disinfecting a wooden flute

disinfecting a wooden flute

does anyone knows if its safe to disinfect the area around the wooden flute embouchure hole with rubbing alcohol? basically can rubbing alcohol 70% harm a wooden flute?

Re: disinfecting a wooden flute

You could wipe the Embouchure hole with alcohol using a cotton bud, q tip, as long as you wipe some almond oil where you just cleaned.
Cheers

Re: disinfecting a wooden flute

It doesn’t seem like a good practice to me. I also can’t think of a good reason to do it. After over 40 years of playing flute, I’ve never felt the need. It doesn’t seem like you are in danger of catching anything you wouldn’t otherwise catch giving or receiving a kiss.

Posted by .

Re: disinfecting a wooden flute

I remember a forum post by one maker who said that the first thing he does with a flute when it comes back to him to be worked on was to clean it over with alcohol. A maker would know how to treat it afterwards though.

@ Ailin. Herpes simplex ? Maybe especially not good for a wooden flute player because of concerns (well-founded or not, I don’t know) about broken skin in contact with wood risking development of an allergy to that wood.

Re: disinfecting a wooden flute

As far as I can tell nobody has mentioned Hydrogen Peroxide as a disinfecting agent. It’s been demonstrated to be hard on skin but effective in killing pathogens (I think). At least it was used for that purpose in hospitals for decades. I don’t know what effect it would have on wood but I suspect it would be less harmful than alcohol.

Don’t know, never tried it, just throwing the idea out for someone with more experience than I to ruminate on. Like Ailin, it’s not something I have ever felt the need for.

Re: disinfecting a wooden flute

Hydrogen Peroxide I would definitely avoid, it is a very powerful bleaching agent. Although it is pretty harmless in the dilutions used for hygiene purposes, on a porous material like wood it soaks in, then the water evaporates and it starts bleaching the wood. I once used it to clean up a dirty crack in a guitar soundboard. The job looked perfect, but a week later a white stripe about 2mm wide developed where the crack had been.

I don’t think there would be any problem with alcohol (providing the flute is bare wood and not french polished). The woods used for flutes tend to be from the rosewood family, and are naturally oily woods. Alcohol will remove the natural oils and dry the wood out if you soak the thing, but a quick wipe over, followed by a light wipe of almond oil or whatever you prefer should be just fine.

Re: disinfecting a wooden flute

My understanding is that herpes is not contracted by contact with inanimate surfaces. Ditto HIV. I won’t swear to it, though. Someone more interested than I can look it up.

Posted by .

Re: disinfecting a wooden flute

Squirt of holy water? Dip it in a pint?

I’m stumped. I know loads of flute players. I play a flute. It’s never occurred to me. Afaik, it’s never occurred to anybody else either.

Probably not even a thing…

Re: disinfecting a wooden flute

Ailin, herpes simplex can be transferred by sharing objects; like lip balm.

Posted by .

Re: disinfecting a wooden flute

"herpes simplex can be transferred by sharing objects; like lip balm."
Only if it’s fairly immediate. It can’t live too long on a cold inanimate surface.
Just as perhaps an unnecessary precaution I sometimes clean my wooden whistle by running it through with one of those anti-bacterial hand wipes (made of tea-tree extract. They are only damp and enough to kill of any of my own bugs.

Posted by .

Re: disinfecting a wooden flute

I went to the festival in Drumshanbo two years ago and came home with a nasty case of herpes :-/

** It was herpes zoster, AKA shingles. Get your mind out of the gutter.

Re: disinfecting a wooden flute

I only allow my mind to get in a disinfected gutter. I wouldn’t want it to catch anything. Although once I went out with a marine biologist and I caught crabs!

Posted by .

Re: disinfecting a wooden flute

Thanks for the advice about peroxide Mark. I won’t be using that!

Re: disinfecting a wooden flute

I can’t help but wonder where Yooval has been puting his flute in the first place!

Re: disinfecting a wooden flute

Who nose?

Posted by .

Re: disinfecting a wooden flute

Colloidal silver.

Or coconut water - antibacterial & antifungal.

As already said, alcohol, carefully applied, and re-oil so there is no discoloration.

Re: disinfecting a wooden flute

I would have to ask; are you paranoid, or is there something you have good reason to be worried about ?
For instance; have you been sharing your flute with someone you suspect of carrying a disease ? In which case the alcohol followed a few minutes later by a re-oiling should do the trick.
Or are you talking about disinfecting a musty old flute that hasn’t been played for years ? Same treatment should also work, although you might want to do a pull-through, first alcohol, then oil.
H2O2 is definitely potentially harmful to the wood, and should only be used on metal and glass.

Re: disinfecting a wooden flute

If you really want to wipe out any bacteria or germs in a flute then you could briefly soak the entire flute in Isopropyl alcohol, which otherwise is poisonous alcohol to drink but is the kind of alcohol that doctors, hospitals and medical clinics use. HOWEVER, Isopropyl alcohol WILL ALSO DELETE all of the oils in wood and in any key-work mechanism including the tone hole pads. And so a COMPLETE re-oiling of wood and any mechanisms WILL then be necessary.

Re: disinfecting a wooden flute

Isn’t all of this completely over the top? Like I said, stick an anti-bacterial wipe through the thing. They are safe for your skin and kill 99.9% of germs (and they only say 99.9% because science know it can’t ever prove anything to be 100%).

Posted by .

Re: disinfecting a wooden flute

Also.. Ultra violet light is a simple solution.

Posted by .

Re: disinfecting a wooden flute

@ Gobby

Yes, much of this is completely over the top. I agree. But the question has to do with wood flutes. And there, wood is porous, meaning that bacteria and germs, etc., possibly could work their way into such porousness.

Re: disinfecting a wooden flute

The topic couldn’t be more straightforward. Despite it’s title the original questions’ *only* concerns are the embouchure hole, using alcohol there & it’s effect on wood. Beyond that anything else on the thread is a product of the imagination [or lack of].

Posted by .

Re: disinfecting a wooden flute

o’muirgheasain:
"wood is porous, meaning that bacteria and germs, etc., possibly could work their way into such porousness"

Sure, but then you have the same protection that any wood cutting board in a kitchen has against germs. The porous wood fibers draw bacteria down into the fibers as the wood dries out, away from the surface. Bacteria needs a moist environment to reproduce. Drying is how you kill it and keep it from reproducing.

If you’re worried about bacteria, mold, or other issues, I think the main suspects might be cloth flute cleaning rags that are put away damp, in a plastic bag or other container where they can’t dry out and the nasties might have time to use that damp cloth as a nice growth medium.

I’m not paranoid about bacteria or mold, but I wipe my flute with a tight-weave paper towel wrapped on a long bamboo chopstick, and then I throw away the paper towel so doesn’t get used again, No chance of re-introducing anything nasty to the flute. The last step is wiping over the embouchure area before throwing away the paper towel, but that’s mainly to get rid of the potato chip crumbs and Guiness residue.

Re: disinfecting a wooden flute

"the original questions’ *only* concerns are the embouchure hole,"
Ha, you are right Ben. As I was always told at Uni;- Read the bloody question! Obviously I didn’t! But then you said, "Beyond that anything else on the thread is a product of the imagination [or lack of]." ….
No, ….just like all our postings on this site, there is definitely no lack of imagination (e.g., crabs, herpes, coconuts, potato chips, Guinness, Holy water, etc.) It’s what I love about these discussions.

Posted by .

Re: disinfecting a wooden flute

"the original questions’ *only* concerns are the embouchure hole,"
Ha, you are right Ben. As I was always told at Uni;- Read the bloody question! Obviously I didn’t! But then you said, "Beyond that anything else on the thread is a product of the imagination [or lack of]." ….
No, ….just like all our postings on this site, there is definitely no lack of imagination (e.g., crabs, herpes, coconuts, potato chips, Guinness, Holy water, etc.) It’s what I love about these discussions.

Posted by .

Re: disinfecting a wooden flute

I did like the bit about your catching crabs, Gobby!

Posted by .

Re: disinfecting a wooden flute

Okay… embouchure only?? Well that’s much easier. Simply dampen a cloth with vodka or mouthwash and wipe it down. Personally I wouldn’t bother. I’d just drink the vodka and keep blowing into the hole. Be careful though children;- don’t try that with the mouthwash.
@Ben… maybe it was lobsters! Which ones walk sideways?

Posted by .

Re: disinfecting a wooden flute … which one walks sideways?

It might be worth asking your friend, the marine biologist. ;-)

Posted by .

Re: disinfecting a wooden flute

Well when I said that Ben, I was actually thinking of an old joke from my university days:- It was well known on campus the the marine biology students were very sexually active with each other, and the joke went like this:-
One marine biologist asks another, "What’s the difference between crabs and lobsters?" The other replies, "Crabs walk sideways and lobsters walk strait", to which the first responds, "Oh No! I’ve got lobsters!"

Posted by .

Re: disinfecting a wooden flute

What about blowing weed smoke in your hole?

Re: disinfecting a wooden flute

thank you all for helping

Re: disinfecting a wooden flute

Haven’t seen this mentioned here; clorox diluted with water as per instructions on bottle for disinfecting. Swab area of concern with disinfection solution, wait just a bit, then wipe with cloth dampened with plain water. You might have a little clorox odor but that should go away. I like ispropyl alcohol for some things but on a wood flute it would be an organic solvent that would wipe some of the natural wood oils away, just guessing.

Re: disinfecting a wooden flute

Herpes CAN be transmitted by sharing a flute, though it was fairly immediate. I don’t know from personal experience whether the virus can survive or not. Try rubbing down with a good strong whisky. Tastes and smells nicer however effective it may or not be…

Re: disinfecting a wooden flute

No one so seems to have mentioned this, Tropical hardwood, cocus, Blackwood, rosewood etc. have a natural defence against bacteria in the natural oils that gives some folks an allergic reaction, Iroko chopping boards have been shown to be cleaner after a rinse in water than plastic after disinfecting. So a thorough wipe with a clean dry cloth will be more effective than you might suppose, continual use of alchohol would reduce the natural oils and be self defeating in the longer term.

Re: disinfecting a wooden flute

I don’t understand….why are you worried about cooties? Isn’t it your flute? Just don’t share!

Re: disinfecting a wooden flute

Tradgirl, sharing is part of playing wind instruments. It’s like saying don’t kiss. How fun is that?

Posted by .

Re: disinfecting a wooden flute

Ironically, just this morning I opened a plastic bag that I had kept a wooden flute with a damp rag, and forgotten about it (some advice I had received to keep my flute from shrinking and cracking). There was mold on the cloth and on my flute so I sprayed vinegar in and out. Bleach won’t kill mold (not that I’d ever put it on a flute) and neither will rubbing alcohol. I’m not sure what you’re trying to kill/clean or avoid, but vinegar is natural kills mold. I set it outside to completely dry and then used almond oil. It seems ok. I will say this wasn’t an expensive flute, but I believe I would have done the same on my nicer ones (but they would never be put into a bag and forgotten, so the initial need for vinegar may not exist). Still, I hope this helps :)

Posted by .

Re: disinfecting a wooden flute

I’m not buying it. First of all, one piper gets a fungal lung infection. Are there other pipers dying of fungal lung infections not reported? Unlikely. Was this gentleman somehow immunocompromised? Unknown. Was his pipe bag kept in a moist, hot place where fungi can thrive? Unknown. Finally, you cannot assume that a fungus that has grown in a piper’s leather pipe bag might develop in a hardwood flute. You are exposed to airborne fungi with every breath you take!

Re: disinfecting a wooden flute

The news story I heard recently was about a saxophone player who died from a fungal infection they eventually traced to his reeds, and I have heard about it for other instruments as well. I’m not suggesting death from instrument-borne infections is an everyday occurrence, but on the other hand, how many such chronic issues are not identified and traced to the source. Anyway, I’m interested in a way to avoid it in my wooden instruments. (The vinegar idea may work (?))

Re: disinfecting a wooden flute

70% IMS or alcohol will kill most bugs, bacteria, fungi and will at least inactivate most viruses. 70% is better than absolute alcohol or IMS as it kills by altering the osmotic pressure and thus rupturing bacterial cells inside their cell walls.

Re: disinfecting a wooden flute

Having run a mushroom growing business (shiitake and other exotics) I can tell you bleach WILL kill fungi. Alcohol of the absolute variety will also. A good all purpose disinfectant for a wooden flute would be to take common pharmacy grade 3 per cent hydrogen, diluted one part to ten water is excellent. Don’t let it ‘stand’ on the instrument but follow up with plain water rinse.

Re: disinfecting a wooden flute

Yes, leisg has it right. My culture lab had polyacrylic walls and we did wash/spray-downs on a regular schedule.

Re: disinfecting a wooden flute

Well, I wouldn’t put bleach near a blowhole. Nor would I put my lips near a bleached blowhole. And God knows what such a strong reducing agent would do to the structure of the wood, never mind decolourising it. This is insane talk, even if someone has grown a few mushrooms. 70% IMS will do the job. Then revitalise it with almond oil.
Tell you what. You bleach guys can nuke yer flutes all ye want. Your call. I’ll just do my IMS t’ing.

Re: disinfecting a wooden flute

Danny, aside from postie saying, "bleach WILL kill fungi." I don’t see any (other) posts about using bleach.
Did you find something I missed?

Posted by .

Re: disinfecting a wooden flute

Recorder players use a solution called Duponol to clean out the wind ways help prevent clogging.

http://www.lazarsearlymusic.com/Recorder-Care/recorder_care.htm

Pay specific attention to the part about wood recorders, since there are slightly different instructions for plastic instruments. Clean out with Duponol or dilute dishwashing detergent (don’t soak, just a quick rinse and blow it out), let dry completely then oil carefully. In addition, I use alcohol wipes around the outside, dry it carefully right away with cloth, then revitalize with a sweet almond oil / vitamin E oil mix. I do this with all my wood recorders, and I suspect you can do something similar with your wood flute. I’m terribly germaphobic because of my asthma and a generally compromised immune system, but I’ve done this for years with used instruments that I’ve purchased and have not had any problems. If there is gunk in the mouthpiece / embouchure area, you can clean it out with a small nylon brush before the rinse.

Fungus and mold can be dangerous if you breath it in and I’m more concerned about this. I won’t play an instrument with signs of mold because of my asthma. But a quick check with a strong light into the mouthpiece works, and you can carefully scrub out the bore section with a soft nylon brush.

Posted by .

Re: disinfecting a wooden flute

leisg, peroxide will prevent the germination of fungal spores in dilution down to 1-100 dilution of a 3 per cent solution. Now you are sounding off outside your knowledge base. Do a little research. Such a treatment leaves no residue. The hydrogen peroxide breaks down very quickly in the presence of the peroxidase in living tissue.

Re: disinfecting a wooden flute

I have a much loved Garvie Bagpipes low D wooden whistle, which I clean by simply poking one of those ant-bacterial hand wipes through. I assume that as you can put these wipes on your skin that they would be safe enough. I would never put bleach onto it (or onto any valued wood). You could also use ultra violet light if you could work out a method. I once sent a low G to a friend, but first took it to our local medical centre where I am friends with the doc, and they put it into their sterilising cabinet overnight. As far as I understand it, they just operate with U.V light (??)

Posted by .

Re: disinfecting a wooden flute

I have been using alcohol on recorders for years in the mouthpiece to both sanitize and clean them, then use coconut oil or some other fruit/nut oil to reseason the wood. I started because we always used alcohol to clean unfinished wood furniture, especially extraneous stain. With older models of the darker wood recorders, the stain gets inside the recorder, as well, and it is a huge dust and dirt magnet. Nowadays, they are careful to not let the stain get inside the instrument. I pour the alcohol through the bottom hole of the head joint, two or 3 times, then turn it rightside up to let it drain and dry. I use the alcohol wipes for the windway and labium. As far as cleaning goes, it makes an enormous difference; I have taken virtually unplayable recorders and revived them using this method. It has no effect on the outside of the recorder if it has been varnished, which many of the older models have been after staining. I didn’t know you could use hydrogen peroxide as well! That’s interesting. I will have to try that! Thanks!

Posted by .