Pianos require routine maintenance, regardless they are digital pianos or acoustic pianos. While acoustic pianos need more maintenance and effort including periodic tuning. One of the common maintenance is to clean piano keys.
If you own a piano, nevertheless a digital piano or an acoustic piano, the keys need cleaning because they can accumulate dirt, oil, and sweat from the fingers of the players over time, which can cause the keys to become discolored, sticky, or even damaged. Additionally, dust, debris, and other particles can accumulate on the keys and between the keys, potentially affecting the piano’s sound quality and key actions.
Regular cleaning of the piano keys is important to keep them in good condition and ensure that they remain hygienic.
How to clean piano keys without causing damage? We share three useful tips in this article.
Table of Contents
- 1 #1 Know the Key Material
- 2 #2 Necessary Equipment
- 3 #3 Steps to Clean Piano Keys
- 4 Maintaining Piano Keys
- 5 Conclusion
#1 Know the Key Material
Piano keys can be made from different materials, depending on the type and age of the piano. The material used for piano keys can affect the feel, sound, and durability of the instrument, and different pianists may have preferences for specific types of keys.
Knowing the key material helps you take precautions accordingly and avoid unnecessary damage to the keys. The most common materials used for piano keys are ivory, plastic, ebony, and bone.
Historically, ivory was used as the primary material for piano keys until it was banned in the mid-20th century due to conservation concerns. Ivory keys have a unique feel and texture and are prized for their responsiveness and sensitivity.
Please review our article about how to identify ivory keys on your piano.
In modern times, plastic has become the most common material used for piano keys. It is durable, affordable, and easily molded to achieve the desired shape and texture. However, the feel of plastic keys is often considered less natural and less responsive than ivory keys.
In order to mimic more closely to ivory keys, many piano manufacturers implement textures on the plastic keys to prevent slippage and better control of the keys. As it goes for digital pianos, you can almost be sure the keys are plastic.
The black keys on a piano are typically made from ebony, which is a dense and durable wood that can withstand the repetitive pressure of piano playing. Ebony keys are often coated with a thin layer of plastic or another material to protect them from wear and tear.
Some high-end pianos may use bone for their keys, as it is a dense and resilient material that can provide a unique feel and tonal quality. Bone keys are often coated with a layer of varnish or lacquer to protect them from moisture and wear.
#2 Necessary Equipment
The tools needed to clean piano keys are relatively simple and you can find them at home or purchased at a music store.
Here are some tools that you may need:
- Soft, clean cloths: You will need a few soft, clean cloths to wipe down the piano keys. Microfiber cloths or lint-free cotton cloths are a good choice, as they won’t scratch or damage the keys.
- Distilled water: Use distilled water instead of tap water, which may contain minerals that can leave streaks or spots on the keys.
- Mild soap: If the keys are particularly dirty, you can add a small amount of mild soap, such as dish soap or baby shampoo, to the water. Make sure to dilute the soap and avoid using too much, as this can leave a residue on the keys.
- Piano key cleaning solution: You can also use a specialized piano key cleaning solution, which is designed to remove dirt and grime from the keys without damaging them. Make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions when using the solution.
- Soft-bristled brush: For cleaning between the keys, you can use a soft-bristled brush, such as a toothbrush or a paintbrush. This will help to dislodge any dirt or debris that may be trapped between the keys.
Overall, it’s important to use gentle tools and avoid using harsh chemicals or abrasive materials that can damage the keys.
#3 Steps to Clean Piano Keys
Cleaning piano keys is quite straightforward. It is important to be conscious to protect the keys. Using the tools mentioned earlier, you can start your cleaning work.
If your piano has stiff keys, refer to our post about fixing sticky piano keys.
First, remove any debris or dust from the keys by gently brushing them with a soft-bristled brush. Make sure to brush between the keys as well.
Next, dampen a soft, clean cloth with distilled water or a diluted mild soap solution. Wring out any excess moisture so that the cloth is only damp, not wet.
Starting with the white keys, gently wipe each key from back to front, using a light touch. Avoid rubbing too hard, as this can damage the keys. Wiping keys from back to front will prevent particles from getting behind the keys and into the piano.
If there are stubborn stains or marks on the keys, you can use a specialized piano key cleaning solution, following the manufacturer’s instructions. Make sure to apply the solution to the cloth, not directly to the keys.
For the black keys, use a separate cloth to prevent any color transfer. You can also use a specialized black key cleaning solution to remove dirt and oil without damaging the keys.
After cleaning the keys, use a dry, clean cloth to remove any remaining moisture. Make sure to dry the keys immediately to prevent any moisture from seeping into the keys.
Finally, wash your hands before playing the piano to prevent the keys from getting dirty again quickly.
What Not To Do
It’s important to avoid using harsh chemicals or abrasive materials when cleaning piano keys, as these can damage the keys and affect the sound and feel of the instrument.
Avoid using excessive amounts of water or leaving the keys wet for long periods of time, as this can cause the keys to warp or crack.
Maintaining Piano Keys
Usually, it is not a good idea to clean the keys too frequently. Cleaning too often can also damage the keys and remove the natural oils from the ivory or the protection layer on plastic or bone, which can affect the feel of the piano keys.
Therefore, it is essential to keep your piano keys clean on a regular basis. Here are some tips on how to maintain piano keys –
Wash Hands Before Playing
The oils and dirt from your hands can accumulate on the keys over time. Washing your hands before playing can help keep the keys clean and prevent them from becoming discolored or sticky.
Avoid Eating or Drinking Near the Piano
Spills and crumbs can easily get onto the keys and cause damage. Try to avoid eating or drinking near the piano to prevent spills and crumbs from getting onto the keys.
Dust the Keys Regularly
Use a soft-bristled brush or dry microfiber cloths to dust the keys regularly, especially if the piano is in a dusty environment. This will help prevent dust from accumulating on the keys and maintain the piano in fine condition.
Use a Piano Cover:
If you’re not playing the piano for an extended period, such as when you’re away from home, cover it with a fitted piano cover to protect the keys from dust, sunlight, and temperature changes.
Schedule Regular Maintenance
Have your piano tuned and inspected regularly by a professional piano technician to ensure that the keys and the piano are in good condition.
A well-maintained piano produces better sound quality, retains high resale value, and extends its lifespan. Cleaning piano keys is one of the critical piano maintenance tasks.
By following the tips outlined in this article, you can maintain the piano keys and keep your instrument in excellent condition for a long time. Regular maintenance can help you get the most out of your instrument and enjoy it for years to come.