Monday, January 7, 2013

How to Clean & Maintain Piano?


Piano is not a furniture and certainly not a coffee table!
Avoid placing objects on your piano!
No family photos, party food or drinks, orange juice, or even water while you’re practicing.
Do you really want rings from cocktail glasses on the lid?
Even with coasters, it doesn’t work.
If you use a piano lamp, make sure it has a cloth or felt base, 
or place it on top of a soft piece of fabric. 

“Can’t I just use Pledge to clean the piano?” “NO!
The cleaning products and the cloth you’ve used to dust other furniture.
That cloth has oily and waxy substances on it.
The substances would get onto the strings and small parts inside. That stuff builds up.
After that, the parts begin to stick together and some of the keys stop working.

With regular maintenance, your piano will last through your lifetime and more.


Dust is ideally removed by a feather duster, and dusting with a dry cloth should be avoided at all costs! A dry cloth will allow the dust to scratch the finish. These fine scratches will eventually leave a high gloss instrument looking dull. Being very careful with regular dusting is the most important step in retaining the gloss in a polished polyester finish. 

Dust, pollen, and smoke all reach the piano’s fragile interior easily, and – with the help of condensation – coat it with a sticky, bacteria-happy residue. 

Direct sunlight should never touch a piano – electric or acoustic. Indirect sunlight can help prevent mold and yellowing keys in acoustic pianos, but be sure to monitor the temperature in a sunny piano room. 

In cases of stubborn greasy dirt (fingerprints or other residue on the keys), using a small amount of mild detergent (such as mild dish washing liquid) on the slightly damp (not oozing water) soft cloth may help, followed by another dry cloth; as can a high-quality spray window cleaner such as Windex™. Make sure no water gets onto the wood on the sides! 

Dark, warm, and moist rooms allow for mold and bacteria growth inside a piano, which can weaken internal wood and pose possible health risks to humans and animals.

Piano keys become soiled over time, and it’s no secret why this happens. Sweaty hands and skin oils help dust and dirt bind to keys, and frequently used notes are especially vulnerable; their polished surfaces are worn down, making it easy for dirt to enter their pores. 

Room temperature (70-72° F, 21-22° C) is ideal; going too much higher or lower upsets tuning, weakens delicate internal glue, and contributes to long term wood damage. 
  • Cold can weaken delicate wooden parts, and using a piano in this condition can cause these parts to snap. 
  • Heat can negatively affect the strings, and can loosen the felt on the hammers. 
Pianos are very sensitive to fluctuations in humidity. A piano fares best in 35-45% humidity, but up to 55% is acceptable – so long as it’s constant

Fluctuating humidity causes:
  • wood – including the ever-important soundboard – to swell and release, leading to tuning issues, changes in timbre, and silent keys.
  • High humidity levels can cause wood to warp; and lower humidity can cause cracking. 
  • OUT of TUNE. Your piano’s wood was intricately positioned and crafted, and the sound quality relies on it. Changes in the wood can also affect tuning; if the wood loosens or tenses up, the strings will follow suit and go out of tune. 


When it comes to pianos, cleaning and polishing are two different actions. 
Polishing should be kept to a bare minimum. 


  • If dusting with a cloth, always use a soft fabric such as flannel or chamois. Never use rags or paper towels!

  • If you have a sticky buildup of wax or polish, wipe these areas with a solution of filtered water and mild soap, and dry immediately. Cloths should be only slightly damp, and the use of filtered water is preferred; minerals can alter the appearance of the finish. 
  • Always use a gentle touch in the direction of the piano's wood grain, and dry immediately with a separate cloth. Wipe in the direction of the wood grain if you can see it. Since this may be difficult to detect, simply avoid wiping in circles to prevent scratching. Care should be taken not to apply pressure to the finish or to drag the dust across the finish, which can create fine scratches in the surface.
  • Be extra gentle on corners and edges. These areas have the thinnest layer of finish, and too much pressure can expose the nude wood.
  • Keys should be wiped towards you. Wiping side-to-side can allow moisture to seep between keys and cause damage.
  • Avoid store-bought chemicals or furniture polish. These are too abrasive, and can lead to grainy textures and discoloration. 
  • Never spray products directly onto the piano. Spray the polish onto your cloth, and stand at least three feet away from the piano to prevent the particles from landing on your keys, strings, or other delicate areas. 
  • Resist the temptation to dust any exposed areas of the piano’s interior. These parts are fragile, and should only be cleaned by a professional. Improper cleaning of the plate, strings, soundboard and action may result in damage to the piano. 
  • Keep an air purifier in the same room as the piano & use piano cover to reduce dust.
  • Polishing Your Piano Before you polish your piano, you need to find out whether it has a polymer or lacquer finish; these two finishes must be polished differently to avoid possibly irreversible damage. 


More Tips for Cleaning Piano Keys:
  • Cloths should be only slightly dampened, and keys should be wiped towards you. Wiping side-to-side can allow moisture to seep between keys and cause damage.
  • Clean one octave at a time, and dry immediately before moving onto the next octave. 
  • Avoid colored cloths that may bleed when moistened. Colors can easily transfer onto the white keys, causing a discoloration that is very difficult to remedy. Always use separate cloths on black keys, or simply clean them last. Paint from the black keys or unseen dirt can be transferred onto the ivories 


In general, furniture polishes are not recommended except for specialized polishes for high-gloss finishes. So, before you polish your piano, you need to find out whether it has a polymer or lacquer finish? These two finishes must be polished differently to avoid damage and possibly irreversible eyesores.
  1. Polyester (or polymer) is tougher and more scratch-resistant than lacquer piano finishes, and therefore doesn’t require polishing. However, its reflective nature allows fingerprints to stand out. Polyester finishes are easily restored to their natural glow with a simple dusting. avoid high-gloss products. These can highlight scratches, and make otherwise unseen flaws apparent. 
  2. Lacquer is most common on North American pianos, and will resemble most other pieces of wooden furniture. You can usually see the wood grain under the finish, and the surface will seem easily scratch-able.
Beware of the following ingredients when polishing your lacquer piano:
  • Alcohol will destroy the shine
  • Silicone can seep into the wood and cause costly damage to delicate and (seemingly) distant parts. 
  • Lemon oils are recommended by some, but can actually weaken the finish and cause a sticky buildup over time.


1. Leave the Key-lid Open on Your Piano, Sometimes

Keeping your piano closed when not in use is a good habit to have … 70% of the time. Dust and air particles can build up into a sticky mess between piano keys, causing mobility issues. However, if the lid remains closed for too long, mold growth can occur inside the piano. This is especially true if your piano is kept in a dark or humid room.
  • Keep the key-lid up a couple times each week during daylight hours. Indirect sunlight and proper air circulation will discourage mold growth inside your piano. 
  • If you have a keyboard, invest in a properly fitted cover. Mold is generally not an issue here. 
  • A gentle once-over with a vacuum cleaner attachment can help fight off dust buildup. 

2. No Fluids on the Piano & Wash Your Hands Before Playing!
  • If liquid gets onto the piano keyboard, wipe up excess liquid from the keys’ surface. To avoid further dripping, try not to press any keys while doing this. 
  • If liquid gets between the keys, contact a registered piano technician as soon as possible. Do not attempt to remove the keys and fix the mess yourself. 
  • For spills on electric keyboards: Unplug at once! Do not attempt to shake your keyboard dry; this can drive liquid deeper into your instrument. Wait a few days for it to dry before testing it out, and start reading some keyboard reviews, just in case.

3. Ideal Humidity Levels for a Piano
*Condensation – a particular threat to electric keyboards – can be avoided by keeping windows and doors well-insulated; both of which should remained closed when less than 4 feet from a piano.
  • Monitor your indoor humidity levels, and regulate them with a humidifier or dehumidifier. 40% humidity is ideal. 
  • Keep the piano away from heater vents and windows, and close the door of your piano room if it is near a kitchen or bathroom to prevent condensation. This is especially important for your electric piano.
  • No carpeted rooms with dry air for electric pianos, keep humidity levels at 55% to prevent static electricity from damaging your musical keyboard.

4. Regulate the Climate Around a Piano
Make sure you can control the temperature of your piano room, avoid climate fluctuations!
  • Keep your piano away from an exterior wall, drafty windows and doors, fireplaces, and climate-control vents. If no other space is available, position the piano at least two feet away from it.
    *Fans, air conditioners, heaters, and even computers should be at least 4 feet away from a piano … and the farther the better. Fireplaces need to be at least 10 feet away from a piano, and unused fireplaces should be well-insulated.*
  • Keep the room protected and well-insulated. Regulate the room’s temperature with an air conditioner or heater, but keep the piano at a distance from both.
  • Close all doors and windows of your piano room, and never allow direct sunlight to touch your instrument. It can damage the interior, and cause discoloration and cracking of the piano’s finish.
  • Placing an area rug beneath a piano is helpful on cold floors, and can also help balance out an overly-bright piano.  

  • Hard-wood floors are great because of their versatility: You can add or remove area rugs to customize the sound of the room. 
  • Electric pianos depend on the strength and quality of the speakers used; a small room works best with built-in speakers, but external speakers can always be toggled to suit a room. 
  • Correct vibrating surfaces such as windows, loose shelves, or picture frames to avoid harsh tones or falling objects!


All pianos need to be tuned regularly. The amount of time between tunings for a fine instrument depends on many factors, especially the stability of the temperature and humidity and the amount of use the piano receives.

Moisture changes in the air is the main reason. Rapid changes in heat and cold, and excessive changes in moisture and dryness, cause the various parts to shrink or swell - and such changes affect the tonal quality as well as the tuning and adjustment of your piano.

Changes in atmospheric humidity will in time affect the moisture content of piano parts made of wood, even those parts that are carefully coated with lacquer. The result is a continual swelling and shrinking, expansion and contraction, of all wood parts in a piano.

Excessive humidity or dampness is very detrimental to pianos, causing rusting, sluggish actions, bursting of case parts, etc. Like the soundboard, the wood in the pin block swells and contracts with moisture changes, causing the pins to slip slightly and change the tension on the strings, which again can change their pitch. The hard playing could be one reason the pitch changes (the vibrations of the strings and frame can subtly shake the tuning pins loose over time).

Pianos also need to be serviced in ways other than simple tuning. The action mechanism and the hammers are subject to wear through use. Periodic voicing and regulation will keep the piano sounding its best throughout the life of the instrument.

In general, if the touch or tone of your piano seems uneven, difficult to control, or the notes do not repeat well, you should speak with your technician about the need for regulation (adjustment of the mechanism) and voicing.

  • Prevent serious damage. Correct (and constant) string tension is important to the health of many delicate piano parts – parts which are very expensive to fix. Tunings help these parts work together smoothly, preventing damage to (and from) neighboring pieces.
  • Detecting undetectable problems. But remember: not all piano tuners are piano technicians, and vice versa. If you want your piano looked at in-depth, find a tuner who has been trained to handle piano maintenance. 
  • Help build string “strength.” After a few regular tunings, you’ll notice that the pitch doesn’t stray as easily (or as often) as it did before
  • Save You Money. If your piano has gone two or more years without a tuning, it might require corrective treatments (adding around $40-$100 to your bill). 
Common procedures used to fix severely bad tuning:
  1. Pitch-Raising is a pre-tuning process that prepares the strings to be tuned. If done incorrectly, this technique can negatively impact the piano’s timbre; sacrifice proper string vibration, and cause a twang or rattle if the strings have interference. 
  2. Double-Tuning is when a general, overall tuning is performed before a fine-tuning. The first tuning is crucial because the tuning process itself can cause weak strings to go out-of-tune; starting off with a fine-tuning would be a tremendous waste of time on severely out-of-tune strings.