Learn How to Clean Your Acoustic Piano Properly

May 8, 2021

Music Lessons in NYC - Piano Lessons NYC - Piano Maintenance

Acoustic pianos are marvelous and very complex instruments. Buying a new piano is a huge investment; they cost anywhere between a few thousand dollars to more than $200,000. They are NOT cheap! In order to avoid damaging your beautiful instrument, it’s important to learn how to clean a piano properly.

It’s important to learn how to properly clean your piano so that you do not damage any of the keys, the frame, or the mechanics.

There are some things that people tend to do incorrectly when cleaning their pianos which can seriously damage the instrument and depreciate its value. Let’s make sure you are not cleaning your piano in the wrong way!

How to Clean Piano Keys

Piano keys are a “high touch surface” by nature. Even if you wash your hands prior to playing, they can still harbor a lot of gross stuff – including  the flu, cold viruses, and yes – COVID-19. The keys    are one of the most logical places to start when you learn how to clean a piano.

The goal when cleaning piano keys is that there should be absolutely nothing left on the surface of the keys after you are done cleaning: no polish, no oil, no chemicals, no residue, nothing at all. Stay away from sprays, soaps, and any other cleaning solutions you normally have in your household.

The best way to clean piano keys is simply to wet a paper towel and gently wipe the keys in vertical strokes: up and down. NEVER wipe the keys sideways as this is loosening the overall mechanics and makes the keys wobbly over time.

All piano players’ fingers deposit oil on the surface of the keys, which can  attract other dirt. If you need an extra cleaning or if you want to fully disinfect piano keys, then you can use alcohol wipes or just put a small amount of rubbing alcohol on a paper towel or piece of cloth. Be careful NOT to touch the lid above the keys or any other wood part of the piano with alcohol: this will damage the wood, especially if you have satin (not glossy) finish.

So how often should you clean the keys of the keyboard? If you share a piano with other people, then ideally before and after each time anyone sits down to play. Remember that there might be oil and sweat left on the keys, even when invisible, from the previous person. If you have the piano all to yourself, then we recommend wiping the keyboard 2-3 times a week. Keep the piano lid closed in-between playing for best maintenance.

How to Clean a Piano’s Outside Surface

The outside of your acoustic piano is made of wood and a little bit of metal. You can clean the metal the same way as wood,but for the wood it is important to find the right cleaning method depending on the specific finish. Most pianos have a glossy finish, which makes them easier to clean: just dust them periodically. If you need to clean  smudges and fingerprints from your piano, you can use Windex. Spray it on the paper towel or piece of cloth first, then gently rub on the surface. Stay away from bleach or alcohol based cleaning solutions when cleaning your piano.

Fun fact: All pianos produced in the US have satin finish as glossy wood finish is not allowed by manufacturing regulations. 

If your piano has a satin finish,the only thing you can do for cleaning is dusting and wiping with a damp (with water) paper towel or cloth. Be careful so the water doesn’t drip directly on the surface or inside the piano. Remember that it’s enough to spill just one glass of water inside a piano to damage it beyond repair. You can also use some gentle furniture polishing oils and solutions when you clean a piano – just not too much of it.

Dust the outside of your piano a few times a week just as you do with your bookshelves and TVs, etc. Do a more thorough cleaning as needed. Glossy polish pianos usually need cleaning more frequently as the fingerprints are more easily seen, and satin finish pianos barely need anything more than dusting.

Cleaning the inside of an acoustic piano: DON’T!

If you have a grand piano, then you want to fully close the top piano lid when not in use to prevent the dust from accumulating inside. This is truly the safest way to keep the inside of the grand piano from getting dusty or dirty. If you already have a dusty situation,  you can bring the vacuum hose close to the dusty parts (usually the pins to which the strings are attached)  WITHOUT actually touching anything!

If there’s dust and dirt anywhere underneath the strings, then only a professional piano tuner or piano technician can clean it for you. Please remember that if you are physically touching anything inside the piano, you are risking, at the very minimum, getting your piano out of tune and, at the maximum, breaking the fragile wooden parts which will cost you a fortune to replace. If you clean your piano incorrectly, you might completely ruin it!

If you have an upright piano, it’s not really necessary to clean the inside. Maybe open the bottom lid (below the keyboard by your feet) and carefully vacuum the very bottom inside of the frame a few times a year.

One of the best ways to keep your grand piano clean on the inside is to always fully close the piano when not playing it. You may want to impress your house guests with an awesome look of an open grand piano, but please remember to close it after the party. Remember to keep the keyboard lid of both grand and upright pianos closed at all times as well. NEVER wipe your keys sideways – only up and down. 

Take great care of your instrument and learn how to clean your piano properly – it will allow you to enjoy your instrument for many years to come!

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