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Sticky Pad Remedies

This is just a list of remedies I have heard.
Some of the remedies here seem pretty counter-productive to me and I do not recommend them.
Apologies for repetitions.

I clean my pads after I play…every time
I clean the body of my horn with a pad saver (without leaving it inside)
I also brush my teeth before playing.
I clean my pads with lighter fuel and a Q-tips once in a while ... but after a gig it's back.
When I use lighter fluid, I soak a piece of paper towel in it, then use the paper towel like I'd use a dollar bill - just stick it in there, close the pad, and pull. I can't get a q-tip onto most pads.

As I understand it, brushing your teeth before playing doesn't do anything. Neither does using mouthwash. The problem isn't food on your teeth - it's the sugars (from sugar, fat, or carbohydrates) which are in your saliva after a meal or drink. Since you're constantly excreting new saliva, the only way to limit how much sugar gets into your horn is to adjust your diet before (or during) playing.

Some brands of sax simply use pads with a VERY sticky waterproofing/colouring/airproofing/cosmetic/whatever treatment.

If the treatment is soluble in lighter fluid, then such treatment will just restore the stickiness.

Using Yamaha pad papers, paper with talc rubbed in may help, but some pads have a surface (silicone?) that is very poor at retaining this type of band-aid.

Another possibility is to apply 3M Company's Scotchguard Fabric Protector. (The version for leather has an oil added, and 3M told me that the fabric one would be better.)

After cleaning, apply some Old English liquid furniture polish with a Q-tip or pipe cleaner to offending pad(s). Place a piece of paper between the pad and tonehole, depress the key lightly, and pull paper through to remove excess Old English. Stickiness should be gone. This has been working well for me and it seems to last longer than anything else I've tried. Painted or otherwise coated pads may react negatively to lighter fluid. In these instances, Windex may be used effectively.

Buy some of the Teflon powder and apply to both sides of a newish dollar bill...shake off excess vigorously...pull through every tone hole/pad interface...repeat as needed...after about 2-3 times your pads will be, and remain, stick-free. This will NOT hurt your pads or the metal in your sax...the material is completely inert & safe to use(will not react chemically with ANYTHING), the polymer is completely cross-linked and fine enough of a particle size that some of it will actually impregnate itself into the leather of the pad(a good thing). I know of NO ONE that I've suggested this to for sticky pads, that it has not worked for. Hey, but what do I know, I'm only a chemist!

When you have tried all of the above, cut up a coffee filter and leave it under the sticky pads between sessions. In a week or so they will stop sticking.
Also, try cleaning the tone holes.
Take a pipe cleaner and put some neats foot oil on it and brush it over the pad. This is an oil that is used on leather goods like baseball gloves etc. Be careful though, wipe off the excess oil on the pipe cleaner before you wipe it on the pad. You only need the pipe cleaner to have a little oil on it. The pad also has to be clean and dry. Oil and water do not mix. Do not play your horn immediately. Let it sit overnight. You will have to do this from time to time if you play or practice a lot. I'm usually good for a few months after a treatment. I have also had decent results with baby oil but the neats foot oil works the best.

Gordon (NZ) I have used the Teflon powder for some time. On SOME pads it works well, but on others, it simply does not remain on the surface. I doubt that Teflon remains on any 'glossy'-type polymer surface. Some pads are not even leather on the surface... They have a polymer laminate like the 'fake' leather jackets.

Whether Teflon (or anything else for that matter) works or not, depends on EXACTLY what the surface is on the pad AND on the tone hole edge.

Several sellers make statements similar to "Like all leather care products, Lexol Neatsfoot Leather Dressing is not recommended for suede or super soft leather. Is sax pad leather "super soft" Why the caution?

Also, any liquid product applied to pad leather is presumably also being applied to the felt. Hardening of the felt is the prime reason pads need replacement.

Disclaimer: I have never used neatsfootoil and know little about it, so you are welcome to take the above musings with a grain of salt.

My tech says don't put anything on your tone holes or pads. I used to use neatsfoot (or corn oil when neatsfoot wasn't convenient). It seems to work, however, I was advised to stop using it. My tech says it can make the pad too soft and squishy.

He recommends 600 grit sand paper against the tone hole and pad -- the same way you'd use the dollar bill. He doesn't like the dollar bill because it's inconsistent in what kind of ink, dirt, grime that you might be putting on your pad or tone hole. Your enemy here is oxidation that builds up on the unlacquered tone hole surface.
Sandpaper abrades the leather and makes the smooth, tanned surface fuzzy and more porous. Consequently the leather provides less of an airtight seal and it also becomes more absorbent, soaking up more of the moisture and whatever else is in the horn.
I like the neatsfoot oil idea. Used sparingly I can't imagine it causing a problem.

The sandpaper idea is interesting - I can see where it would work - but I would be concerned about eroding the tone hole unevenly over time if used too often.
It is only brass after all..

I use 1200 or 1800 grit, and not frequently. I use it on the pad only as a last resort to remove obstinate deposits.

As has been said, it is only really to remove grime and oxidation, by gripping it and pulling it off. I think the attack on the brass itself, or indeed the pad, is miniscule.

Try leaving a piece of paper between the keys after playing? Worked great for my %$#$@ G# (you'd have to use some kind of clamp for other keys of course). I think the paper absorbs all fuid and what's in it or so :?

I clean the body of my horn with a pad saver (without leaving it inside) and I also brush my teeths before playing. I still have some pads that are sticking a little bit.

I had a sticking pad problem many years ago - and I, too, followed much the same routine as you for cleaning the horn after playing, etc. What I determined was that my low Eb key was sticking from the residual moisture left in the horn after swabbing because the tonehole drained onto the pad when I stowed my horn in its case. I've seen many others with similar problems - chronic sticky low Eb pad. The fix is to change the way you lay the case after putting the horn away - either stand it on end or lay it on its side.

One guy who played a YAS-475 always unhooked the spring of the low D# so that the key would be open in the case.  When he took it out to play, he hooked it back in place.  On some horns the spring might be harder to hook and unhook.
This was more to prevent corrosion of the D# tonehole than to prevent sticking.

If using a pipe cleaner, bend it in half, forming a loop, and twist the excess around the long part. The curved outer edge will not impale or otherwise damage the pad.  Also, some types of pipe cleaner have a hard, scratchy fibre twisted in with the soft cotton fluffy material. Best to avoid that type. Easy to identify, both visually and by feel.

May I repeat my first observation, that solvent may well be CAUSING the sticking.

Lemon Pledge

Eye Shadow (women’s makeup)

#600 sandpaper

1000 grit wet or dry sandpaper

Old English Oil


Runyon's pad dope

Ferree's silicone treatment

Shoe oil

Scotch Guard

Silicone spray

Nail polish

Deck paint


Saddle soap, Murphy’s oil soap

Don't drink or eat before playing

Gun cleaning patch

Teflon spray

Key modification

Increase key spring strength

Leave paper or something (coffee filter, dollar bill, etc.) under the key

Place a business card under the C# bell key after playing, which will hold the G# key open so it can dry.

B&G pad driers

Coffee-filter paper

Cleaning your tone hole rims with WD-40

Replace pad.  Kangaroo hide pads are more resistant to sticking.  White ‘roo pads seem marginally better than the black.  The white feel more ‘velvety’ to the touch.  Just don’t seem to stick as much.

For a chronically sticking G#, your tech can add a helper spring…usually a flat spring that is added to the G# finger touch part of the key.  If the G# pad sticks and doesn’t open when the G# finger touch is depressed, the helper spring comes into play and provides extra force to open the G# pad.

The old dollar bill cure was devised by musicians on a gig who needed a quick way to clean the pad. A dollar bill was usually handy. A dollar bill is a relatively dirty thing, having passed through many (unwashed) hands, and in the long run you're depositing that dirt on your pad and perpetuating the problem. It goes without saying that a hundred dollar works better than a one dollar bill.

Magic powders (usually baking soda) do about the same thing. they offer a quick fix but the next time your pads get wet they make a paste that will cause more sticking.

Charlie A's gig dust

Neem Oil (aka Lynch Seed Oil)



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