How to Clean Your Piano Keyboard – Acoustic or Electric

We’ve all heard phrases like, “A clean room gives way to a clear mind,” or “Cleanliness is next to Godliness.” I’m not really sure how to stretch this sort of logic to the piano (“A clean keyboard leads to clean performing?”), but that doesn’t make keeping your playing area relatively clear and your piano tidy any less important.

Keeping your keyboard clean is a simple, but critical to the health of your instrument. So this week we’ve got a few things to keep an eye out for, as well as a few tips to help keep the maintenance to a minimum. Let’s start with some “do’s and don’ts.”

The Do’s

There are two super easy things that you can do every day to keep your piano clean. The first is to simply ash your hands before you play. Just a simple 30-second rub down with plenty of soap is enough to remove the dirt and oils on your hands. Most of the dirt that gets on the keys comes from your hands, so a simple washing is a great preventative measure.

The second thing you can do is close the lid on the keyboard when you’re done playing. This keeps the keys from being exposed to dust, damaging sunlight, and even the occasional accident, like spilled food or drink.

The Don’ts

When you decide that it’s time to give your keyboard a cleaning, never use a rough or dry cloth, and absolutely no paper towels, as each of these can scratch the keys. You’ll also want to avoid using any sort of mineral water, or any spray, perfume, polish, or aerosol. Each of these can cause discoloration or create streaks or other ugly marks that may be expensive to have removed.

You’ll also want to wipe up and down on each key, one at a time, rather than wiping across the keys. Wiping across the keys can, and likely will, cause water to seep down between the keys, and can cause more expensive damage. Keep a dry cloth with you to quickly pat down the wet keys.

How to Clean Piano & Keyboard Keys – The Right Way

Preparation

First, you’ll need these four items:

  • Soft cloth
  • Spray bottle
  • Gentle liquid soap
  • Water

To begin, start with your soft cloth. Microfiber is the best, but if you don’t have a microfiber cloth, an old t-shirt will work fine, as long has you cut out any logos or graphics. There’s really no need to go out and buy anything new.

Next, you’ll need your empty spray bottle. It’s perfectly fine to reuse an older spray bottle, as long as you make sure that it doesn’t have any harsh chemicals in it. Once you have made sure it’s totally empty, fill it with a mixture of water and your gentle liquid soap. Use only a small amount of soap in the spray bottle – maybe a tablespoon or two, depending on the size of your bottle – and fill the rest with water. Give it a shake to make sure it’s well mixed, and you’re ready to go!

And in case you’re wondering if there’s any difference between cleaning a piano keyboard and cleaning an electronic keyboard, fear not! It’s the same process.

Cleaning

Now that you’re all set, it’s time to get cleaning! First and foremost, do not spray your mixture directly on the piano! Instead, lightly spray it into your soft cloth until it’s slightly damp. Then, starting at one end of the keyboard and slowly working your way to the other, slide the cloth from the back of a key, to the front, with gentle pressure. Do this one key at a time. You may need to repeat this a few times for any stubborn stains on the keys. You can also clean the black keys in the same manner – no need for special treatment! But do be careful not to push any dirt or dust down into their sides.

Once you have cleaned the tops of all 88 keys, it’s time to tackle their fronts! That’s right, those little white squares you can see from across the room get dirty too! You can use the same soap and water mixture and soft cloth as before, only this time, you clean with an upward motion, from the bottom of the key, to the top, trying to take any dust or dirt off the keys with the cloth. Once again, avoid wiping across the front of all the keys because this can cause particles to get trapped between them, which contributes to “sticky keys.”

Once you’re done cleaning the tops and fronts your your keys, your keyboard should be all clean and ready to go! To keep it looking its best, it’s a good idea to give it a cleaning like this once every week or two, depending on how often you actually sit down and play.

In between cleanings, you can wipe the keys down with a soft, dry cloth, or even use a feather duster to gently brush away any dust or dirt.

A Few Things To Consider

There are just a few special cases that you should probably be aware of when cleaning your keyboard. First, if your keys are made of ivory, rather than plastic, it’s a good idea to use a light coloured cloth to avoid any discolouration, or potential colour transfer to the ivory. Ivory is porous, and could possibly absorb dye from a coloured cleaning cloth.

The second thing to keep in mind is whether your black keys are made of plastic, wood, or have been painted. If they’ve been painted, there is a small chance that the paint could transfer to the cleaning cloth, and then to the white keys. This isn’t very common, especially among newer pianos and keyboards, so it likely won’t be an issue.

This is, of course, just meant to be a simple guide for basic key maintenance. You may decide that after cleaning, you want to whiten your keys. This is another easy bit of maintenance that you can do at home as well.

On the other hand, you should never try to perform any maintenance on the interior of your piano on your own, regardless of whether it’s a traditional acoustic piano, or a modern electronic keyboard. Always leave that sort of repair and maintenance work to the professionals.