How to Clean a Piano

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.

a close up view of a piano's keys

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.

a Wurlitzer piano

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.

piano keys covered in plastic tape

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.

side view of a Wurlitzer piano

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 πŸ™‚

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10 thoughts on “How to Clean a Piano”

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    What a blessing to have a clean piano and children that can play it. πŸ™‚ I love that coconut oil has so many uses, too. I use it to remove temporary tattoos from my daughter’s hand among other things.

    Thanks for sharing, Erin!

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      That’s so true! I used to scrub my poor little ones’ arms so hard to get those tattoos off, until their preschool teacher told me about using oil…takes them right off!

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    I’ve used coconut oil to get sap out of my hair after trimming our pine shrub. I thought it was never going to come out until I gave the coconut oil a try. I’ll have to remember it removes tape too. My son is constantly putting tape on things and then if I don’t see it right away it can really get stuck on. πŸ™

    We purchased a used piano at a thrift store years ago. I was thankful that other than a few broken things that needed repair and a good vacuuming it was really in pretty good shape. I started to learn to play, I thought one of the kids might want to learn to play but they didn’t. Maybe someday I’ll take lessons again as I would love to learn to play but finding the time is hard.

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    I was more concerned with the operation of the used piano rather than the exterior, so I asked a professional pianist to advise me. She said to be sure that the piano’s soundboard wasn’t split or otherwise damaged before I bought a used instrument. Otherwise, most used pianos would serve my needs.

    The link below shows where the soundboard is.

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    THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! I bought an old Steinway & Sons upright from someone a few years ago. I’m going to paint it but I wanted to see how to remove the stickers from the keys and I’m going to use the coconut oil for sure! I am curious how much it cost to have a piano tech come and look at it AND tune it. Mine hasn’t been tuned in 30ish years but it works still.

    This was very helpful! Once again, thank you! πŸ™‚

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      Yay…I’m so glad it helped you Alicia! (BTW, you’ve made my day with your kind comment!)

      Let me know how it goes with the tuner, I’d love to hear how it went πŸ™‚

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    Thanks again for helping me learn more about how to take care of a piano! My daughter is learning how to play the piano at the moment, and we always have to drive to the teachers home since we do not own one. As you mentioned, using coconut oil on the tape that you place on the keys would help you remove them with ease. Now that I know this, I do not feel scared to put tape on the keys when we get a new piano for her for Christmas. Thanks for the help!

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      Hi Michael…thanks so much for stopping by πŸ™‚

      It’s not a good idea to put tape on the keys of your piano. Not only is it potentially damaging to the keys themselves, but it can really hinder your daughter’s ability to learn the notes. This happened to one of my kids…they didn’t have the notes memorized because they relied on the taped-on letters at home, and when they went to the teacher’s house, they couldn’t perform the piece well.

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      Don’t use tape. They now make static cling letters made for a keyboard. Amazon and eBay have them, a set, for $10. You have no residue of any kind! I just bought some!

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