Do you have an older piano that's full of dust? Or, are you simply trying to clean the piano keys between each music student? If so, here are some great tips for cleaning piano the keys and polishing the finish to keep it clean and beautiful.
Start with one or two clean, dry microfiber cloths. You'll need Windex or a specialized piano key cleaner for cleaning the keys, and the correct polish for the type of finish your piano has. If you want to polish any brass pedals or hardware, you'll need a cleaner such as Brasso, paper towels, and #0000 (super fine) steel wool to remove heavy tarnish.
If your piano is shiny but you can't see your reflection in it, you have a satin finish. If your piano is so shiny you can see your reflection in it, you have a high gloss finish. If your piano has a special veneer which allows the wood grain to show through, this is called an open pore finish. Each type requires slightly different cleaners, so make sure you know which finish your instrument has.
For grand pianos, you'll need to remove the fallboard in order to reach into the action cavity and grab the pencil, which usually is sitting on top of the keys. This tutorial is a helpful way to learn how to remove the fallboard on most piano models.
The keys are definitely the most-touched part of a piano! Especially if you have been sick with a cold or have a lot of students touching your keyboard, it is good to know how to clean the keys without causing damage.
How to Clean
- Disinfecting: Dampen a cotton pad or microfiber cloth with hydrogen peroxide and wipe the keys from back to front, avoiding getting any liquid between the keys. Wipe with a dry cloth so no moisture remains.
- Cleaning: Using Windex or a special key cleaner such as Cory Key-Brite on plastic or ivory keys works well. Simply spray the cleaner on a microfiber cloth and wipe from back to front, using a Q-tip if desired to get into the small spaces. (Either Windex or Cory Key-Brite can also be used on wooden black keys.)
What to Avoid
- Don't use harsh chemicals or disinfectants, especially citrus-based cleaners and Lysol/Clorox wipes.
- Do not spray any liquids directly onto the keys. Always spray the cleaner onto a microfiber cloth or cotton pad, then wipe.
- Make sure moisture doesn't drip between the keys, as this can cause swelling and will adversely affect the piano's touch and sound.
The finish of a piano is certainly one of its most notable features. The color, grain, and finish can make a piano look stunning or well-worn, depending upon how well it has been cared for.
Polishing the Finish
- Which Polish? Don't use Pledge or other furniture wax/cleaners on a piano finish, as they can dull it over time. Make sure to identify which type of finish your piano has, then choose the right polish for it.
- Dull Finish? Pledge or furniture wax may have been used on it in the past, or it may be an older instrument with dirt and oil buildup. Spray high quality guitar polish a specialized piano finish cleaner on a microfiber cloth and wipe in the direction of the wood grain to clean off this residue before polishing.
- Polishing: Spray the polish onto a clean, dry microfiber cloth and wipe in the direction of the wood grain, not in circles. Buff with another dry microfiber cloth if desired.
Tips for Keeping the Finish Clean
- Keep the piano away from direct sunlight to avoid fading the finish. Close the blinds or curtains on nearby windows to diffuse any direct light. (Indirect sunlight is great, though, as it will prevent the keys from yellowing with age.)
- Don't place potted plants, pictures, vases, food, drinks, or any other objects on the piano. Stains and spills can permanently damage both the outside and inside of the instrument.
- Don't allow pets or small children to climb or play on the piano or to scratch its finish. If your piano is in a room by itself, simply close the door to keep unwanted visitors out!
Most pianos have brass pedals for a gold-like look. Over time, however, brass pedals and hardware can get very tarnished, which can detract from the piano's appearance. Fortunately, it's simple to remove this tarnish!
(If your pedals are made from a different metal other than brass, choose a polish that is made for that material.)
- Supplies: You'll need a brass polish cream, such as Brasso, along with paper towels, cardboard or dropcloth, and painter's tape. For severe, stubborn tarnish, you'll definitely need #0000 steel wool--or perhaps even a Dremel tool fitted with a very soft polishing wheel.
- Prep: Place cardboard or a dropcloth on the floor under the work area to keep the floor clean. Make sure the area is well lit. Tape over the felt surrounding each pedal to keep it clean, as the Brasso will dry into a white powder, which can make the felt look dirty.
- Method: Shake the Brasso well, then spread a layer of the cream over the pedal. Let it stand for 1-2 minutes, then rub vigorously with the paper towel to remove the tarnish. Stubborn areas may need to be rubbed with steel wool or the softest polishing wheel of a Dremel tool.
- Maintenance: You will have to clean the pedals periodically, as the tarnish will eventually return. Avoid letting it go for years at a time, however, as severe tarnish can cause permanent pitting on the brass and is very time consuming to remove.
Strings & Soundboard
Cleaning this part of the piano is definitely more intricate than wiping down the finish or keys. If you don't have time or patience to carefully clean the strings, action cavity, or soundboard, you can hire a piano technician to do this step for you. Some special equipment is required to make the process easier, as well.
- Supplies: shop vaccum, microfiber cloth, soft brush with long bristles, and metal soundboard cleaning tool (Compressed air and Spurlock soundboard cleaners are also helpful.)
- Method: This will vary depending upon whether you have an upright or grand piano. I'd recommend watching the tutorials by Howard Piano Industries for both upright piano cleaning and grand piano cleaning instructions.
Do you have any piano cleaning tips to share? What are some ways that you keep your piano free from dust and scratches? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!
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