Oboe Maintenance and Cleaning Supplies

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How to Clean an Oboe

The oboe is a double-reed woodwind that is an orchestra staple due to its soprano range. Also called the hautbois, the oboe distinguishes itself from other woodwinds with a clear, penetrating voice. Modern oboes are made from wood, metal, and plastic. Plastic is generally reserved for student oboes, but almost all modern oboes use some plastic at the joints and other stress points. Wooded oboes are usually made from grenadilla, also called African Blackwood, but other popular options include violet wood, rosewood, and cocobolo. Wooden oboes can maintain their sound for decades, but in order to achieve that lifespan, an oboe requires regular cleaning and maintenance.

Oboe Maintenance and Cleaning Supplies 

Proper oboe maintenance requires a particular set of tools and supplies. The oboist should have these supplies on hand with the oboe at all times. An oboe requires daily care, including preparation prior to playing and maintenance immediately after use. Optimally, the oboist will maintain a surplus of supplies, which will ensure that he or she always has the necessary materials. As with most wooden instruments, maintenance, cleaning, and repair must be executed in a timely fashion. Failure to do so can lead to cracks and other damage.

Swab, Silk or Cotton

A pull-through or non-pull-through swab is used to clean the bore. Cotton is more absorbent, but silk leaves behind less lint.

Cloth, soft

A clean, soft cloth is used for wipe down. Microfiber cloths work well.

Brush, soft

Use a cleaned, old shaving brush or paintbrush with soft bristles for dusting.


A washed turkey feather is more useful than a swab for prepping the oboe during warm-up.


An additional feather will make the application of any bore oil much easier.

Cigarette Paper

Non-gummed cigarette paper is useful for removing water from tone holes.

Cork Grease

Cork grease or petroleum jelly should be used on reed corks and tenons to ease assembly.

Needle Oiler

This style of oiler is needed to apply oil to the key joints.

Key Oil

This substance is used to oil the joints where key meets post.

Bore Oil

This substance is necessary to coat the inside of the bore of a wooden oboe.

Jeweler's Toolset

These screwdrivers are necessary for tightening the rods that will loosen during play.

Pipe Cleaners

Non-fluffy, cotton pipe cleaners are useful for cleaning the insides of reeds.

Sandpaper, 600 grit

Sandpaper is useful for cleaning the reed exterior prior to soaking.

Hydrogen Peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide is useful for cleaning reeds prior to storing them.

Film Canister

A film canister with a lid is a convenient way to soak reeds.


Having new reeds on hand is useful because worn and damaged reeds require immediate replacement.

Oboe Storage 

Proper oboe and reed storage is an integral aspect of maintaining an oboe. Cleaning an oboe should only be necessary to remove dirt and residue that builds up during play. All other forms of dirt and residue should be avoided by storing the oboe in a proper case. The case should be fitted, have a soft interior, be moisture-proof, seal tight, and preferably have a lock. For reeds, use a reed guard or case, not a makeshift case, and during soaking, use a sealable, watertight container. Failure to use a reed case often results in reeds drying out, chipping, or cracking at which point they require immediate replacement.


Optimally, oboes should be stored at room temperature. Avoid extreme highs and extreme lows. Keep the oboe away from direct sunlight, open windows, vents, heaters, and so forth. Keep in mind that a proper oboe case does not provide proper temperature protection.A temperature that could freeze or dry out an oboe will likely do so while the instrument is in a case, too.
Oboe Case Maintenance 

Regular maintenance and cleaning of the oboe case, reed case, and reed soakers is also necessary. Failure to do so will eventually undermine the benefit of storage. Clean the oboe case during the weekly oboe cleaning. Wet dust any metal, wood, and plastic aspects, and use a vacuum to clean the cloth-covered part of the interior. The felt, or similar material, will eventually wear away. When that begins to happen, replace the case, or have it professionally restored. For case exteriors, wet dust them once a week, and oil any hinges once every month. Reed soakers should be cleaned out with water and dried completely prior to storage.
Oboe Maintenance 

Proper oboe maintenance should be on a schedule that is adhered to regardless of whether the oboe is played or not. Even an oboe in a proper case will dry out and crack eventually without handling. All oboe maintenance responsibilities can be categorized into one of three groups: daily, weekly, and yearly. Daily tasks are typically those responsibilities that only need to be met when the oboe is being played. Monthly and yearly maintenance tasks should be performed regardless of any other factors.
Daily Oboe Maintenance 

While warming up, use a feather to spread any moisture in the bore evenly. Doing so helps to avoid water collecting in the tone holes, which makes the oboe easier to clean prior to storage. When done playing the instrument completely, remove the reed, and squeeze out any excess water. Drop the weighted end of the cleaning swab through the top end of the oboe. Let the swab fall to the end, and then pull it through gently. Repeat this process a second time. Wipe the oboe down, place it in the case, and put the case somewhere safe. Failure to remove all fingerprints will cause tarnishing that will eventually be permanent.

Reed Maintenance 

If the oboe will not be used again this day, soak the reed for several minutes in a three percent hydrogen peroxide solution. Wash the reed in water, and dry it thoroughly. Put the reed in the reed guard. If the oboe will be used again this day, just dry it thoroughly, and put it in the reed case. Just be sure to soak the reed at least once before storing it long-term.

Weekly Oboe Maintenance 

The tenons are the areas where the oboe joints fit together. Keep all tenons cleaned and then greased using cork grease or petroleum jelly. If using petroleum jelly, ensure that it does not have fragrances or other additives. This process is just as important when the oboe is not being used. If the oboe is difficult to reassemble, use a small amount of grease wherever necessary to ease the process. Be sure to wipe away any excess grease prior to storage.
If any pads have begun to stick, clean them out and dry them. Do this by placing a sheet of non-gummed cigarette paper beneath the sticky key. Then, press the key down using more pressure than one would use to play the oboe but still be gentle. Pull out the paper being careful not to rip it. Repeat this as necessary, using fresh paper each time, until all the keys feel right.

Yearly Oboe Maintenance 

Yearly maintenance on an oboe or any other musical instrument should be performed by a professional. A professional repair person will give the oboe a thorough cleaning and make any minor repairs, such as replacing worn pads, replacing worn corks, and fixing any small cracks that have started to form. This is also a good time to repair or replace the storage case and reed guard.

Oboe Cleaning 

The most common mistake novices make when cleaning is they damage the bore with the swab. Rough use of a swab can gouge the bore. If a swab becomes stuck in a joint, never yank it; remove it surgically, or take it to a professional. An oboe should be prepped prior to use and cleaned after use. It should also be cleaned prior to temperature changes, such as going from a warm house to a wintery outdoors. Excess moisture and excessive dryness are the enemies of wood instruments, so all cleaning efforts should focus on avoiding these conditions. Skin oils are a long-term concern. Household chemicals are an immediate concern. Microfiber cloths are good for cleaning the exterior. For the interior, cotton is the best absorbent, but it leaves behind lint. Be diligent in removing all lint, or use silk instead.

Find Oboes and Oboe Cleaning Supplies on eBay 

eBay offers a huge selection of musical instruments, storage cases, and accessories, including cleaning supplies. To peruse the selection, explore the Musical Instruments & Gear section as well as its appropriate subsections, such as Woodwind, Woodwind Parts & Accessories, and Oboe. Oboes and supplies can be purchased via auction or Buy It Now. eBay also offers discounts, free shipping, authorized dealers, and a buyer protection policy that ensures the buyer's satisfaction.


Many professional oboists will replace their oboes every three to five years. The average oboist, however, can get decades or even longer out of their oboe. To achieve this, the key is to avoid cracks and gouges. Cracks occur due to excessive moisture and dryness from a lack of lubrication. Gouges typically happen due to rough handling. Therefore, it is necessary to clean and maintain an oboe every day, but it is also vital to do it with a great amount of tenderness and attention to detail.

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