For Beginners (former version)
When you receive your reeds in the mail, remove them from their temporary holders and store them in a dedicated multi-reed case (sold by any major double reed supplier and some music stores). This will lengthen the life of the reeds significantly by allowing the reeds to dry between uses.
Before playing a reed, soak it in water (not in your mouth!) for one minute (two in very dry weather). Avoid soaking too long: this will make the reed feel hard and possibly cause it to play flat until it has dried out.
If the cork doesn’t slide easily into the reed well of your oboe, DO NOT force it. It may become stuck and be difficult to remove. Try rolling the cork against a flat surface to compact it, being very careful not to damage the cane part of the reed in the process. Or, apply a very light film of cork grease to the cork.
Be VERY CAREFUL of the tip of the reed: it will break easily if mishandled or hit against the teeth.