Occasionally I'm asked how I clean Seydel harps that are sent to me for repair. There are several ways and I am not going to advocate one method over another. This is what has worked well for me considering my volume of work, time, and the expense passed to the player. I want to stress now and I will re-state later that this is what I do for Seydel repairs which are 100% of my work. I am not going to discuss methods for cleaning non-Seydel harps.
Non-valved Seydel diatonic harmonicas are made up of covers, comb, German Silver reed plates, stainless steel rivets, and stainless steel reeds. In general, straight tap water or even a little soapy water will not harm these components. There is nothing wrong with rinsing Seydel diatonic harps under tap or momentarily soaking them in water. This is most effective if done right after playing and if done frequently. The Seydel wood combs are sealed and a little water will not harm them. However, the wooden combs will temporarily warp if left submerged for longer than 30 seconds so I would suggest nothing more than a rinse.
After rinsing, just tap them on your palm or blow them out a little and let them sit for awhile on a paper towel. The 1847 models will drain and dry a little faster than the Session Steels. The Session Steels have grooves and spaces inside the comb and water will likely sit in there a little longer. This is no big deal.
The components of a Seydel diatonic do not naturally attract dust or dirt and in general, they do not corrode under normal conditions. However, since our harps are mouth blown instruments, there is naturally going to be saliva that gets in there. Saliva, although clear, has proteins and other substances in it. The water from saliva will evaporate leaving behind sticky solid stuff (Proteins). In some cases, the saliva residue may temporarily help a diatonic harmonica play a little better as it sort of fills in the gaps.
However, eventually dust, dirt, pollen, and other air born solids will adhere to the saliva residue. Of course, as this is happening, more saliva is forced into the harmonica when played. As you can imagine, the cycle of saliva on top of saliva and dust/dirt, causes a small muddy mess. Eventually this accumulation of moist substances will cause moisture be trapped in the harmonica and the evaporation process will be much slower. This is when light corrosion begins. Seydel diatonic harmonicas are not permanently damaged by a little corrosion but it does look pretty bad and will effect playability until cleaned.
Once saliva residue as dried on to your reed plates, it is not going to dissolve with straight water. Light pressure from the tap may remove the residue. However, I use a countertop foaming kitchen cleaner called CLR.
This works for me on stainless steel reed harps. I spray it on the covers and reed plates and let it sit until the foam has disappeared. This seems to work well. CLR is water soluble so I just soak and rinse the parts. It has worked well for me for years and so until I find a faster or more efficient method for my situation, I will continue to use CLR. CLR is marketed as a counter-top and kitchen cleaner and I see no indications that there are harmful effects, especially since it is easily rinsed.
I do understand that there are ultra-sonic cleaners, foaming denture cleaners, and other products out there. It is likely that they work well, but I have no experience with them so I can't make any recommendations.
As CLR is marketed as a foaming cleaner that will remove light rust, players should understand that it is possible CLR will cut into soft metal. Therefore, I would be careful using CLR on brass reed harmonicas.
This discussion is limited to the cleaning of non-valved diatonic harmonicas. Although CLR can certainly be used on Seydel valved diatonic harmonicas (PT Gazell models) and Seydel chromatic harmonicas, the solution will most certainly dissolve the valve adhesive so I wouldn't suggest this unless you are prepared to reinstall the valves.
I also happen to use CLR to clean the mouthpiece assembly on Seydel chromatics. The slide, rail, and other parts are very much prone to saliva buildup and light surface corrosion. CLR cleaner does well on these parts in my experience.
I hope this helps. I have a few FAQ for readers as a review.
How do you clean Hohner harmonicas?I don't know. I don't clean them. I work on Seydel
Can CLR be used on non-Seydel harmonicas? I don't know
What method would you recommend for cleaning Hohner, Suzuki, and Lee Oskar? I don't have a method
Can a Hohner Marine Band be rinsed in tap water? I don't know
Do you recommend an ultra-sonic cleaner? I've never used one so I don't know
What about denture cleaners? I don't know. I've never used them as I use CLR
Isn't CLR a toxic substance that can cause damage to vital organs? I hope not
Will CLR dissolve or damage aluminum combs? Possibly if continuously soaked for longer than 20 years.
Will CLR work on Suzuki stainless steel reeds? Suzuki reeds are phosphorus bronze not stainless
Will CLR work on Suzuki phosphorus bronze ? I don't know
Should I use saline solution? I use tap water
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