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July 28, 2023

How to Clean a Piano Yourself [Quick Guide]

Musicians often wonder how to clean a piano themselves, to save on this fee from a professional. Also, keeping a piano clean is vital for ensuring it performs as expected over the years! On the other hand, it’s also easy to damage the instrument with improper cleaning tools and techniques. In turn, you might wonder how to clean a piano without hurting its strings, keys, and other pieces.

How to clean a piano inside and out:

  • Mix mild dish soap and water.
  • Use a clean cloth to wipe down the keys and pedals.
  • After cleaning the wood, use a polish to keep it moisturized.
  • Use a specialty vacuum with low suction to clean the inside.
  • Specialty brushes can clean interior pieces.

Obviously, these are just a few simple cleaning steps for a piano. To find out how to clean yours safely and easily, keep reading! Some added details ensure a complete, damage-free cleaning. Also, you’ll know when to call a piano services technician near you.

inspecting a piano during piano maintenance

How to Clean a Piano Without Cleaning the Inside

Since the inside of a piano is more delicate and needs specialty cleaning, we’ll first cover how to clean its outside. Once you’ve completed this task, you can then decide if you’re ready to move on to tackling the inside.

Gather Supplies

Before you start, ensure you have the following supplies ready:

   - Soft microfiber cloths or clean cotton cloths

   - Mild soap or piano-specific cleaner (avoid harsh chemicals)

   - Distilled water

   - A small bowl or bucket for mixing the cleaning solution

   - Piano polish (optional, for polishing the wood)

Dust the Surface

Use a dry microfiber cloth or duster to gently dust the entire surface of the piano. Make sure to clean the top, sides, and front panels. Be gentle to avoid scratching the finish. Shake out the cloth or use a new one as needed, so you don’t simply redeposit dust as you work.

Also, check the piano for scratches and other issues as you go. If you notice any, use a softer or clean cloth. You also need to avoid getting debris caught in the cloth as you work. This risks damaging the piano wood which can affect its performance.

Clean the Keys

Piano keys accumulate dirt and oils from your fingers. To address this, create a gentle cleaning solution by mixing a few drops of mild soap with distilled water.

Next, dampen a soft cloth with the solution, wring out excess water, and gently wipe each key from the back to the front. Avoid getting the keys too wet, and dry them immediately with a separate cloth if needed. Gently push down on the keys as you work, to dislodge and clean anything stuck between them.

However, avoid using sharp objects to clean between or around the keys. This can scratch the wood and push debris even further into those crevices.

Clean the Case (Wooden Parts)

If your piano has wooden parts, use a slightly damp cloth to wipe them down gently. Avoid using excess water, as it can damage the wood. If there are stains or tougher marks, use a piano-specific cleaner according to the product's instructions. Also, avoid rubbing harshly against the wood as this can push stains in deeper or risk scratches.

Polish the Wood

If you want to add some shine to the wooden parts, use a piano polish specifically designed for piano finishes. Apply the polish following the product instructions and buff the wood to a shine with a soft cloth. Additionally, a polish helps nourish the wood after cleaning so it doesn’t dry out. This helps prevent unnecessary cracking and other damage.

Clean the Pedals

For grand pianos, use a slightly damp cloth to wipe down the pedals gently. For vertical (upright) pianos, clean the pedal area with a soft, dry cloth. Ensure you get into all the crevices and press the pedals gently as you work. This will help dislodge any dirt and dust stuck in their mechanisms.

How to Keep Your Piano in Good Condition

To ensure a safe, damage-free clean and to keep your piano in good condition, check out some added tips to consider:

  • Never use abrasive cleaners, furniture polish, or harsh chemicals on your piano, as they can damage the finish and affect the soundboard.
  • Keep your piano away from direct sunlight, as exposure to UV rays can fade and damage the finish over time.
  • To keep your piano in top condition, establish a regular cleaning schedule. Dust the piano weekly and clean it more thoroughly every few months or as needed.
  • Use a piano cover as needed to protect it from sunlight and other damage. These are also useful in homes with children and pets. A cover protects against scratches and dents those active ones risk in any home!
piano tuning for a piano in DC area

How to Clean a Piano’s Inside Components

Cleaning a piano’s inside components is very delicate and best left to a professional. However, if you want to try this project yourself, note how a technician often handles it.

  • The technician will start by inspecting the piano to assess its condition and determine the extent of cleaning required. They will check for dust buildup, debris, pests, or any potential issues.
  • In some cases, the technician may need to partially disassemble the piano to access certain internal components. This step is only undertaken when essential and should be done with extreme care.
  • Using specialized vacuum attachments and low-suction settings, the technician will carefully remove dust and debris from the soundboard, strings, and other internal parts. They will ensure to avoid excessive force or pressure.
  • Delicate brushes and soft cloths may be used to gently wipe and brush away any remaining dust and grime from various components. This step requires a meticulous approach to avoid any harm.
  • If the piano has a key bed, the technician will clean it thoroughly, removing any accumulated dust and dirt that could affect the keys' proper functioning.
  • The piano's action (the mechanism that connects the keys to the hammers) may require attention. The technician will ensure that the action is free of dust and debris, which can affect the piano's responsiveness.
  • The strings may be cleaned using specialized solutions to remove any dirt or residues that might impact the tone or longevity of the strings.
  • After cleaning, the technician will perform a regulation check to ensure that the piano's action is functioning correctly and that the keys are properly aligned and responsive.
  • Finally, the technician will check the piano's pitch and tune it if necessary. Cleaning can sometimes affect the tension on the strings, leading to minor changes in pitch.
  • If any parts were disassembled, the technician will carefully reassemble the piano, ensuring that everything is correctly positioned and functioning.

Can You Use Windex to Clean a Piano?

It's generally not recommended to use Windex or any glass cleaner on a piano, especially on its wooden surfaces. Windex contains chemicals too harsh for the delicate finish of a piano. These chemicals can strip away the protective layer and damage the wood, leading to discoloration, dullness, or even cracks.

If you need to clean your piano, it's best to use a gentle and specifically formulated piano cleaner or a mild soap mixed with distilled water. These cleaners are designed to be safe for piano finishes and will not harm the wood or other components. You can also typically use wood or oil soap on wood pieces.

Also, test the cleaner on a small, inconspicuous area of the piano first to ensure it doesn't cause any adverse reactions. Additionally, when cleaning, avoid using excessive water and be gentle to prevent any potential damage to the piano's surfaces.

Can You Clean a Piano With Wet Wipes?

Piano owners should avoid using wet wipes for their piano, especially around wooden surfaces and keys. Wet wipes contain chemicals and moisture harmful to the piano's finish and components. Note a few reasons to avoid using these on your piano in more detail:

  • Wet wipes often contain cleaning agents and chemicals that may not be suitable for delicate piano finishes. These chemicals strip away the protective layer on the wood and cause damage over time.
  • Excess moisture can seep into the wood, causing it to swell, warp, or discolor. Prolonged exposure to moisture can lead to structural issues and affect the sound quality of the piano.
  • Some wet wipes may leave behind a residue that can attract dust and dirt, leading to a more challenging cleaning process in the long run.

Instead of wet wipes, use a soft microfiber cloth or a clean cotton cloth slightly dampened with a mild soap and distilled water. Gently wipe the surfaces, including the keys, to remove dust and grime. Remember to dry the surfaces immediately with a separate dry cloth to avoid any moisture-related issues.

A Word From Our Piano Experts

McLean Piano Tuning by PianoCraft is happy to help explain how to clean a piano. Hopefully we’ve offered some great tips to consider! Also, you can call our McLean VA piano services experts for needed cleaning and tuning. We provide a wide range of needed piano care for virtually every make and model in use today! For more information, reach out to our crew.

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