How to Fix Sticky Piano Keys – Causes and Solutions

It is a terrific experience to own an acoustic piano that is a marvelous musical instrument. You enjoy its elegance and beautiful sound range. However, piano keys can develop a frustrating issue over time: stickiness. Sticky keys are common problems that can hinder a pianist’s ability to play smoothly and accurately. How to fix sticky piano keys?

This article will explore the causes of sticky piano keys and provide solutions for fixing them.

What are Sticky Piano Keys?


Sticky piano keys are keys that do not return to their resting position quickly after the player releases them. This can make playing the piano difficult, as it hampers a pianist’s ability to achieve a smooth and precise performance. When you need to play quick repetitions on the same keys, it is a frustrating situation.

Causes of Sticky Piano Keys

Various factors may cause sticking piano keys, including dust and debris accumulation, humidity changes, aging or worn parts, or other mechanical issues within the piano’s action mechanism.

Accumulated Dust and Debris

Dust and debris can accumulate between the keys and the key bed, making the keys sluggish and difficult to press. This is a common cause of sticky piano keys, particularly in older pianos or those not regularly cleaned and serviced.

Moreover, accidental spills or exposure to liquids can result in sticky keys as the liquid can seep into the action mechanism, making the wood key swell and less responsive.

Humidity Changes

Excessive humidity can cause wooden parts of the piano to swell, leading to sticky keys. This is more likely to happen in regions with high humidity levels. The moisture absorption can affect the key action’s responsiveness.

Conversely, low humidity can cause the wood to dry out and contract, resulting in loose or sticky keys. The piano’s wooden components, including the key bed and action, are highly sensitive to changes in humidity.

Age and Wear

With time, the felts and other materials within the piano action may degrade, leading to sticky or sluggish keys. This is more common in older pianos that haven’t received proper maintenance.

Over time, the front rail, a.k.a. Key Slip, got pushed too close to the keys. This can also cause the stuck keys.

If you are wondering about piano lifespan, check out our article How Long Do Piano Last?

Solutions to Fix Sticky Piano Keys

It’s important to address sticking piano keys promptly to maintain the piano’s playability and prevent further damage to the instrument. Cleaning, regulating, and, if necessary, seeking the expertise of a professional piano technician are typical steps taken to resolve the issue of sticky piano keys.

Regular Cleaning

One of the simplest ways to prevent sticky keys is by regularly cleaning the piano. Use a soft brush or a vacuum cleaner with a small nozzle attachment to remove dust and debris between the keys and the action.

For more tips, we have a post about cleaning piano keys.

If your piano has been exposed to liquid, acting quickly is crucial. Wipe out the liquid on the surface and contact a piano technician to assess the damage and make necessary repairs.

Maintain Ideal Humidity Levels

To maintain the piano’s wooden components, it’s important to keep the humidity levels within the ideal 40-60% range. To achieve this, you can use a humidity control system in your piano room.

Professional Cleaning and Regulation

professional piano repair

If the sticky key problem persists, consider hiring a professional piano technician to clean and regulate the action mechanism. They can disassemble the action and address any specific issues that may be causing the stickiness.

A technician may apply specialized lubricants to the action mechanism to ensure smooth key movement. Do not attempt this yourself, as using the wrong lubricant or applying it incorrectly can cause more harm than good.

In some cases, worn or damaged action parts may need replacement. A skilled technician can identify which parts require replacement and ensure the keys function correctly.

Additionally, you can find proficient piano technicians from the Piano Technicians Guild.

Can You Fix Sticky Piano Keys?

The answer is – sometimes YES, but not all the time. Here are some instances in which you can easily fix the sticking keys.

Remove the Debris

Using a vacuum cleaner to remove debris from between the piano keys effectively keeps your instrument clean. Here are a few simple steps:

  • Attach a small nozzle or crevice tool to your vacuum cleaner. These attachments are designed for precision cleaning and are best suited for cleaning between the piano keys.
  • Adjust the vacuum cleaner’s suction power to a low setting. The high suction can potentially damage delicate parts of the piano.
  • Gently run the nozzle or crevice tool between the sticky keys. Hold the tool at a slight angle to ensure it reaches into the gaps.

Test the keys to ensure they function properly. If vacuuming does not fix the problem, consult a piano technician.

Wiggle the Sticky Keys

Wiggling is an easy and quick way to fix the sticky keys. Yes, wiggling! Here is how:

  • Hold down the sustain pedal.
  • Identify the sticky keys.
  • Give each of those sticky keys a firm wiggle in three ways: 1) in the fully depressed position, 2) at rest positing, 3) in the raised position.

You may need to repeat the process more than once to loosen the sticky keys. However, if the problem persists, it may relate to more complex issues within the piano’s action mechanism. Therefore, it’s advisable to consult a piano technician. They can disassemble and service the action, identifying and resolving specific problems.

Here is a Tutorial to fix the sticking piano keys –

YouTube video

If you are interested in more basic piano repairs, click here.


Sticky piano keys can be frustrating for any player, but they are a common issue with practical solutions. Regular cleaning, maintaining proper humidity levels, and seeking professional help when necessary are key steps in preventing and fixing sticky keys.

If you have your piano tuned routinely, a sticky piano key is a simple problem for the piano tuner.

By caring for your piano and addressing this issue promptly, you can ensure that your instrument continues providing beautiful music for years.

While this article focuses on acoustic pianos’ sticky keys, it is worth mentioning that digital pianos require less maintenance and are not so susceptible to fluctuations in humidity.

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