I use American-made Valentino pads almost exclusively. These seem to be very dense closed-cell foam with a slick and impervious plastic surface. The reasons why I like these are:
I have used traditional pads in the past. I can positively state that Valentino pads hold up much longer than traditional pads. With traditional pads, after a year of use, usually 5-6 discolored and flaking pads will need to be replaced. For a clarinet with Valentino pads, after a year or two of use I will probably only need to clean everything and check key adjustment. (And no matter what kind of pads are used, one will still want to check that they keys are not bent out of alignment, etc.) Instrument repairmen would have a harder time making a living if they used Valentino pads! See more information on longevity on the Spa Treatment page.
NEWS: Valentino now have Masters Series pads with a four-layer construction. I am using these for most of my repadding now. See the PDF file attached below.
Please note: Valentino makes a repair kit which is very popular with band directors. In the repair kit are self-adhesive Valentino pads. I do NOT use the self-stick kind! I am using the “green back” pads, and floating them into alignment with hot glue. Note that the Yamaha company thinks highly enough of Valentino pads that they are factory installed on their model 250.
Side note to band directors: For some reason, repair kits sold with Valentino pads always have only the thickest sizes. The self-adhesive sets would work much better if you get medium and thin thicknesses for all the smaller sizes (11.5mm and smaller).
Picture on the left: A nice, even ring-shaped indent in a pad: A joy to behold! [update 15Aug2014] Actually, the ring-shaped indent in the pictured pad is too deep! But it does show up in the picture better when it is too deep.
What do I need to do to take care of Valentino pads?
Nothing. If the pads get bore oil, key oil, or soft drinks on them, it won't effect them. It would be a good idea to clean off the liquid so that it does not attract dirt. If you have a certain hole that always seems to develop a stream of saliva, see the page on oiling the bore of your clarinet.
Wicking away moisture from pads:
This can be done if you notice a “burbling” sound on a particular note, or if you “spring a leak” during a rehearsal. At the end of the rehearsal, after swabbing, I will also wick the moisture out of holes that often leak. Roll-your-own cigarette paper (the un-gummed kind) is used by clarinet players to wick out moisture from tone holes and pads. The most common leak locations are on the top keyed joint, especially the E-flat side key and the neighboring C# key. Water left in contact with Valentino pads won't really degrade them, but just grow mold.
DON'T use “Pad Savers”!
They are really Pad Destroyers, because they destroy traditional bladder pads. Pad Savers are fluffy rods that one is supposed to insert into the clarinet after playing. I think the problem comes from students (always in a hurry after band) not swabbing out the clarinet thoroughly first. Then the Pad Saver traps moisture in contact with the pads. You want the clarinet and the pads to dry out after you play. For best results just swab out the clarinet, and let the remaining moisture dry out naturally. See the page on Swabbing.
What to do if you have a sticky pad?
There are several things you can do for a sticking pad. The person I was answering here had a problem with a sticking B-flat/F key.
If you suspect that a pad is leaking, try this: You'll need a heat source and a toothpick.
Usually there is enough glue in a pad cup to reseat the pad. But especially on the larger pads, if you want to cause the pad to not recede so much into the pad cup, you can add a sliver of hot glue. Regular hobby-type glue gun glue sticks are almost like the professional glue sticks that I use, and any hot glue should work fine. Use a sharp knife and shave off a little piece, put that under the pad in the key cup. Heat and allow to seat.