How to Clean an Accordion the Right Way

cleaning your accordion

Although it’s quite clear that the elusive accordion is not an instrument that all take interest in or perfect, the unique sound, versatility, and fun aspects of the accordion are enough to make it a great choice for almost any genre if used correctly. According to classical musician and accordionist Michael Bridge, “The accordion” is one of the most versatile instruments in the world — I play baroque, classical, jazz, rock, funk, heavy metal, world and many types of folk music.” This is in part due to the fact that accordionists must practice for long hours to perfect the instrument and can use their talent in any way possible with even many punk and metal bands now seeing the potential in this unique instrument and the individuals that play it.

To start with the cleaning process specifically, In order to clean your accordion appropriately, you will want to start by wiping down the entire instrument to remove unwanted dust using a microfiber cloth. Then, use light soap and water to clean the exterior of your accordion. If you have leaky bellows or your reeds won’t sound, you may likely need to bring your accordion into a shop for a professional tuning and maintenance session although this usually is only necessary every two to three years. You can also use non-ammonia cleaners like Windex to keep shine on your accordion without damaging the keys or the finish on your grille. For the treble keyboard, you can also use piano cleaning supplies as they will work in the same way to keep your instrument clean and pristine.

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? Furthermore, what cleaning supplies are safe and which are not, are there unique tips that may benefit the average accordionist when maintaining their instrument, and how popular is the accordion in our society as a whole for the beginner accordionist or those just starting to take an interest in this unique instrument?

If you are looking for a more comprehensive look at this process as well as answers to the other questions we have posited above, the remainder of this article will seek to assist you in this endeavor by providing you with every bit of information possible to make your accordion playing experience a truly fun and exciting one indeed.

accordion cleaningHow 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. The main things to use will be Windex, rubbing alcohol, a microfiber cloth, Q-tips, pliers, and compressed air.

To start, 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.

Next, clean the treble keyboard down and all of the keys on the treble side in the same fashion before removing the treble side entirely. Be sure to get under every key just as you would with a keyboard. You can use our digital piano cleaning guide for reference.

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.

The final step is to put the accordion all back together and to use Windex to clean off the outside and the handle. From there, all that is left is using the Windex and microfiber cloths to keep your accordion dust-free throughout the years before maintenance comes up once again.

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 locally as well.

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 cleaning your accordion 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. 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.

accordion cleanersOther 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 specifically, 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 few years set aside, 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!

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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