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How Do I Care For My Piano Finish?

Table of contents for Piano Care

  1. Basic Piano Care ~ Where Do I Begin?
  2. How Do I Care For My Piano Finish?
The following is from the Piano Technicians Guild

Caring for your piano finish

Beautiful Steinway finish

The piano is unique among musical instruments because it also serves as elegant furniture for the home. In fact, the term “piano finish” has traditionally been used to describe the highest standards in wood finishing. Properly maintaining that beautiful finish will enhance your home’s decor and preserve the value of your piano.

Basic finish care

Modern Piano finishes include a variety of materials, from traditional lacquer to modern polyurethanes and polyester resins. Whatever the material, piano finishes protect the wood from dirt and liquid spills, reduce the harmful effects of humidity changes, and — in the case of clear finishes — enhance the beauty of the wood.

Modern finishes do their job without the additional assistance of polishes or waxes. In most cases, a piano finish is best maintained by simply keeping it clean and avoiding exposure to direct sunlight, extremes of temperature and humidity, and abrasion.

Avoiding finish damage.

Your piano’s cabinet, like all woodwork, is subject to expansion and contraction with humidity changes. Excessive wood movement can eventually cause the surface to develop tiny cracks and even separate from the wood. Moderating the temperature and humidity swings around the piano will help to maintain its finish as well as its overall structure and tuning stability.

Locate the piano in a room with a fairly even temperature, away from drafts, dampness, and heat sources . ALWAYS AVOID DIRECT SUNLIGHT — it will age the finish prematurely and produce color fading.

To prevent scratches, never place objects on your piano without a soft cloth or felt pad. Never leave plants or drinks on a piano, because spillage and moisture can cause serious damage.

Dusting your piano

Dust is particularly abrasive, and can scratch the finish if wiped off with a dry cloth. Wipe lightly with a soft-damp cloth to pick up the dust followed immediately with a dry cloth. The cloths should be soft cotton such as flannel, because coarse or synthetic fabrics can scratch some finishes. Wring out the damp cloth thoroughly, so it leaves no visible moisture on the surface.

To avoid creating swirl marks, always wipe with long-straight strokes rather than circular motions. Wipe with the grain for natural wood finishes, or in the direction of the existing sheen pattern for solid-color satin finishes.

Because some exposed parts inside your piano are fragile, it is best to allow your technician clean these areas.

Avoid furniture polish

Never use furniture polish on your piano

Avoid furniture polish on your piano

In general, most manufacturers recommend against using household polishes because of the potential for damage to piano finish and contamination of other parts of the instrument. Common household products such as “lemon oil” or inexpensive “furniture polish” should be avoided. Despite the labels’ claims that they “protect” the finish or “feed” the wood, they offer no protection from scratching and can soften the finish if over-used. Worse, they often contain silicones and oils that contaminate the wood, complicating future refinishing or repairs. Silicone is extremely dangerous because of its tendency to spread within the piano, sometimes causing extensive internal damage. Avoid aerosol products altogether since the over-spray can contaminate piano strings, tuning pins and action parts.

An appropriate piano polish can help to restore luster to a dulled finish or reduce the likelihood of some finishes to show fingerprints. However, it should be applied sparingly and infrequently, and all excess should be wiped clean with a soft-dry cloth, so no visible film remains. Always dust before polishing to prevent scratching.

Steinway piano polish

Steinway piano polish

Cleaning Your Keys

Piano keys eventually become soiled with accumulated oil and dirt from fingers. To clean your white keys, use a soft cloth dampened with water and a small amount of mild soap. Avoid solvents. Make sure the cloth is thoroughly wrung out. Wipe the keys back-to-front, not side-to-side, so excess moisture and dirt will not seep down the sides of the keys. Clean only a few keys at a time drying immediately with a clean cloth.

Ivory keys are porous, and excessive moisture can penetrate and loosen their glue joints. Also, a dirty or brightly colored cleaning cloth can transfer stains into the ivory.

Clean sharps in the same manner, but use a separate cloth for painted wooden sharps to avoid black stains on the white keys.

Finish Care Steps

  • Locate your piano to avoid direct sunlight, as well as extreme temperature and humidity changes.
  • To avoid scratching, always remove dust first with a damp cloth or feather duster before wiping with a dry cloth.
  • Never leave drinks, plants, etc. on the finish.
  • Avoid placing vinyl, or rubber, in contact with the piano.
  • Make sure that piano lamps, etc. have a felt-padded base.
  • Avoid touching piano strings with fingers or damp cloths.
  • Delicate parts inside your piano should be cleaned only by your technician.
  • Use polish sparingly, if at all.
  • Avoid aerosol products.
  • Read labels carefully and avoid any product containing silicone.
  • Before playing, always wash your hands to prevent staining the sides and tops of the keys.
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