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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000244.txt from 2004/12

From: "Lelia Loban" <>
Subj: [kl] humidity & orange peels
Date: Wed, 15 Dec 2004 08:00:34 -0500

Sue, at the Brass and Woodwind Shop, wrote,
>We had a customer who put an orange peel
>in with a clarinet they shipped to us. Shipment
>took about one week. When it arrived, all the
>pads of the clarinet were covered in nice green
>mold and the case reeked of orange!

Ick! Here in the humid climate of Virginia, during the summer, mold and
mildew in instrument cases can be a serious problem. During the summer, I
store clarinets as dry as possible. The air conditioning keeps my house
down to around 65 to 70 percent indoors (when the humidity is more than 90
percent outdoors). During the winter, I don't do anything to humidify my
clarinets except use a humidifier that doesn't let the house humidity get
below 50 percent. In my attic office, where I practice, the house
humidifier doesn't do a good enough job, so I use a gargoyle fountain on a
table in that small room. My husband uses a Dampit in his violins in the
winter, but I think the moisture left behind by the swab is enough for my
clarinets. It must be different for people who live in dry climates, but
imho, from the wet climate perspective, orange peel left in the case just
ends up as food garbage.

The worst cases of insect infestation, rot, mold and mildew I've seen have
been in neglected flea market and garage sale woodwind cases that also
contained Dampits or what appeared to be decayed orange peel. By the time
the peel ends up nice and dry, it's done its dirty work. I think people
don't see this problem so much in an instrument that's being played
regularly, because opening the case exchanges all of the air inside the
instrument and the case, and yuckiness has less of a chance to get started
and grow. In this humid climate, if the clarinet might be stored unplayed
in a closed case for any length of time, it's important to remove anything
damp and to make sure the clarinet is put away dry. Storing an unplayed
clarinet in a damp garage or basement is asking for a mess. Once mold and
mildew infest beyond the case lining, pads and corks, and get into the
wood, the stink may be impossible to remove.

I think some of those horror shows happen because hardly anybody decides,
"I'm going to quit my instrument now." Most people intend *not* to quit,
and only admit to themselves that they've quit after a few months or even
years. By then, if that clarinet got put away damp, and if parts of the
case were air-tight or nearly so -- eeeeeeew. I've opened up cases with
smells that could gag a hyena. Typically, the crack where a clarinet case
opens is not air tight, but deeper inside the case, the plush lining may
prevent evaporation. Whatever's stored in the most protected compartment
gets into the most disgusting condition. If there are any holes (where
case "feet" or rivets or screws have fallen out, for instance), insects
attracted to dampness or to any sugar smells (such as fruit peels) will get
in and then have no trouble penetrating the soft fabric and padding.

I used to keep a list of vermin I found in old instruments and their cases
-- bees, wasps, termites, ants, cockroaches and more, some dead and some
living. I've never seen termite damage in clarinet wood, but I've seen
wooden cases eaten right down to powder in places. In beat-up cases where
old boards have separated, I've even found mouse nests with droppings and
remains. It's amazing what a tiny crack a mouse can use as a door. Any
food smells will attract critters. If I did move to a dry climate where I
needed a humidifier inside the case, I'd use a Dampit with plain water.

Lelia Loban
Time to tell Don Rumsfeld, "You're fired!"

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