Disinfecting a vintage harmonica?


I’ve just bought a vintage Hohner Chrometta 12 in a thrift store. Is there a way to safely clean or disinfect it? What kind of regular maintenance does it require (no manual came with it)?


Dear Eddiesmom.
To clean any old chromatic ,much care has to be taken when disassembling the instrument and to do the job properly the whole harmonica has to be stripped down and each component has to be cleaned individually.
To do this would require the removal and eventual replacement of the wind savers(valves) from the reedplates which can then be cleaned with a short bristled soft brush and detergent,cleaning from the rivet ends so as not to catch the reeds. If the comb is timber then the comb invariably will be out of shape from years of use and usually needs replacement with a modern plastic replacement from Hohner.
It really is specialist work and is fraught with dangers if you don’t know what you are doing.I have restored a few in my career as a technician and am of the opinion that it is not worth it.The time it takes to retune and adjust the reeds and reassembe the instrument is prohibitive.I have refused many requests to undertake this work and will stick my neck out by advising the customer to buy a new chrom. from Hohner and save themselves a headache.Be aware that I am someone who hates to not fix things that need fixing.But from experience I would advise you to polish the dirt off your vintage chrom and put it on a shelf, or send it to Hohner for assessment and maybe restoration if the technicians decide that it is worth it.Sorry I can’t`be of more help than this…regards Neil Graham


Thanks for your thoughtful reply. If it sounds pretty good, and looks clean, is there any harm in just playing it as is? Can you catch the last person’s germs or mold or anything? This is strictly for “around the campfire” use, not for a professional musician.


Germs won’t live long in a harmonica. It’s too dry for anything to thrive. There should be no danger in playing it. If it looks all right I wouldn’t mind it myself, but many are repelled by the thought.
Also, you could just try cleaning it if you want to. After all, you did buy it in a thrift shop. It’s not like you are going to loose anything :slight_smile: Have a look at this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mDjJIluEX-g


Neil’s advice is very sound. There is little danger of infection or any other negative consequences if the harmonica is reasonably clean. Germs don’t survive for long if the instrument is kept dry. If you want to be on the safe side, try spraying the outside (mouthpiece, covers etc.) with isopropanol or a similar alcohol-based disinfectant, wipe off any excess, allow it to dry and then just play it. I would point out that the Chrometta is not an expensive harmonica, it’s designed for beginning chromonica players. As Neil says, there’s little point in having it repaired, this would probably cost much more than simply replacing it. So see if you like it, and if you do, consider buying a new instrument. The Hohner Discovery for example is an excellent mid-level chromatic and is reasonably priced.


I usually dunk second hand harps in Listerine, shake them out and play. I’ve bought several over 40 years of playing and had great results. Avoid anything that has a smell i.e. cigarettes, perfume, etc…
Many times people buy good quality harps with good intentions of learning it. They give up and it goes in a drawer and is forgotten…


Dunking in Listerine may work OK with plastic bodies, but I wouldn’t advise it with wooden combs. You’re absolutely right about well-intentioned purchases which get forgotten, this is the case with most musical instruments, but especially so with the harmonica, as it’s more difficult to sign up for regular tuition.