How do you clean a satin finish piano?

Piano keyboard

Although pianos with a high gloss finish are among the most popular choice of pianos for owners, satin finish pianos also provide a very elegant and upscale feel to any room, with a few advantages over the more common glossy finish.

Cleaning a satin finish piano can be an easy task for any piano owner when using the right combination of cleaning aids. The first is a proper satin finish cleaner to help lift and remove fingerprints and oils, next you can use a microfiber cloth and get it damp with a little water to wipe away the cleaner. If you want to give your satin finish piano a little extra shine, you can also use a piano wax or polish to accomplish this.

How satin finish pianos are different than high-gloss finish pianos

satin sheen

First it’s important to understand what is a satin finish on a piano, how it’s created during the building process, as well as how to properly treat a satin finish and keep it clean on a regular basis.

Satin finish pianos have a more matte appearance rather than the high gloss you see on many pianos. High gloss finishes have that mirror look. Lots of owners prefer the high gloss over the matte/satin finish because high gloss pianos tend to look fancier and sparkle up a room, opposed to the satin finish, which has a more conservative and mature feel.

The way piano makers create a satin finish, is by first starting with a high gloss finish, then taking a super-high grit sandpaper which creates micro-abrasion “scratches” in very low amounts. What you’re left with is still a smooth finish, but it’s not as reflective as the high gloss.

High gloss pianos tend to show fingerprints and dust much easier than satin finish pianos, so if you’re in the market for a piano and are trying to decide between both finishes based on level of maintenance, then the satin finish will in this category. A satin finish will still show fingerprints and dust, but it’s not nearly as noticeable, which equates to you having to clean your piano less. This also includes all colors of satin finishes from the classic black and browns, to the reds, blue and grey pianos you see from piano makers such as Fazioli.

Cleaning the satin finish on your piano in a few quick steps:

  1. First dust your piano first with a soft microfiber cloth
    Before getting your piano wet with any type of cleaner, I always recommend taking a very soft microfiber cleaning cloth and gently wiping away any dust on the sides of the piano, the piano lid, fall board, on both ends of the keyboard and even the side of the piano
  2. Use a damp cloth and apply a good satin piano finish cleaner
    If you use a good cleaner specifically designed for satin finishes, these will help lift fingerprints and the oils from your hands that smudge up a piano. A good cleaner will evaporate quickly, so you don’t need to worry about toweling off your piano when you’re done.
  3. You can use a damp cloth to go over the case after applying the satin finish cleaner
    Often times, the cleaner will do the job by itself, but you can also go over the piano’s finish with a semi-wet cloth to give it good clean, just in case the cleaner accidentally left any residue behind.
  4. Consider a piano wax or polish for a little extra shine
    Some matte/satin finish pianos look really nice with a bit of extra sheen, and to pull this off, you can take a piano wax (and or even car wax) and apply a modest amount on the finish. This will not only give it a nice shine, but also help fill in any hairline scratches that are visible on the case.

How do I clean the inside of a piano and lid with a satin finish?

satin finish

Cleaning the inside of your piano doesn’t differ much from cleaning the outside case. The most common part of the inside casing that you can clean and shine up is the inner case along the sides, as well as the inside of the lid while it’s propped up. When cleaning the inside lid, be sure to prop the lid up all the way and while the lid is in its upright position, try not to bump the lid, as this could be dangerous to you, as well as to the lid itself if it fell of its prop stand.

Luckily, if you clean your piano on a regular ongoing basis, you shouldn’t have to focus too much on the inside as much.

Dust collects on satin finishes just as quickly as glossy finish pianos, but it hides it better

Regardless of what type of piano and the finish applied, dust will accumulate at the same rate. One benefit of satin finish pianos off any color, is that although they can still become dusty, they seem to hide it for a little longer than say a high gloss piano, where it’s more noticeable.

A few products we recommend for satin finish pianos:

  1. Satin Sheen Piano Finish and Conditioner by Core Care Products
    This cleaner is ideal for removing finger prints that tend to collect around the piano, including their fall board, keys, etc. It sprays on with a very light coat, and absorbs within seconds after giving the piano finish a nice wipe down. In other words, this cleaner is great because it leaves no wax or residue buildup that are common in many polishes that I mentioned earlier in this article. This conditioner is safe for use with polyurethane and lacquer surfaces.
  2. Therapy Wood Cleaner and Polish Kit
    This kit is great for satin finish pianos that have a few areas that could use some extra TLC. Whether there are some more noticeable scratches or scuffs, or even a slight dulling of the finish, this polish is safe for all finishes and is designed to penetrate into the fine scratches and create a smooth and polished mask to improve the finish.

A few products you should NEVER use on your piano:

  1. Pledge
    Probably the most well-known wood cleaner known to mankind, Pledge has made a huge splash in the market of wood cleaners and shines, although should you use it on your piano? No. Pledge products are notorious for leaving an oily residue on wood, and many people have also claimed that they use silicone in their cleaners, which can be known to break down finishes over time. Pledge was designed more for pieces of furniture that  have more porous surfaces, so considering an old beat-upright piano with a case in poor shape might be a candidate for pledge, this would be the only exception in my book.
  2. Windex
    Windex has been used forever as a household cleaning appliance, specifically for windows and surface. We don’t recommend using Windex on your piano surface, because much like Pledge, Windex has a tendency to leave a film on surfaces and even glass for that matter, so it’s safe to assume that it doesn’t belong on your piano either.

In closing, If you are looking to preserve the look and feel of your beautiful piano’s satin finish, using a safe product like we recommend above, along with routine dusting and using a conservative amount of water on a microfiber cloth can really help keep a satin finish clean and looking great. 

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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