A student just emailed me about dark spots she's noticed on her reeds. Sounds like she has a mold problem. This was my response:

To be clear, mold is entirely natural and grows anywhere there is moisture. If you look at any reed under a microscope, you will find mold. Mold will grow exponentially, so once it becomes visible, it means you have a population that is expanding out of control.

When I was young, I played on reeds that had visible mold. In fact I've played on reeds that were actually fuzzy. After scraping off the fuzz, I would still play on them. I wouldn't dream of doing this now because 
A: It's disgusting! and B: It will effect the responsiveness of the reed.
To be fair, I've never gotten sick from playing a moldy reed and I've also had plenty of students that have done the same. None of them have appeared to get sick from their nasty reeds either. While this may be comforting, don’t base decisions about your health on anecdotal evidence! Always remember, moldy reeds be nasty!

Here are a few things you can do to prevent your reeds from getting moldy (and help prolong the life of your reed).

  • Brush your teeth before you play!  If you can't brush, at least rinse your mouth out with water. NEVER play immediately after eating or drinking anything other than water.
  • Rinse your reeds AFTER you've finished playing. 
  • Wipe your reeds on a clean cloth (your sleeve or pant leg will do) after you have rinsed the reed.
  • Keep your reeds in a case with PLENTY of air holes. In fact leave the case open for your reeds to dry whenever possible.
  • CHANGE YOUR REED WATER EVERY TIME YOU PLAY. Apparently, some people keep the same water in a container for days. GROSS!!!
  • If you find a reed with visible mold on it, BURN IT (or just throw it out). If you insist on keeping it, keep it separate from your other reeds. 



Eww, go away!