Proper Care and Maintenance of Your Native American FluteWritten by Twohawks
Now that you have invested in a Native American Flute you are going to need to do more than just play it. The Flute must be kept clean and preserved. I live in the Deep South and moisture is always a problem here. These instructions will generally be acceptable for the care of any flute with emphasis on southern flute owners.
Keeping your flute in its cloth flute bag (provided by most flute makers) is a good idea as long as you do not put it in the bag when the flute is wet. If you do mildew is sure to form inside the flute and the next time you play it your mistake will be forever ingrained in your memory. Storing a dry flute in a cloth bag keeps the dust out as well as critters that love to make dark places their home. Spiders especially like to crawl in places that are dark.
Leather flute bags are beautiful but I do not recommend keeping your flute in a leather bag.
Always use a hard flute case when you travel with a flute. It just makes good sense to protect your investment with a hard flute case. These are available at the Oregon Flute Store. I do not think it is a good idea to leave your flute in a hard case when not traveling. Wood breathes and needs air. Your flute is a living thing and needs to breathe sealing it up might cause damage. If you fly with your flute take it onboard do not check it as baggage.
Leaving a flute in a hot place like a car in the summer or near some heat source will cause the wood to split.
Never eat or drink while playing the flute or immediately after eating without first cleaning out your mouth. Food particles will cause bacteria to grow in the air chamber and damage the wood. It can also cause the flute to water out quickly.
After you have played your flute for sometime it may begin to water out. This is caused by a moisture build up in the air chamber and under the fetish. To clear the moisture out from under the fetish, place your finger up to the window but do not cover it and give it a good hard blow. If done correctly you will not hear any sound. This will clear the moisture from under the fetish. If I play my flute for 30 minutes or more (depending on the flute some get wet sooner especially hardwood) I always remove the fetish or block from the top of the flute and allow it to dry. If it is really wet I hold the flute and swing it or shake it hard enough to cause the moisture to fly out. If you did not remove the fetish before doing this be sure to hold on to it and avoid shaking the moisture on someone standing nearby. Then I place the flute mouthpiece down and let it dry. Never put your flute away wet!!
For the mouthpiece of my flutes I use mineral oil when they become dry (never use vegetable oil it becomes rancid or Tung oil which is toxic and hardens the wood). And the body of the flute gets a coat of Johnson�s Paste Wax. I wax my flutes twice a year or more depending on use. I have a Vision Flute by Jeff Calavan that I have had since 1998 and I have waxed it probably 50 times it gets played an awful lot and it is still as beautiful as the day I got it. After the wax I let them dry overnight then polish them with a soft cloth. I clean the inside of the flute with a mixture of Witch Hazel and Listerine mouthwash. I use a small amount of Listerine because of the alcohol which can dry the out the flute. However, it is necessary for mildew and bacteria. I mix 50 parts of Witch Hazel and one part Listerine in a bottle. I pour a small amount down the flute barrel and in the air chamber and slosh it around in there real well. Pour it out then leave the flute mouthpiece down to dry overnight. I have heard of some flute players using a gun cleaner rod to clean the inside of the flute. This will do the trick but be very gentle when doing this.
These are things that work for me and will most likely work for you as well. However, it is suggested you speak to your flute maker(s) regarding their flutes and what they feel is the best care for the flute they have made for you.