The unique sound, versatility, and fun of the accordion are enough to make it a great choice for almost any genre if used correctly – even some punk and metal bands now have accordion players. That uniqueness comes from its portable nature and its many parts, which all contribute to this instrument needing regular cleaning.
To clean your accordion, first wipe down the entire instrument with a microfiber cloth to remove dust. Then, use water and a little dish detergent on a different cloth to clean the exterior of your accordion. Use a non-ammonia cleaner like Windex to add shine. For the interior, you can use compressed air to remove dust and rubbing alcohol for the metal parts.
There’s a lot more to this process, which we’ll cover in detail below, but if you have leaky bellows or your reeds are not making a sound, you may need to bring your accordion to a professional repairperson. In general though, you should take your instrument in for a tuning and maintenance session every 2-3 years.
On top of its versatility, the average high quality accordion can last upwards of fifty years making it truly a lifelong passion for most and an instrument that is clearly cost effective as long as it is taken care of properly. However, with 120 bass and 41 treble keys on average, nooks and crannies all throughout, reeds that will likely go out of tune every few years, and bellows that are sure to be hard to clean and maintain, how can you keep these expensive and delicate instruments clean and performing to their full potential for decades to come?
How to Clean an Accordion: What to use, What’s Safe, and What’s not
When cleaning your accordion, you will want to break it down into individual parts and clean each element differently.
You will need:
- A couple of microfiber cloths
- Water with a little dish soap
- Windex (Original, without Ammonia)
- Rubbing alcohol
- Q-tips or other cotton swab
- Compressed air
Wipe Down the Exterior
Using a microfiber cloth, wipe down the outside of your accordion to remove any dust and other grime. Then, mix a solution of lukewarm water with a squirt of laundry detergent. Apply this solution to a different cloth (or same if you shake it out), and wipe down the exterior to remove any grime or stickiness.
Clean the Grille
Remove the grille of your accordion and wipe it with your microfiber cloth before setting it aside, dip a Q-tip into alcohol, and rub down the grille’s metal parts thoroughly. Be sure to get the mechanism for the shifts and keyboard mechanisms when doing so. You will also want to clean under every button as this is by far one of the dirtiest spots on any accordion.
Clean the treble keyboard
Next, clean the treble keyboard and all of the keys on the treble side with a microfiber cloth wetted down with your soap solution. You can also spray some Windex onto your cloth and wipe down each key, making sure to not let moisture drip down between the keys. You can use our digital piano cleaning guide for further reference.
Blow Out the Interior
Once the treble side is removed, use the pliers to take out the pins and place them in a container so that they do not get lost. You can now use the compressed air to spray inside your accordion and to get all of the dust out of your instrument and the treble shifts.
Then, take the pins out of the bass and bellows to separate the entire accordion and organize the pins in another container. Once again, spray it all down with the compressed air and then clean the mechanisms in your bass third before putting it all back together.
As an alternative to compressed air, this mini vacuum also works great and is reusable.
Put It All Back Together and Wipe Down
The final step is to put the accordion all back together and to use some Windex on a cloth to wipe down the exterior and the handle for a clean smelling, shiny accordion. From there, all that is left is to quickly wipe down your accordion after each time you play to keep your instrument clean.
You’ll still want to clean your accordion maybe twice a year. If your reeds are not sounding or your bellows are leaky, these processes are more suited for actually repair workers and you may have to call around to have these aspects done by a professional.
What are Some Unique Ways to Keep Your Accordion Clean?
Although your accordion cleaning process may be pretty straightforward, two unique cleaning tips that are seen on forums often are to use an upholstery brush vacuum attachment to clean dust on your bellows and to use a pipe cleaner to remove dust bunnies from in between keys without disassembling your accordion entirely.
With the upholstery brush method, you will want to completely disassemble your accordion and use the upholstery brush to remove deep set dust and grime. The main thing to watch out for is overworking the bellows fabric as this could damage them and cause leaks from holes that may form.
When it comes to using a pipe cleaner, simply find one with soft brushes, work it in between keys, and watch as the dust and grime is removed expertly without removing a single part of your accordion in between regular maintenance schedules.
How Often Should You Clean Your Accordion?
According to Accordions Worldwide, “It depends on how the accordion is played, and how much. Some reeds will go out of tune through overplaying and incorrect use. Generally, an accordion should be cleaned and serviced approximately every two to three years.”
The main things to take into account are your bellows, your keys, and your reeds as these are the most common problem areas that will need to be serviced on a regular basis. When a reed goes out of tune or does not sound, this usually means that it must be repositioned or replaced.
Your keys may also become loose over time or your treble keyboard may not sound – similar to when a piano or keyboard key stops sounding. Fortunately, this can be as simple as reeds that have fallen out of the reedblocks, dislodged reedblocks, or bellows that are leaking air. By having your accordion professionally cleaned and repairing it when doing so, you can kill two birds with one stone and not only keep your accordion in better working condition for longer but also actually improve its sound as well.
For simple day-to-day cleaning processes, use a microfiber cloth and a bit of Windex to clean the keys off and the treble keyboard, grille, and bass block as described above. Be sure to not cause any moisture damage and keep your accordion far away from ammonia-based cleaners that are sure to damage its finish, reeds, and bellows alike.
Other Than Weird Al, What Famous People Play the Accordion?
While most people know the fun-loving Weird Al Yankovich for his masterful use of the accordion, you may not know that even Elvis Presley played this unique instrument and he is far from the only one.
For starters, the most famous accordionist composers are Piazzolla, Diero, Frosini, Chaikon, Molinari, Zolatariew. These are important names to keep in mind as an accordionist as they are all highly talented individuals that perfected the accordion centuries ago.
When it comes to famous celebrities that play the accordion: Sophia Loren, Fred Astaire, Billy Joel, members of ABBA, Richard Nixon, John Lennon, Christina Hendricks, and Rachel Wiesz are all accordionists either because of family members showing them, movie roles that required them to learn, or music they hoped to play with the versatile instrument.
In the end, the accordion is perhaps the most fun and diverse instrument to play with all kinds of beautiful sounds and qualities that far surpass polka and ska. But, as with any versatile instrument, the cleaning process is just as in-depth as the device itself. Fortunately, with a few household products and a bit of time every half year, you are sure to have an accordion that could very well last you your entire life with ease. For more information on how to clean the most diverse instruments, feel free to check out our cleaning your musical instrument welcome guide in its entirety today!