How to Properly Clean Piano Pedals: So They Look Showroom Quality

Piano pedals

Many piano owners wonder what is the best way to keep their piano in tip-top shape and looking new, which includes keeping the piano pedals clean and shiny. If your piano is played frequently, your pedals will begin to show their age quickly due to constant contact between your feet and the pedals. Luckily, with a little effort and routine maintenance, you can keep your piano pedals looking like new for minimal cost and minutes of work.

To clean your piano pedals, use warm water with a soft cloth to clean off the dirt, and then use a metal polish to buff out scratches and give your pedals a “showroom quality” shine. Most piano pedals are made from polished brass which can scratch easily over time, so sticking to a maintenance schedule every month or every few months, is crucial to keeping them looking new.

Now that we’ve discussed how easy it is to keep your piano pedals looking like new, let’s dive a little deeper into the cleaning process, as well as explain how piano pedals work.

Piano Pedals: Always Under Foot

Think of the pedals on your piano like pedals on anything else: car pedals, bike pedals, as they all experience wear from our feet and shoes. Obviously you don’t pedal a piano like a bike, that’s silly. However, all pedals have one thing in common, which is that our feet and shoes frequently brush up on them causing wear and tear. All pianos have a minimum of 2 pedals, while most newer pianos built in the last 50 years normally are manufactured with 3. Out of the 3 pedals, the far left and far right pedals will show the most constant wear, as these are used much more often than the center pedal.

The far left pedal is known as the “soft” pedal, (also known as una corda). When pressing the pedal, the keyboard action slightly shifts sideways which causes the piano hammers to hit less of the strings. Each note has 1-3 strings each, and the soft pedal will cause the key to strike 2 out of the 3 strings per note for a softer sound.

The far right pedal, also known as the sustain pedal or “damper” pedal, raises all the dampers off of the strings so that the strings continue to vibrate until the player releases the pedal. The dampers are the mechanisms that fall back on the string to quiet each note down after the key is pressed.

The center pedal, which is referred to as the “sostenuto” pedal, is designed for more intricate playing and helps create a sustain when pressed upon, but leaves all notes played after without the sustain. This pedal is played the least, therefore you’ll notice it usually has the fewest scratches and blemishes on it.

Piano Pedals Can Be Made of Brass and other Metals

piano pedalsDepending on the make, model and age of the piano, you will notice a difference in the type of metals used for pedals.

Traditionally speaking, brass is the most widely-used material for pianos due to its beauty and durability. Like all things brass, brass pedals have a yellow/goldish tint to them and tend to give the piano a more classic look and feel. Certain acoustic and digital pianos will have chrome pedals, which are lighter in weight and tend to hide scratches and imperfections a little easier when compared to brass.

The Quick And Easy Way To Clean Your Piano Pedals

  1. piano pedal rodsStart by wiping down your piano pedals with water and a soft cloth before applying polish.
    Just like you wouldn’t apply polish or wax to a dirty car which would cause damage to the paint finish, the same applies for your piano pedals. Before using any type of metal polish, be sure the surface of the pedals is very clean and clear of any and all debris. We recommend taking a microfiber cloth and getting it damp with warm water, then gently cleaning the entire pedal from the top to the sides and bottom surfaces. While you’re under your piano, this is also a great time to wipe down your pedal rods which are the brass rods that vertically sit at the back “heel” of each pedal, and connect upwards into the piano action. These rods don’t take the same abuse that the pedal surfaces do, however they will collect dust and grime over time, and you might as well take care of it while under your piano.
  2. After your pedals are clean of debris, gently massage some metal polish onto the pedal.
    Now that you have a clean surface to polish, you can easily apply some metal polish conservatively across the entire pedal in circular motions. A high-quality metal polish will fill in surface scratches, allowing the beautiful shine of the brass or chrome to really pop. Brasso is commonly used brass polish used by professionals but we prefer Simichrome polish since it works with all metals for a brilliant shine while it protects.
  3. Once the polish sits for a few minutes, take a clean and dry cloth to remove the polish
    Once you let the polish sit, you can remove it with a dry cloth or rag, and you’ll be left with a pedal that has an amazing sheen to it. Most quality brash and metal polishers also help by protecting the surface of the pedal with a very thin coating that you visibly can’t see.

How do I keep my pedals looking new with the least amount of work?

Any piano that is frequently played will experience a level of wear. Every acoustic piano has thousands of pieces that all work together to produce the sound, and pedals are a huge part of that process. Some piano owners don’t want to deal with the task of cleaning their piano, and prefer to take piano care and prevention to a whole new level.

A few options to protect your piano pedals to the max include:

  1. Purchasing piano pedal covers
    red velvet piano pedal coversTraditionally made out of fleece, microfiber or other similar soft materials, piano pedal covers resemble mittens which fit on each pedal, then are tied in the back to prevent them from slipping off. Some people like the looks, other dislike them and say they cover up the true beauty of the pedals. You will tend to see these more with owners who own very high-end and expensive pianos and want do everything to keep their piano in “museum-quality” if possible. They work well, and also don’t seem to cause any issue with your feet slipping off the pedal once you get used to the feel. If you would like to find out more, check out these red piano pedal covers and more subtle black pedal covers.
  2. Implement a “no shoe” rule in your home
    We all know that just like the hardwood floors in your home take much less abuse when you only walk barefoot or with socks, the same applies to the pedals on your piano. If your feet or socks are the only point of contact on the brass or chrome pedals, you can imagine how much that this will help cut down on scratching when compared to shoes, and of course will require less maintenance.
  3. Hire a piano technician to clean your piano
    Let’s be honest, we’re all busy, and free time can be hard to come by. Most piano tuners and technicians will offer piano cleaning services, and will most likely include an optional cleaning and buffing of your pedals while they go through the rest of your piano during a scheduled tuning.  Pianos that are properly maintained and experience a healthy amount of playing should be tuned every 6 to 12 months, but that time can vary. Be sure to ask your piano tuner for their rates to perform this task, which can help you decide if it’s worth your time or not.

Cleaning Your Piano Pedals Is Easy and Takes Little Time

A piano is not only an amazing instrument in people’s homes, schools, on stages and more, but also serves as a beautiful piece of furniture to help accent a room. For most piano owners, they want to do everything they can to keep their piano clean and maintained on a monthly or bi-yearly basis. Following our quick cleaning guide here can help keep your piano pedals look great for a very long time. To learn more on keeping your piano in top shape, read our other articles for cleaning your piano too.

Josh Olswanger

I've been playing and writing music since the age of 13. My father is a piano tuner/technician of 40 years, and I've been musically involved in all aspects from composing, to recording, producing and playing live for most of my life. I've always had a fascination and appreciation for all types of music and musical instruments, so creating this site is a perfect outlet to share my knowledge.

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