Coronavirus Protection Procedure for Piano Keys

Posted on: Wednesday, March 18th, 2020  In: Blog

With the current COVID-19 pandemic running across the globe, we here at Hollywood Piano want to remind everyone to stay safe and understand the importance of keeping your instruments sanitary. Here is our ‘how-to’ video on cleaning your piano’s keys.

Cleaning the keys on your piano is a very simple process but you do run some risks if you don’t do it cautiously. Now before we get to cleaning, it’s good to know what type of keys your piano has. Traditionally, pianos were made with Ivory, white key material made from elephant tusks. However, ivory was made illegal many decades ago so any modern piano that’s been manufactured within the last 40 years will most likely have keys made from some kind of plastic.

Real ivory is porous and gets dirty easily. It also may give off some yellowish coloring as it ages. However, this can also appear in some plastics too. Perhaps the most significant distinction is that there’s more of a slight texture to the ivory feel, and you’ll also see horizontal lines that separate the key’s head from its tail.

Cellulose keys may still have these lines since the plastic is specifically used as an ivory imitation. Cellulose is a wood-based bioplastic made from sustainable trees, and it’s actually an exceptional substitute that’s both durable and affordable to manufacture.

Black keys can also be made from plastic, cellulose or ebony wood. Ebony is a very hard and dense wood that is polished to give it sheen. The sharps and flats (black notes) are traditionally made of ebony on more expensive pianos and all older pianos.

To clean and sanitize piano keys, mix one part white vinegar to two parts water. It’s very common to also use lemon juice if you prefer, but we recommend vinegar from the standpoint of disinfecting the keys, that’s what’s important right now. Definitely do not use bleach or any kind of scouring powder or pads, this will dull or scratch the piano keys badly. Sure there are better disinfectants out there, and you could always just use soap but vinegar is the safest for not damaging piano keys.

Vinegar kills germs—but it’s probably not as effective as commercial cleaning products like Lysol and Clorox. White vinegar’s base is acetic acid, a chemical compound that has been proven to kill bacteria and viruses. Vinegar is not on the EPA’s list of recommended disinfectants. We recommend it over harsh chemical agents to avoid the risk of damaging the keys.

For plastic keys we can recommend substituting a pre-made disinfectant wipe for the moistened cheesecloth used in exactly the same manor as demonstrated in our video. Use at your own risk on ivory or cellulose.

First, remove any dust particles by wiping the keyboard down with a microfiber cloth. Also, if you’re doing this on a digital piano or keyboard, make sure that it is unplugged or that there are no batteries in it.

After you wipe with the microfiber, cut a few pieces of cardboard to go in between each key, longer cardboard for white keys and shorter for black keys. This will keep moisture from getting in between them. Lightly spray the white cheesecloth or soft white T-shirt with the solution and DON’T use any colored cloths as you run the risk of color coming off onto the keys. Rub the key from the back to the front with the dampened cheesecloth and then follow with a dry piece. Do one octave at a time from lowest note to highest. Use the minimal amount of cleaning solution on the cloth; keys are very sensitive to moisture so we want to prevent too much of it from getting on or in between the keys. Gently wipe downward again, from back to front with the dry cloth. If the cheese cloth gets yellow or dirty, throw it out and cut some fresh pieces off. When you’re done, take a piece of dry cheesecloth and gently wipe across the key fronts from lowest note to highest note to make sure it’s completely dry and all the moisture is off.

Now with your piano keys nice and clean, we suggest you polish them. We offer an AWESOME product for that extra final shine. Take another cheesecloth and lightly spray some Hollywood Piano Key Brite and buff for that final shine.

We hope that this information was helpful and we ask everyone to take reasonable precautions to protect your health and the health of your loved ones during these unusual times. If you have any questions at all, we are OPEN for now. (Although our recital hall is closed.) Please don’t hesitate to call. We are here to answer all of your questions.

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