The piano is the most popular musical instrument and for good reason. It has a beautiful sound, is easy to learn, and there’s lots of great sheet music for it. Pianos are very complex though and need to be clean periodically.
To clean a piano, start by removing the dust and debris from the piano interior using a vacuum. Then, wipe down the piano exterior, from top to bottom. Then proceed to clean the keys, followed by the pedals and the casters. Wipe down the piano again and then apply polish or wood finish.
Sounds easy enough right? There’s a lot more to cleaning a piano correctly and we’ll go into what supplies you need, what you should look out for, and give you some tips for taking care of trouble spots and protecting your instrument. We’ll also cover the differences depending on what kind of piano you have.
Why You Should Clean Your Piano Regularly
The piano is usually the centerpiece and will naturally get the focus when people enter the room. As such, you’ll want your piano to look presentable and well-taken care of.
There’s a couple of other reasons why you should clean your piano regularly.
- As you clean your piano, you can spot larger issues such as corrosion, keys going out of tune, humidity concerns, etc.
- Dust buildup on your strings can affect the piano’s sound since they won’t vibrate as freely.
- Maintaining your piano’s finish will protect the wood against damage.
Because you care about your piano, your piano should be cleaned and maintained regularly.
Piano Cleaning Costs
Cleaning a piano is not difficult and you only need a few supplies to do it right. This article will show you just how easy it is to do it yourself so you don’t feel like you have to call in a professional each time.
Even with cleaning it yourself, you will still need to call in a piano technician if there’s any larger issues or to get your piano tuned. While they’re at it, many piano tuners will also clean your piano or give you a discounted rate. In general though, the average cost to clean a piano professionally is in the $100-$150 range, but the cost will vary by region and the technician.
The cost for DIY cleaning is your time and the cost of the supplies. The piano supplies will run $60 – $150 depending on what you need exactly but those supplies will last for quite a while. With all that extra money you’ll save, you can maybe buy that new piano bench you’ve been wanting or some more sheet music.
General Steps To Clean A Piano
The process that we recommend to thoroughly clean a piano, is just 5 main steps.
- Vacuum or blow out dust from inside the piano.
- Wipe down the piano, from top to bottom.
- Clean keys.
- Clean pedals and casters.
- Wipe down the piano again and polish.
We’ll go into each of these steps in more detail below but you’ll first need to pick up some supplies if you don’t already have them handy.
Supplies For Cleaning A Piano
If you don’t have any supplies yet, the first item on your list could be Cory’s Grand Piano Detailing Kit for $56.95. It’s not just for grand pianos, includes most of what you’ll need and will save you some money on shipping since it’s bundled together. Otherwise, you can pick up each item separately through the links below or from your local music store.
- Microfiber cloths (need 4-5)
- Gloss piano polish (only for pianos with a gloss finish)
- Satin piano finish cleaner (only for pianos with a satin finish)
- Harmony Detailing oil (for pianos with an open-pore finish)
- Key-brite (optional but recommended)
- Mini portable vacuum (optional but recommended)
- Piano pin cleaning brush (optional)
- Metal polish (for metal casters)
If you’re sensitive to allergens dust, you may want to wear a mask, goggles, and latex or nitrile gloves for your protection.
With your cleaning supplies handy, you’re ready to clean your piano!
Pre-Step: Cleaning Preparation
Before you get started on actually cleaning your piano, you should first remove anything on or around your piano. It may sound like sacrilege to some but many piano owners like to stack all their sheet music on top of their upright piano; or they place their knick-knacks or photos on top. To each their own but anything on or next to your piano should be removed, at least temporarily while you’re cleaning.
Leave yourself a couple of feet space between your instrument and anything else, so you’ll have full access. The notable exception here is the wall. If your piano is an upright that’s butted up against the wall, you can leave it where it is since moving a heavy piano is not feasible for most people (every once in a while though, you should move it away from the wall to remove cobwebs and inspect for moisture issues).
Next, give the piano a quick inspection. Look inside the piano to see if any cracks exist, or possible moisture issues. Tell-tale signs would include water stains on the wood or rust that has formed on the strings or other metal components.
Play each key to see if they depress fully and if they are in tune. If you are a pianist yourself, you may be able to hear if your keys are out of tune but since pianos will go out of tune gradually, you may have become accustomed to its current pitch so you don’t even notice that keys are out of tune. A good way to test is with a piano tuner app like PianoMeter (available for iPhone or Android).
This is also a good time to spot and remove items that should not be in your piano. In houses with small children, it is not uncommon to find a crayon or lost toy hiding within the piano. Or worse, sometimes a rodent or bug may have found its way in.
If you spot more serious damage to the piano or the piano is out tune, you may want to call in a professional piano technician. Piano professionals will sometimes include piano cleaning as part of their service so you may want to let them clean your piano while they’re already making the service call. If it’s not included as part of their service though, you’ll want to continue with cleaning your piano and save some money.
So now that you’re done inspecting your piano and preparing to clean, let’s continue on.
Remove Dust From Inside The Piano
A little dust inside your piano won’t hurt anything but if you have a grand piano, your strings and soundboard are on full display to everyone. And as more dust builds up, it can slightly change how the piano sounds over time so it’s a good idea to clean out the dust and dirt from inside your piano to keep it looking and sounding its best.
To clean the interior of your piano, use a vacuum to remove most of the dust. Follow up with a pin cleaning brush for some of the hard to reach areas like the piano pins. Use a microfiber cloth to lightly dust the strings and other inner workings. Use your vacuum to pick up any dust or debris that may have been dislodged.
While it may be tempting to use compressed air, canned air uses liquids that could drip into delicate areas. Also, blowing dust could trap debris into other areas and generally just spreads out the mess more, and in your face. Instead, use a vacuum to suck the dust and dirt right out of the piano. While you can use a standard household vacuum with a long hose and attachment, that can prove unwieldy as you try to navigate within the piano. Instead, a mini vacuum is the better option since it can reach those those tighter spots and you won’t have to worry about the hose getting in the way. There’s a couple of great mini-vacs on Amazon – generally used for computer computers, they work great here too.
After picking up most of the dust with the vacuum, use a small brush to get in between the pins and other components. There is a specialized piano pin cleaning brushes designed specifically for this but a small painter’s brush could work for this too. Use the vacuum to pick up any dust or debris from the brushing as needed.
Next, take out a dry microfiber cloth and wipe down the strings, hammers, and other components. Make sure to never use any liquid cleaners or polishes in this process as that moisture can introduce new issues. To get under the strings, you can use a soundboard steel which is basically a thin piece of metal with a hole at the end that allows you to insert your cloth. As you clean your strings, push back and forth in soft strokes. After you’ve wiped everything down with the cloth, use your vacuum again to pick up any stray dust or debris.
Lastly, wipe off the inner surfaces of the case and cover with a cloth. After you wipe down the hinges, you can use a little metal polish if you’d like to shine them up. We prefer Simichrome Polish since it works well with all hard metals.
We recommend cleaning the inside first since the process can add a little mess to the outside of the piano. Also, once the interior is done, you don’t have to worry about it again for the rest of the cleaning. You can check this step off the list!
Wipe Down The Piano, From Top To Bottom
For cleaning the exterior of the piano, start by wiping down the piano with a fresh microfiber cloth. Using light pressure, start at the top of your piano and wipe down the surface, working your way down to the pedals and casters until everything has been wiped down.
Use small amounts of soap and water to remove any dirt or stains as you come across them. In a small bowl, mix lukewarm water with a drop or two of liquid dish detergent to create a soapy solution. Dip your cloth in this solution as needed so that your cloth is damp but not wet, just enough to clean the trouble spots without leaving water on the surface.
Crayon will be a little harder to remove and should be done with care. As discussed in this article on removing crayon in detail, WD-40 can safely clean off the crayon marks. Just make sure to apply the WD-40 to your cloth and not the piano itself.
Clean The Piano Keys
Your piano keys are arguably the most recognizable feature of the piano so you’ll want to dust and brighten the keys so they really stand out.
Clean piano keys by first using a duster or cloth to gently brush away any dust or debris. Then, using 2 cloths damped with soapy water, clean off white and black keys separately, from back to front. Use cotton swabs to go between the keys. To make your keys brighter, use Cory Key-Bright or whitening toothpaste for true ivory keys.
While the process for cleaning piano keys will be the same for all pianos, there are some differences depending on if your piano keys are made out plastic or, less common, true ivory.
For cleaning your keys, you’ll need the following:
- 4 microfiber cloths
- A duster or cloth
- Soapy water mixture
- Cory Key-Bright (plastic keys) or whitening toothpaste (ivory keys)
Use A Soft Duster or Cloth to First Wipe Down The Piano Keys
Depending on which you prefer, use a soft duster or a cloth (doesn’t have to be microfiber, any clean cloth will do for this step) to wipe off any dust or debris from your piano keys. Dust from the back of the keys to the front of the keys, so you are moving the dust away from the piano. If any debris get lodged between keys, you can usually depress one of the keys to get access to it so you can remove.
Use 2 Microfiber Cloths To Clean The Piano Keys
Washing each key can be done on the frame itself. While some professionals will take the keys off for a heavy cleaning, it’s easier and safer to leave them on.
For cleaning your piano keys, you’ll want 2 microfiber cloths handy for cleaning black and white keys separately. As you clean the black keys, some of the color can rub off onto the cloth. To ensure that the color doesn’t run or blur onto the white keys, keep your cloths separate. First, clean your black keys and then with the other cloth, clean your white keys.
In a cup or bowl, mix lukewarm water with a few drops of dish detergent. Blend it thoroughly and dab the cloth into the solution with only an edge wet. Then clean each key with the damp cloth using light pressure, making sure that no water drips down between keys. To clean the sides of the keys, hold down the key next to it to expose the side of the key you’re working on. Start from one end of the piano and move to the other end, cleaning each black key and then each white key.
Use A Key Cleaner or Toothpaste For Whitening Keys
Before the age of plastic, ivory was the main material used in making piano keys. However, since ivory only comes from animals, usually elephants, it is in scarce supply (elephants have been poached until they are now an endangered species). Luckily, plastic keys are now used for most pianos and you typically won’t find true ivory keys except for the more expensive grand pianos. You can tell if you have ivory keys if they have discoloration or heavier keys that feel more solid. Ivory keys also come in 3 pieces whereas plastic keys only come in 2 pieces.
What you can use for whitening piano keys depends on what the keys are made of. Since ivory is a material that is like teeth, teeth-whitening toothpaste is the best way to whiten ivory keys. Apply the toothpaste onto a separate microfiber cloth and then rub into each white key, working your way from one end to the other. Then, using another cloth, wipe off the toothpaste clean from each key. Optionally, use can also use Cory Key-Brite to make the keys shine afterwards.
For plastic keys, you will just need Key-Brite. Spray 6-8 inches from the key surface and then wipe the full key clean with a cloth. Do this for all 88 keys to brighten them up.
If you have crayon on your keys, check out our article on removing crayon where we also cover the differences between plastic and ivory keys more too.
To protect your keys, put the cover down when not in use. You can also purchase a keyboard dust cover.
Clean Pedals and Casters
At this point, you have the rest of the piano wiped down and cleaned. Now it’s time to clean and polish the pedals and casters (or wheels). Since these are both close to the floor or directly on the floor, it is highly recommended to protect the floor under the pedals and casters.
For cleaning piano pedals and casters, wipe down each to remove dust and debris. Dip the cloth in soapy water for hard to remove areas. Next, with a separate cloth, rub in the metal polish using light pressure. Lastly, wipe off the excess polish with your first cloth.
Now, let’s go into more detail on how to clean and shine your pianos and casters.
For cleaning the pedals and casters, you’ll need:
- 2 cloths (one for wiping, one for polish)
- Soapy water
- Simichrome Polish (or other metal polish)
- Painters tape
- Spare cardboard, cloth, or plastic to protect floor
Steps to Clean Piano Pedals and Rods
Follow these steps to clean and polish your piano pedals. To go into full detail on this process, check out our dedicated article on cleaning piano pedals.
- Wipe down the pedals. Start by wiping down the pedals with a soft microfiber cloth to remove all dust and grime. If you have some areas that are more difficult to remove, mix together a few drops of dish detergent in a cup or small bowl of lukewarm water. Dab your cloth into this solution and work the area until clean.
- Clean rods, if available. For a grand piano, the rods will likely be exposed so wipe and clean those as needed. For upright pianos, the rods will be encased within the bottom panel.
- Protect around the pedals. To make sure that you don’t get polish on your piano’s finish, you can use painter’s tape to tape around the pedals, on the wood. You’ll also want to protect your floor, especially if your piano is on carpet. Simply put a cloth, plastic, or cardboard under the pedals to provide a barrier in case you drop some polish in the next step.
- Apply the metal polish. Pedals can come in a variety of different metals but Simichrome Polish works well with all of them so that’s the one we recommend here. Apply a small amount to a separate cloth and rub into the metal using a light circular motion. Be careful not to get any on the piano’s wood finish or on the floor.
- Wipe off excess polish. Using your first cloth, wipe off any excess polish.
Steps to Clean Piano Casters or Wheels
Cleaning and polishing the piano casters is very similar to cleaning the pedals so we don’t need to go into as much detail here. However, depending on what your casters are made of, especially iron or hard plastic (polyurethane), you should check out our dedicated article on polishing piano casters or wheels.
- Wipe down the casters. Use a microfiber cloth to remove all dust and grime, using soapy water for more troublesome areas.
- Protect around the casters. To make sure that you don’t get polish on your piano’s finish, use painter’s tape on the legs to cover 2 inches around the connection to the casters. You’ll also want to protect your floor, especially if your piano is on carpet. Simply put a cloth, plastic, or cardboard under the casters to provide a barrier.
- Apply the metal polish. Casters can come in a variety of different materials but chrome, nickel, and stainless steel are common and Simichrome Polish works well with all of them. Apply a small amount to a separate cloth and rub into the metal using a light circular motion. Be careful not to get any on the piano’s wood finish or on the floor. If your casters are iron or hard plastic (or you don’t know), make sure to check out our article on casters that goes into more detail.
- Wipe off excess polish. Using your first cloth, wipe off any excess polish.
Your casters should now be back to their clean and shiny best.
Just a note, if you’re worried about all the weight of the piano on your floor (especially for hard wood floors), you should look into piano caster cups. It’s worth the $15 or so to not damage your floor – pianos are heavy!
Polish The Piano
The last step in cleaning your piano from top to bottom is polishing. Depending on your piano’s finish, you will use different products.
- Most grand pianos will typically have a gloss finish so you’ll want to use a piano polish like Cory’s Super High Gloss Piano Polish.
- For pianos with a satin finish, use Cory’s Satin Sheen Piano Finish Cleaner.
- For unfinished pianos, you may want to use Cory’s Coconut Wood Cleaner or their Pre-Polish Finish Cleaner.
To apply piano polish, either spray the polish 6-8 inches from the finish for larger areas or spray into a cloth for the smaller spots. Be careful to not get polish on strings, tuning pins, or keys. Wipe in the same direction as the wood grain and reapply as needed. Wipe off any excess with your cloth.
Make sure to not use Pledge or other furniture cleaners as they will cause buildup over time.
Clean Your Piano Bench
Piano benches are usually about the same size, wide enough for two adults and tall enough to sit under a piano comfortably. They can be hard or cushioned with either a leather or cloth covering. You may want to check out our article on cleaning piano benches where we go into a lot more detail on this subject.
Cleaning a piano bench will be different depending on the type of bench. For hard benches with a gloss finish, wipe down with a cloth and then use piano polish on the surface. For hard benches with a cushion, either single-layered or tufted, use a vacuum with an attachment to first clean off the top. Then, wipe down the sides and legs with a cloth and apply polish.
Cleaning Hard Benches
Just like pianos, benches can come with different finishes. Typically though, the bench that comes with the piano will be a hard bench that matches the finish. Depending on that finish, you’ll use a different polish or cleaner, see section above on polishing a piano (we prefer the Cory polish products since they have been around forever and have products for every type of piano).
Simply wipe down the bench with a microfiber cloth. For any stains or spills, you may want to dab your cloth in a soapy water mixture. Next, apply the polish with a separate cloth, making sure no polish gets on the floor.
Cleaning Padded Benches
These benches are a lot more comfortable with the extra padding. With the different top though, comes a different cleaning technique which may differ depending on the specific covering.
To clean a padded bench, start by vacuuming any dust, debris, or hair from the top, preferably with an upholstery brush attachment. For any stains, try using a microfiber cloth with a solution of lukewarm water and a few drops of dish detergent. Allow to air dry. Then, for the sides and legs of the bench, wipe down with a cloth, using the soapy mixture as needed. Lastly, apply the appropriate polish on the wood.
By cleaning your bench right after cleaning your piano, you’ll still have all your supplies out so it won’t take as long. Your bench will also match the cleanliness and shine of your piano.
If you notice the legs getting a little wobbly, check the bolts that connect the legs to the top; they probably just need to be tightened a bit. Benches can start showing wear over time that no amount of polish will overcome. If that’s the case, you may be in the market for a new bench. To save some cash, rather than buying from the piano dealer, you can find this highly rated tufted piano bench on Amazon for under $90.
After you’ve cleaned your piano from top to bottom, you’ll need to clean up from your cleaning. Clean out your cloths that you used for wiping and dusting. For the cloths used for polishing, we recommend storing these in tied plastic bags since they can be quite stinky. Store all of your cleaning supplies in a cool area for next time you clean.
If you moved your piano, you can move it back into position now. And for those who like to stack stuff on top of their pianos (shaking my head), you can safely rebuild your stacks now.
General Piano Maintenance & Tips
We have some general tips here as well to help you out further with cleaning and taking care of your piano.
- Avoid humidity fluctuations. Try to keep the humidity of the room with your piano relatively stable. Changes in the air’s moisture content can lead to your piano going out of tune more often. Generally, the humidity will be lower in the winter and higher in the summer, especially in colder areas. To test the humidity, use a hygrometer. To decrease the humidity, use a dehumidifier. To increase the humidity, use a humidifier. We also wrote an article on how humidity affects pianos if you’d like to learn more.
- Use a dehumidifier in humid areas. Staying on the topic, in warmer climates, the high humidity may cause issues for your piano. That higher moisture content in the air can cause damage to your piano in the form of rust to your strings or other internal components, or cause the wood to warp in some cases. Reduce the humidity with a dehumidifier.
- Use caster cups to protect your floor. For around $15, you can protect your floor from the weight of your piano.
- Make sure you have enough microfiber cloths. The whole cleaning process usually takes 4-5 cloths. Luckily, you can save money on a 5-pack of microfiber cloths on Amazon.
You just cleaned your piano from top to bottom. Not only did you save money but you didn’t have to call a piano professional to come out, and you know that your piano is in good shape.
Make sure to clean your piano regularly every 6-months or so and the more you clean it, the faster it will go each time.
If you need any piano supplies to help with your cleaning, we’ve researched the best deals so be sure to check out our recommended piano gear page.
We also have other articles that go into further detail on cleaning and taking care of your piano.