Cleaning and Sanitizing Classroom Ukuleles

by | Class Procedures, Elementary Music, Music Room, Ukulele

With most schools returning in person this fall, questions surrounding cleaning and sanitizing are still swirling around many music teacher’s minds, especially when it comes to cleaning shared classroom instruments like ukuleles. Understanding how to clean and sanitize your classroom ukuleles can really help cut down on the spread of illnesses(not just COVID-19 but also colds, flu, strep, etc.)

Please note: this is NOT official medical guidance. Refer to your district policies for specifics.

A close up picture of a wooden ukulele body with text underneath that says "Cleaning & Sanitizing Classroom Ukuleles"

1. Develop a Cleaning and Sanitizing Plan

While your district and school may give you guidance, additional steps may be needed due to the nature of music classrooms (not every classroom has 300+ students cycling through every week).

  • Include cleaning ukuleles as part of your classroom expectations and routine. Even if you don’t plan to introduce ukuleles right away, it’s a good idea to start building the foundation.
  • Don’t do it all yourself. Put students to work: use the whole class or designate particular helpers each class.
  • Use a checklist. Sometimes in the middle of a hectic day of teaching, it can be difficult to remember every item on your list. You can even put a student in charge of checking off the list!

2. Know Your Ukuleles

Odds are, most classroom ukuleles are made of plastic. However, it’s important to know exactly so you can make sure you’re using the right cleaning materials.

  • Ukulele bodies(made of plastic), strings, and fretboards can be sanitized with Isopropyl Alcohol above 70%. While most people may think of bottles of rubbing alcohol, there are also wipes with Isopropyl Alcohol above 70%, which may make classroom use easier.
  • Wooden ukuleles and ukuleles with a finish you aren’t sure about, it’s better to err on the side of caution and avoid using Isopropyl Alcohol above 70% as it might damage the instrument. The best approach to preventing germ spread in this situation is a proactive one(washing hands!!). UV Lamps might work as a possible alternative but be sure to read up on what the FDA has to say first to make sure you’re using them properly.
  • Instrument materials also affect how long germs remain on surfaces. Studies done on how long cold and flu viruses can remain infectious range from 24-48 hours. The guidance from the CDC suggests that COVID-19 stays on plastic and strings up to 3 days and wood up to 4 days. While time may not be a tool every teacher can implement, it’s important to understand how much time may be needed on various surfaces. For example, it might not be necessary to spend time cleaning instruments before you’re about to leave.

3. Be Proactive

Proactive action is the one of the most important steps students can take to keep ukuleles clean and germ free.

  • Start class with hand washing before anyone touches ukuleles. Good ol’ soap and water is the most effective way to keep germs at bay. While it may take a little more time to get students’ hands washed and ready to go, it can be well worth the time and effort in preventing the spread of germs.
  • Hand sanitizer is second best. If possible, opt for a touchless dispenser. If your school doesn’t provide hand sanitizer, check out the following:
    • Donors Choose – create a project to fund hand sanitizer for your classroom (not every Donors Choose project has to be extraordinarily exciting)
    • Swan Sanitizers – submit your school to this sanitizing company’s program that donates hand sanitizer stations to public schools
    • Puracy – teachers can submit requests for hand sanitizer and/or hand soap

Bonus Tip: Don’t Forget About Accessories

If your students are sharing accessories, make sure you’re cleaning and sanitizing those too! Add tuners, picks, storage bags, and capos to that cleaning checklist.

If you’re going with felt picks, it might be worth having enough for students to use individually. That way, it’s one less item students have to spend time cleaning.

Sources/Further Reading

FDA. (2021, February 1). UV lights and lamps: Ultraviolet-C radiation, disinfection, and coronavirus. U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

Griffin, J., & Akpan, N. (2018, December 17). How long do cold and flu viruses stay contagious on public surfaces? PBS News Hour; PBS.

Harris, E. (2020, March 24). How to disinfect musical instruments during covid-19. She Shreds Media.

Hart, K. (2020, August 15). Tips for creating your classroom cleaning plan. Alfred Music Blog.

picture of Shelley Tomich

I'm busy mom of three and music educator in Atlanta, GA. My passion is helping busy music teachers deliver time saving, engaging lessons so you have more time to enjoy your life! Click my photo to learn more! Teach music. Love life.

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