The Improved Flute Cleaning Rod




Don't you always worry about the ring of moisture left inside your flute head after swabbing out - the bit near the stopper that the regular cleaning stick can't get to - the very part of the flute that needs cleaning most!  Yes, I've tried folding the cloth over the tip of a regular rod and it still doesn't get into the corner, and I've tried the miniature bottle brushes you buy for recorders and they don't either!  It's been bugging me, and I think I've come up with a good answer.


Now this is something you can make yourself. Take a piece of the largest rod (wooden dowel, plastic, gold, whatever you have lying around) that will pass easily through the narrowest section of your flute. Cut off a piece as long as will fit conveniently into your flute case. Face up one end and remove the sharp edges to be comfortable in the hand. Put a mark 3/4" (19) mm from the end to show where the stopper should be.

(In the ones I make, I actually put three inscribed rings at:

  • 19mm, the modern "rule-of-thumb" starting point for stopper placement,
  • 15mm, about the minimum location you might need to give best third octave performance, and
  • 23mm, where some players find a better low end performance.

Players are encouraged to experiment with these and intermediate locations to come to their own conclusion about what suits their playing style best.)

Face off the other end and drill a hole into it for about 3/4" (19mm). Make the hole as large as possible consistent with not making the end too weak. Now take a scoop out of the side of the rod, near enough to the end to meet up with the hole you've just drilled. Clean up all the edges and you're ready to go.

Improved cleaning rod, in white delrin, showing the side slot

To use the cleaning rod, cut a piece of absorbent cloth (old T-shirt material is good) about 150 x 50 mm (6 x 2"). Twist up one end and feed it into the hole on the end of the rod. Pull it firmly out through the slot you scooped out and leave about half sticking out each way. Fold the protruding bit over the end and down the side of the stick.

Test it in the barrel first to make sure you don't have too much cloth, and then in the head. Rotate it a few times against the stopper before pulling it out - you should find it leaves very little moisture.

Test it carefully on the rest of the flute. It will probably pass head-first through the upper body, and can be used tail-first on the bores of the lower section and foot. When in doubt, try inserting it into the narrow end first.

And if you don't feel like making one, I can supply you with one with your next flute!


Harry Egnor, flute player and Technical Field Manager, Audi of America, writes:

I recently purchased a GLP from Grey Larsen, and have a Rudall Perfected of yours as well, so I decided to purchase one of your improved cleaning rods.

Initially I was a little disappointed because the 2”x6” inch patches I cut from a “T” shirt would not go through the foot joint of the GLP, and barely through that of the Rudall.  Basically, the material was just too thick. I tried making the patches smaller without success, and then I got an idea...

I purchased a roll of cotton gauze 2’’ wide (the type used for bandages), and cut off 6” lengths for my new patches.  Now my patches worked perfectly in both foot joints, was very absorbent, and very easy to cut to size.

I hope you/your customers find this a useful “tip”.

I'm sure they will, Harry, indeed, I'm going to give it a go myself!  Thanks!

And, in the "Great Minds Thinking Alike" department ...

Roger Holman Enterprises is the source for Flute and Piccolo Flag brand swabs.  These swabs are a new approach to drying the bore of your instrument in the least possible amount of time.  Moisture is captured even at the face of the head joint cork.  Several varieties are currently available.

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