There are many simple do it yourself actions you can take to ensure your didgeridoo stays healthy and creates the greatest possible benefit for you and your community. Here are some tips I’ve learned along the way about didgeridoo cleaning, care and maintenance.
1) Storing and transporting your Didge
* Avoid rapid changes in humidity and temperature
Your didgeridoo is a fragile instrument. If your didge is made of plastic or metal, you are somewhat off the hook. But if your didge is made of an organic material such as wood, cactus, or bamboo, you must be especially sensitive to changes in temperature and humidity that can cause the material to swell and shrink. Avoid rapid changes in humidity and temperature (for example, going from a hot and dry apartment to cold and wet winter rain outside or going from a cool, dry, air-conditioned room out into the hot, humid summer).
* Carry your didgeridoo in a case. Cases can be purchased online through Didge Project. Contact us to see our latest selection of didgeridoo cases.
Just remember to make sure that your didgeridoo is completely dry before storing it in the case.
* Protect your beeswax mouthpiece
You can use a plastic bag and a rubber band to cover the mouthpiece to protect from minor bumps and tumbles. If your mouthpiece does become wacked out of shape, you can use a hairdryer to heat up the beeswax until it becomes malleable and you can mold it back into a better shape with your fingers. You can read more about how to make a beeswax mouthpiece here:
2) Didgeridoo Cleaning
One of the best ways to maintain a clean didgeridoo is to make sure to brush and floss your teeth every time before playing. Imagine all the tiny food and beverage particles (sugary drinks are notorious!) that stay in your mouth and throat and could become lodged in your didge. Although this could be a cool science experiment, it is both safer for you, your didge, and the people you play around to keep the inside of the instrument as clean as possible. It’s nice to be in the habit of carrying dental hygiene supplies with you – just ask your dentist his or her opinion of brushing more than twice a day.
That being said, it’s still a good idea to perform didgeridoo cleaning periodically with water. If you’re lucky enough to have a yard or an outdoor hose, just blast it inside for a minute or two and make sure the water runs down the inner walls. If you’re a New Yorker like me, don’t fret, you can do the same things in your shower as shown.
3) Repairing Cracks in Bamboo Didgeridoos
The nature of bamboo is to crack. Sometimes you can have a really nice piece of bamboo that will last for many years without cracks and in other cases it will crack within days. The good news is small cracks in bamboo can be easily repaired with a little wood glue. This works best if the crack doesn’t go all the way through the wall of the didgeridoo.
I like to use gorilla wood glue and have had some minor cracks stay together for years thanks to this handy glue! Just place a little in the crack so it soaks all the way in, wait a few minutes and add a second layer and even a third layer if necessary. Here’s a picture of a small crack I repaired a few years ago that is still going strong:
4) Wood Didgeridoo Maintenance
For this section, I want to translate the wise words of Jean-Yves Redor, expert wood craftsman and maker of the Woodslide didgeridoo. His didgeridoos have a varnished inside and oiled outside. If you’re not sure what kind of coating your didgeridoo has, contact the maker.
“Maintenance of the inside [varnished]:
The inside of the didgeridoo is glazed, therefore relatively resistant to problems. From time to time, clean the inside of tubes by using a stick to push a small cloth moistened in tepid water possibly with the addition of a soft soap.
Maintenance of the outside [oiled]:
Approximately every 3 months, oil the didgeridoo to prevent possible cracking. To do so, soak a cloth with wood oil. Pass the cloth over the wood, then let it dry 10 or 20 minutes. Then remove the surplus of oil with a cloth. Any remaining oil on the outside will not dry but instead will be soaked up by the wood. Your didge should be good to use within a few hours.
A note about what type of Wood Oil to use:
Try to find a wood oil that is safe to come into close contact with your body. Generally oil will be certified for use with toys. There should be several brands available in stores. For example, you can use oil for piece of furniture or the bathroom. Linseed oil will give a fatter darker, more matte depiction. Personally I like to use Scandinavian oil, china wood oil or an oil-wax.”
5) Epoxy didgeridoo maintenance
Often didgeridoos are coated with an epoxy. This can make soft materials such as bamboo, agave, or yucca stronger and more resonant. Obviously, they are still fragile and they should not be stepped on or kept in the sun for prolonged periods of time. I will quote Ben Hicks, master didgeridoo craftsman for a unique tip about caring for his epoxy didgeridoos:
“Rinsing the mouthpiece with water will help prevent the degradation of the epoxy from Saliva. Interestingly, epoxy is impervious to many harsh chemicals and solvents but the enzymes in good old spit will wear it out over time. Typically in 1-3 years you can expect the epoxy on the mouthpiece to start peeling off in layers. When this happens, the finish can be smoothed out with a little fine steel wool, and recoated if desired. If you want to refinish a mouthpiece, get in touch and I’ll fill you in on the details.
I do not know how impervious epoxy is to things like essential oils and their solvents, and recommend against their use for epoxy didges.”
That’s it for now! If you have any questions about your specific didgeridoo repair or maintenance project, contact us and we can help you out.
Keep up the didging!