Cleaning and Disinfecting Piano Keys

March 30, 2020 Chuck Johnson


During this pandemic crisis, to protect our health and prevent the spread of the COVID19 virus, it is important to routinely disinfect high-touch areas of our home, in addition to surfaces we encounter outside our home. There has been plenty of research that shows how long the virus can live on a variety of materials and surfaces. In these times, it is our shared responsibility to stay informed and take proper action when it comes to hygiene. The piano is - or at least should be, if you are keeping up with practicing - one of the higher touch areas of your home! This combined with the fact that many people may be touching the piano in a given home requires us all to give special attention to disinfecting and cleaning the piano keys.

How to clean keys:

In order to protect the keys and furniture finish from damage, it is important to choose an appropriate cleaning solution for the keys. Do not use bleach or harsh solvent. Steinway officially recommends hydrogen peroxide, the widely available 3% solution that is available at any drugstore. It is unlikely that there will be shortages of this product, and a single bottle will last quite a while. Wear gloves and apply with a cotton ball. If you do not have hydrogen peroxide, a disinfecting wipe product will also work.

To get maximum disinfection, it is good to moisten the keys and let the hydrogen peroxide solution sit on the keys for a minute or so and let the solution do its disinfecting work. Then come back over the keys with a paper towel or clean cloth to absorb the excess moisture. Be careful to use a reasonable amount of solution – too little and it will not be effective, too much and you risk getting moisture down in between the keys which can greatly damage the mechanics of the piano. Be sure to launder any cloth used and properly dispose of cotton balls or paper towels.

Caring for the case:

As for cleaning the furniture of the piano, the best solution is water with a bit of dish soap in a spray bottle. Use a very soft and very clean cotton or cheese cloth and spray the solution on the cloth rather than directly on the piano. Then take extra care when polishing to make sure you do not press too hard and pay attention to removing all streaks of moisture. The high polish mirror-finish pianos are more forgiving and resilient to damage. But be extremely careful with satin nitrocellulose lacquer finished pianos. This is the low-level sheen, traditional brushed lacquer finish. It is a very delicate finish and can be lightly scratched with even a paper towel! The satin finish can also be damaged by using a cloth that has dust on it, or if you press too hard while polishing. Go lightly and observe as you go. Always use a clean soft cloth when dealing with the satin brushed lacquer finish and follow the orientation of the brushed lines in your polishing strokes.

In conclusion, be proactive to keep keys clean before and after they are touched, selective in the cleaning solutions you use, and attentive to how it looks as you work. Protect the beauty of your piano, and your health!

Jonathan Kotulski, RPT
Piano Technician
M. Steinert & Sons

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