27. August 2007 · 2 comments · Categories: Ramble

Okay … here we go again! Someone landed here doing a search on “swab stuck in oboe.” So let me repeat my suggestions. I’m assuming the stuck swab is one of those silk swabs, or else it’s one of those not-so-soft cloth swabs that should be trashed anyway.

Here are some bits of advice:

  • Always check the swab for knots—check both the string and the cloth.
  • If you are using a silk swab, drop the swab down the bell and when the weight comes through the top, turn the oboe right side up before pulling it through. This way you might avoid any knotting.
  • The minute you feel any tugging, stop what you are doing and try pulling (somewhat gently) the swab out the other way.
  • If it’s stuck don’t continue to pull it through. Nothing is going to change, other than getting it stuck even tighter.
  • DON’T use a drill to try to remove it. (Yes, some have tried.) You’ll ruin the bore.
  • Take it to a repair person who knows what to do. (Some don’t!)
  • If you are using a silk swab consider switching to a soft cotton swab that doesn’t pull all the way through. Yes, you have to take the oboe apart to swab, but it will not get stuck!
  • If you insist on using silk, purchase a swab remover. I haven’t met a single person who hasn’t gotten a silk swab stuck now and then.



  1. The opposite has happened to me. When I was in high school (…and once in college), my cotton swab got stuck. The first time (on my first oboe), the repairman scratched my bore while removing it. After it happened the second time (same oboe, no more scratches), I switched to silk swabs, and it hasn’t happened since. It just goes to show that you have to be careful no matter what cleaning method you use.

  2. Wow, Jillian, I can’t even imagine how I could get my cotton swab stuck. I wonder if you had a different kind, though. I use the ones that are like soft t-shirt material. I wouldn’t use those stiff ones.

    I used to use a silk swab (I have a horror story about getting it stuck during Nutcracker, and one about Dan driving 50 miles to bring me a swab remover when playing Boheme up in SF). What I found was that they don’t dry the bore enough for me. My top octave is a real water collector.

    But yeah … we do have to be careful, don’t we?!

    Just to add to our stress about reeds, I guess. Sometimes I feel as if the oboe is The Punisher. 🙂