The best thing you can do to extend the life of your whistle is to keep it clean. This blog posts covers all the key information you need to know to keep your whistle clean.
How to clean a metal tin whistle
1) Wipe the head after each use
Moisture is the enemy, dirt is its accomplice.
Regardless of what your whistle is made out of, it is important to remove moisture from your instrument on a regular basis.
The easiest thing to do is wipe the head after each time you play, using a non-abrasive cloth. The head is where your mouth comes into contact with the whistle and it needs the most attention in order to avoid tarnishing or marking.
2. Clean the bore with a swab or brush
It is advisable to clean the bore of your whistle regularly. It’s really easy to buy a swab or cleaning brush that can be pushed through the body to remove moisture. Over time, dirt and debris can also build up. This can ultimately affect the tone of the whistle and cause blockages. If you feel confident, a lot of whistles can be cleaned in warm soapy water and immersed. You may want to consult the maker if you aren’t sure if this is suitable; make sure the whistle is properly dried out inside and out afterwards.
It can be hard to access the wind-way and fipple for the purpose of cleaning them. You also want to be delicate around these areas. Firstly blow a few sharp breaths into the whistle head; this is a good initial way of clearing moisture and debris. It is then common to cut a small piece of card to size and carefully push it back and forth through the wind-way several times. Remember that a lot of whistle heads are removable if you want better access to them: even Feadog and Generation non-tunable whistles have heads that are not glued in place and can be removed with care.
3) Maintain the tuning slide
If your whistle has a tuning slide on the body or head joint, you want to prevent it from seizing up. Cork Grease is the main product people will use on a metal tuning slide. If your whistle utilises PTFE tape, it is worth re-wrapping this neatly and tightly every couple of months to ensure the correct tension and air pressure inside the bore.
How to clean a wooden whistle
Wooden whistles require special consideration when it comes to maintenance and cleaning.
The number one rule is don’t over-oil a wooden whistle! Too much oil can attract dirt build up and even warp the fipple blade. Wooden whistles are generally only in need of regular oiling in the first few weeks; after this time, the fibres and grains of the wood are no longer hungry for moisture and there is little danger of splits caused by dry wood.
So, initially oil new wooden whistles every few plays but make sure you use a brush or swab to clear any excess. This is particularly important on the inside of the whistle, whereas the outside of the whistle is more about how it feels and looks.
Avoid regular oiling after a couple of weeks and then only oil it once every 6 months. This will vary slightly depending on humidity, playing frequency and how the whistle is stored. Look out for signs of dryness in the wood but, in general, over-oiling is a more common problem that under-oiling!
What should I use to oil a wooden whistle? Pure Almond oil is considered a really good product to use. Bear in mind that your mouth will come into contact with your whistle, so it must be delicious! Moreover, Almond oil is natural, food safe and doesn’t have any artificial drying agents that cause evaporation and wood splits. If you are allergic to almonds, linseed oil could be considered.
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