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PTG Registered Piano Technician
TECHNICAL BULLETIN #5
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.
Dust is very abrasive, and can scratch the finish if wiped off with a dry cloth. To avoid scratching, dust the piano lightly with a feather duster. Alternatively, 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's best to let your technician clean these areas.
To remove smudges and fingerprints, first dust using the damp/dry cloths as above. If heavier cleaning is necessary, dampen your cloth with a small amount of mild soap solution. A common product is Murphy's Oil Soap, available at most grocery and hardware stores.
Before using polish on your piano, be sure it is actually necessary and beneficial. In general, most manufacturers recommend against using polishes because of the potential for damage to the 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 actually soften the finish if over-used. Worse, they often contain silicones and oils that contaminate the wood, complicating future refinishing or repairs. Silicone is especially 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 polish can help to restore luster to a dulled finish or reduce the tendency 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. To prevent scratching, always dust before polishing. Specific recommendations follow.
If your piano's finish appears gummy, oily, or streaked, it may be contaminated with too much or the wrong type of polish. Adding more polish will not correct this problem. Instead the finish should be thoroughly cleaned, then evaluated for any further treatment.
To remove accumulations of old polish, use a cloth dampened with a mild soap as in item 3 above. Wring the cloth thoroughly to minimize wetting of the finish, and dry the surface immediately. Test a small area first to make sure the washing does not cause white marks or softening of an older finish.
If stronger cleaning is necessary, look for a product called "wood cleaner and wax remover" at hardware or wood workers supply stores, or ask your technician for a suggestion.
Once the original finish is clean, you can either leave it as is or enhance the gloss and clarity with an appropriate polish according to the finish type listed below.
The two most common piano finishes are lacquer and polyester. Either material may come in clear, black, white, or other colors. Check your piano's owner information booklet to determine the type and recommended care of your piano's finish, or ask your technician or dealer for help if you're not sure.
Most, but not all, American-made pianos have lacquer finishes. They may be satin (dull sheen),semi-gloss, or high gloss.
When cleaning or polishing a lacquer finish, avoid hard pressure on sharp corners and edges since the finish can easily wear through to bare wood.
Most Asian and European pianos have polyester finishes in satin or high-gloss (called high polish). This material is harder and more scratch-resistant than lacquer, and best maintained by simple dusting and cleaning.
Dents. scratches, and chips sometimes occur, spoiling the appearance of an otherwise perfect finish. Such damage can usually be corrected by a specialist in "finish touch-up". Your piano technician may perform this service, or can offer a referral.
Piano Technicians Guild is an international organization of piano technicians. Registered Piano Technicians (RPTs) are those members of PTG who have passed a series of examinations on the maintenance, repair, and tuning of pianos.
For a copy of this or other PTG Bulletins and Pamphlets, or a list of PTG members in your area, vist the PTG web site or contact Piano Technicians Guild, Inc., 4444 Forest Ave, Kansas City, KS, 66106. Ph: (913) 432-9975 Fax: (913) 432-9986 E-mail email@example.com