder. And avoid using your fingers. This stuff is hard to remove! Assemble and disassemble the joints several times by rotating them slowly, always in the same direction (Yes, cork has a grain.) If necessary, apply an additional very small amount of grease and repeat this process until you’re satisfied.




Composition: 0.42% sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) in distilled water. SLS is a non-toxic anionic detergent found in countless products including toothpaste, mouthwash and shampoo. Our anti-clogging solution is virtually identical to Duponol preparations sold by various dealers.

Ready to use:

Make your own (our formula):



VELCRO® 30" x 5/8" WHITE TAPE 0-75967-90320-6