Most of the time, the only cleaning you need to do to a piano is to give it a light dusting from time to time. If you are like me, however, and have purchased or inherited an older piano that may not have been cared for very well, it may need deeper cleaning. If you find yourself in that predicament, here are a few tips on how to clean a piano.
Why I needed to learn how to clean a piano
A few years ago, when my children expressed an interest in taking piano lessons, we decided to try to find a used piano from a private individual, because we didn’t want to invest a lot of money into an expensive piano from a music store, in case they didn’t want to take lessons long term.
Luckily, CraigsList had quite a few pianos for sale in our area, and we found a small one that looked like it would fit in our family room. The pictures online showed a pretty console piano with light-colored wood, which seemed like it was in good condition.
When we got the piano home, however, we discovered that the instrument wasn’t as wonderful as I thought it was: it was spectacularly dirty and woefully out of tune. In fact, the piano hadn’t been tuned in about 8 years, according to a receipt left from the last tuner in the belly of the instrument. Several of the keys had old scotch tape covering them with the name of the note written in pencil on top, and there was evidence of food spillage on the body and legs.
I discovered that our good buy was going to take a bit of elbow grease to get it working properly again.
Piano cleaning tips
Please note, these tips are NOT for pianos that are in good condition, as most pianos do not need to be cleaned with soap and water or polished in any way. It is also important to make sure that no water or cleaning fluid be allowed to seep down in between the keys on the keyboard, as that can damage them. If you have any questions, see a professional piano technician.
The first thing I did with our piano was to give its outside a good cleaning. Because the body is made of a finished wood, you need to be careful when using certain products on it. I found that a good wood soap, such as Murphy’s Oil Soap (affiliate link) is your best bet; just dilute the soap in warm water, according to the package directions, and use a soft cloth to clean the wood. It’s important to make sure to dry the wood thoroughly when finished, to avoid any water sitting on surface. You’ll also want to avoid any spray polishes on the wood.
The tape on the piano keys were a whole different matter and much more difficult to remove. Because the tape had been on the keys for so long, it was practically impossible to peel off the tape, as the glue had pretty much dried and set.
After several tries with my fingernails (I didn’t want to take a chance on scratching the keys with a scraper), I gave up. Over time, however, we discovered that having the note names on the keys were hampering my daughter’s ability to remember them on her own, and the teacher recommended that I remove the tape. She suggested using a bit of coconut oil to see if that would loosen the glue.
The coconut oil worked well in getting the old tape to come loose. I applied a very small amount to each key individually with a soft cloth, taking care not to let any of the oil go in between the keys. I allowed the oil to sit for several hours, then used my fingernails to gently scrape the tape away.
Some of the pencil markings on the tape had transferred into the plastic of the keys, so in order to remove that, I used a bit of white toothpaste to gently scrub the pencil lead away.
If you don’t have any tape to remove, using the soap and water on a well wrung out cloth to wipe the keys is fine. You may want to use two different cleaning cloths on the white and black keys, however, as sometimes the stain from the black keys can come off, and you don’t want it to transfer to the white keys.
The importance of using a Piano Technician
After I had taken care of the outside of the piano, it was time to have the insides spruced up. I hired a piano technician to come take a look at our piano, as I knew that it needed tuning badly.
Luckily, the tech was able to get our piano into good working order again after a few hours. He also took care of cleaning the inside of the piano, which I highly recommend. You don’t want to accidentally bump any of the strings, so just leave that part to the pros.
Having a piano in our home has really been a blessing. It’s so much fun to sit down with the kids to watch them practice or even just listen to the beautiful songs that they play. It’s also fun to to have sing-alongs with the whole family at Christmas…on a clean piano 🙂