How to Prevent Damage to Your Piano

Whether you own a Steinway grand piano or a Yamaha upright, it’s important to take good care of your piano to prevent damage over both the short term and long term. Proper piano storage and use can prevent spills, bumps and scratches, while ongoing piano maintenance can keep your piano in top condition and significantly extend its lifespan. With good piano care, you will enjoy playing your piano for years to come, and can even pass it down to the next generation.

Taking good care of your piano can also be rewarding in many ways. You will enjoy better sound quality and performance when you tune your piano regularly and address any problems quickly. Storing your piano in a climate-controlled room will also protect against long-term damage and prevent costly problems from happening in the first place. Keeping your piano clean will maintain its elegant appearance, while also protecting it from damaging dust and dirt.

Taking care of your piano can also pay off financially. If you choose to sell your piano in the future, the condition of the piano largely impacts how much you are able to earn. If your piano is a specialty model or from a reputable brand like Steinway & Sons, you may even be able to earn more for your piano than you paid initially. Your piano is an investment, and protecting it from damage through good piano care will certainly benefit you in the long run.

The Placement of Your Piano

Proper piano care begins with storing your piano in the right place in your home. Because pianos are primarily made of wood, they are very sensitive to changes in humidity and temperature. Swings in temperature and moisture levels can cause the wooden parts of your piano to shrink, swell or warp and can seriously impact the piano’s tuning stability and sound quality.

In extreme cases, fluctuating climate conditions can cause the piano’s soundboard to crack or its glue joints to fail. Excessive dryness can strain the joints and other laminated sections of your piano and cause cracking. In very cold temperatures, wooden piano parts can weaken and may snap when the piano is played.

Exposing your piano to unstable humidity levels and temperatures can also damage other materials in your piano. Very hot temperatures can cause the felt on the piano’s hammers to loosen. If the felt parts absorb too much moisture from a humid room, they will produce a dull and unclear sound. The metal parts of your piano, such as the strings and tuning pins, can rust if exposed to excessive moisture and condensation.

In addition to implementing humidity control for your piano, you should store your piano in a safe area where they are not at risk of spills or bumps. Pianos should be protected from pet hair, dust and dirt to keep them in prime condition. Here are a few tips for choosing the best placement of your piano:

  • Stable temperature: To prevent warping, tuning problems and long-term damage, you should store your piano in a room that is maintained at about 68 degrees Fahrenheit year-round. When moving your piano to a new home, care should be taken not to expose your piano to extremely cold or hot temperatures during transportation.

  • Controlled humidity: A relative humidity of about 42% is ideal for piano storage. Humidity levels can be regulated with a humidifier or dehumidifier, depending on your climate and the season. A humidity control system can also be installed inside the piano to maintain its internal relative humidity. In drier climates, placing a leafy plant in the same room as your piano can also prevent excessive dryness. Your piano should be placed away from air conditioning vents, heaters and frequently used doorways that create fluctuations in humidity.  Climate-controlled piano storage is a key factor to keeping your piano in great condition.
  • Away from open windows: Although it may be enjoyable to feel the summer breeze as you play your favorite sonata, placing your piano near an open window can create unnecessary risk. Open windows can cause temperature and humidity changes and create condensation on your piano. If you forget to close the windows before it rains, you risk even more serious consequences, like water damage.
  • Away from the fireplace: Placing a piano near a fireplace can cause it to dry out, resulting in cracking or joint failure. Even worse, if a wooden piano is placed too close to a fire, stray sparks could cause it to catch on fire.
  • Above ground level: Unless you have a climate-controlled basement, store your piano above ground level in your house. Basements tend to have high humidity levels and experience greater fluctuations in temperature.
  • Out of direct sunlight: UV rays can damage the finish on your piano, causing discoloration, fading and cracking. When the lid of your piano is open, direct sunlight can also dry out and damage the soundboard and pinblock. Place your piano away from sunny windows, or use blinds to prevent unnecessary damage.
  • Away from busy areas: Avoid placing your piano in the busiest room of your house where your kids like to play and people come and go frequently. Placing your piano in a busy room risks spilled drinks and accidental bumps that can cause costly damage to your piano.
  • Away from pets: If you have a cat that loves to lounge in the living room, make sure the piano lid and key cover are kept closed when you are not playing. If pet hair gets inside the piano, it can damage internal components and impact the piano’s sound quality.

Smart placement of your piano can greatly reduce the risk of damage.

Taking Care of Your Piano

Once your piano is stored somewhere safe, you can turn your attention to proper piano care. Taking care of your grand piano involves only a few simple steps that can have a lasting impact on the health and performance of your instrument. Use these five piano care tips to keep your piano in top condition.

1. Keep Liquids Away From Your Piano

If you love to play your piano first thing in the morning, keep your coffee mug and cereal bowl on the side table, not on the lid of your grand piano. If liquids spill on your piano, it can cause serious damage to the interior and exterior components. Spilled liquids can stain the surface of your piano and cause the wood to warp. If liquid seeps between the piano keys, it can cause the keys to stick or even cause mold to grow inside the piano.

Avoid placing drinks or other liquids near your piano and never place any liquids on top of your grand piano. If a drink does spill on your piano, wipe it up immediately using a soft and absorbent cloth. If the spill is on the piano keys, be careful not to press down any of the keys while wiping to avoid causing the liquid to drip further into the piano. For spills on the keys, contact a piano technician to perform proper cleaning and prevent further damage.

2. Dust and Clean Your Piano Regularly

Clean your piano regularly to prevent dust and dirt from accumulating on the surface or clogging the keys. Dust inside of your piano may also cause noise or dull the action of the hammers.

To clean the outside of your piano, begin by dusting the exterior and keys of the piano using a feather duster or soft cloth. Because dust is abrasive, it can scratch the finish if it is not removed first. You may choose to lightly dampen the cloth first to pick up dust, then follow with a dry cloth to remove excess moisture. Always wipe in the direction of the wood grain, using long and straight strokes.

After dusting, clean the exterior of the piano using a soft cloth and mild soap solution to remove dirt, smudges and fingerprints. Dampen the cloth with the soapy water, then wring it out thoroughly — using a cloth that is too wet can cause water damage. Wipe in straight strokes with the grain rather than in circles, which can leave swirl marks. Use light pressure and a soft microfiber cloth to avoid scratching the piano’s finish.

To clean your piano keys, wipe them with a dry lint-free cloth. If the keys are very dirty, you can clean them with a damp cloth using a mild soap solution. However, never use the same cloth to clean the white and black keys, or to clean the keys and the exterior of the piano. Dry the keys immediately to prevent water damage. You can also use compressed air to remove dust from between the piano keys.

Never use furniture polish to clean your piano, because it can soften the finish and cause greater damage. Alcohol-based cleaners can also cause the piano keys to crack.

It’s best to leave cleaning the inside of your piano to the professionals. A professional piano cleaning service will remove dust and dirt without damaging any delicate internal components.

3. Cover the Keys After Use

If dirt and dust accumulate between your piano keys, it can cause the keys to stick. Covering the keys after every use helps keep pet hair and dust from getting trapped between the keys. It also protects the keys from any accidental spills.

If your piano does not have a key cover, you can purchase one from a music store for an affordable price. You can also cover your entire piano with a drop cloth when not in use.

Another great tip for keeping your piano keys clean is to always wash your hands before playing. Although your hands will always leave some oil residue on the piano keys, this can be greatly reduced by a quick hand washing prior to sitting down to play.

4. Avoid Placing Objects on Your Piano

Although a vase of flowers or potted plant may look nice on top of your grand piano, they can also cause serious damage. Condensation from flower vases or drinks can leave watermarks on the lid of your grand piano and ruin its finish. A heavy potted plant can stress the wood and cause noisy rattling when the piano is played.

Vibrations from playing can also cause objects on top of the piano to scratch the piano’s surface or fall over. Flower vases may also splash water onto the piano during an enthusiastic practice session.

If you want to place something on your piano, like a piano lamp, picture frame or another lightweight decoration, place a soft cloth or piece of felt underneath to prevent scratches. This will also help dampen any noisy vibrations.

5. Play Your Piano Regularly

Another important aspect of piano care is to play your piano regularly. Playing your piano at least once a week helps keep the moving parts in good working condition and prevents dust from settling inside your piano or piano keys.

When you play your piano often, you are also more likely to notice when something is not right. You will be more aware of tuning issues and other common piano problems that impact the sound or playability of your instrument. Playing your piano regularly also encourages regular servicing which can significantly increase the lifespan of your piano.

Servicing Your Piano

Servicing your piano regularly keeps it in tune, operating smoothly and producing a beautiful sound. Certified piano technicians are also able to recognize any potential problems with your piano before they become more serious issues. By performing preventative piano maintenance, you can avoid costly repairs and headaches down the road.

The three key aspects of good piano maintenance are tuning, voicing and regular technician visits.

1. Perform Tuning Regularly

Pianos naturally slide out of tune over time because of being played and environmental conditions. Because this happens gradually, you may not even notice your piano is out of tune until you play with another musician or until you hear its tone improve drastically after a tuning.

Playing your piano when it is out of tune can cause wear and tear on the instrument, making tuning an important part of piano care. Most pianos should be tuned twice a year to maintain their sound quality and pitch. Some pianos, such as older models, may need to be tuned more frequently. If you play your piano every day, this may also cause it to go out of tune more quickly.

While you may be able to tune your piano on your own, piano tuning can be time-consuming and challenging, making it best left to the professionals. During a professional piano tuning, a technician will adjust the tension of each of your piano’s more than 200 strings to bring them to the proper pitch.

2. Perform Voicing as Necessary

If you want your piano to sound its very best, voicing should also be performed in addition to tuning. Voicing involves making adjustments to various parts of your piano to improve its overall sound quality. This can include changing the level of the strings, adjusting the hardness of the hammers, reshaping the hammers and many other alterations to produce the precise tonal quality you want from your grand piano.

Voicing can be performed to adjust your piano’s sound quality to match your personal preferences, or it may be necessary to address specific tonal problems. For example, if the tone of your piano is noticeably different between notes or if your piano cannot play softly, it may need a voicing adjustment.

3. Schedule Regular Technician Visits

When you care for your piano properly and play it regularly, you will become familiar with the unique quirks of your instrument. You will notice when something seems amiss with your piano’s sound or performance. If there seems to be a problem with your piano, do not hesitate to schedule an inspection with a piano technician. A professional piano technician will be able to identify, diagnose and correct the problem quickly.

Even when your piano seems to be playing properly, regular visits from a piano technician can ensure its continued excellent performance. Piano technicians are trained to recognize potential problems with your piano and take action to protect against future damage. When progressive problems are caught and corrected early, your piano will play beautifully for years to come.

At Bradfield Piano, we offer professional piano maintenance and repairs, as well as many other in-home piano services to keep your instrument in its best condition. Through routine tunings and check-ups, the technicians at Bradfield Piano can help protect your piano from damage and maintain its high-quality sound. Backed by extensive experience servicing top piano brands, Bradfield Piano is a trusted name in piano care. Contact us for more information about piano care and maintenance from Bradfield Piano.