The piano is unique among musical instruments because it also serves as fine 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 fine finish will enhance your home’s decor and preserve the value of your piano.
Basic Finish Care
Modern pianos are finished with a variety of materials, from traditional lacquer to modern polyurethanes and polyester resins. Whatever the material, a piano finish is designed to protect the wood from dirt and liquid spills, reduce the damaging effects of humidity changes, and—in the case of clear finishes—enhance the beauty of the wood.Modern finishes are designed to do their job without the additional aid of polishes or waxes. You can best maintain your piano finish 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, will expand and contract when humidity changes. If the wood moves too much, eventually tiny cracks will develop in the finish—it may even separate from the wood! If you control the temperature and humidity around the piano, you will not only preserve the finish, but also the wood and the tuning.Put the piano in a room with a fairly even temperature, always from drafts, dampness, and heat. Always avoid direct sunlight—it will age the finish prematurely and cause color fading. To prevent scratches, never set objects on your piano without a soft cloth or felt pad. Never place plants or drinks on a piano, because spillage and condensation can cause major damage.
Dusting Your Piano
If you wipe your piano with a dry cloth, you may scratch the finish with the dust. Instead, use a feather duster—or, a soft damp cloth immediately followed by 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. Don’t worry about cleaning inside; ask your technician to do that.
Cleaning the Finish
To remove smudges and fingerprints, first dust using the damp/dry cloths as above. For heavier cleaning, dampen your cloth with a small amount of a mild soap (Murphy’s Oil Soap is good).
Should You Polish?
Avoid polishes. Despite what the labels say, they do not protect the wood. They can actually damage the finish if you overuse them. Some polishes contain silicone, which can damage the piano. Definitely avoid anything in a spray can, because you may overspray onto delicate piano parts.If you must polish, use it sparingly.
Cleaning the Keys
Piano keys eventually become dirty from the oil and dirt of people’s 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, and wipe the keys back-to-front, rather than 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 moisture can penetrate and loosen their glue joints. Also, a dirty or brightly colored cleaning cloth can transfer stains into the ivory.
Clean sharps the same way, but use a separate cloth for painted wooden sharps to avoid black stains on the white keys.
If you get a scratch or a ding in a lacquer finish, sometimes you can rub it out with a product like the Tibetan Almond stick. For scratches in polyester, or larger damage in general, call a touch-up specialist like Brian Scheeler (916-967-5208).