Allergens, pet dander, ambient smoke, cooking oils, liquid spills, bugs and rodents (believe it or not) all find their way into pianos. Mold, mildew and pet urine are the worst. It is not that uncommon, surprising as that may seem.

The Covid 19 experience has inspired a new sense of awareness that may be trending toward cleaner things, generally. I received a plethora of calls during the pandemic for piano cleaning, even more than usual.

Having always been susceptible to allergens, I am aware of how dirty pianos can be. When is the last time you had your piano cleaned? Among the goodies I have removed from pianos are dead mice, moths, geckos, a cat whose paw had become stuck in the fallboard, a squirrel that destroyed most of the inside of a grand piano, handcuffs (!), a cell phone, more pens and pencils than I can remember, dead spiders, feces, mildew and more. Most of what is filthy about a piano is not seen from the outside.

In our cleaning process, we remove the keyboard and action to gain access to the inner cavity where the keys normally sit. Careful cleaning of the keybed and keyframe, keys, action and hammer mechanism follow. Finally, the strings, soundboard and any other places that require attention are carefully cleaned. The piano is a complex instrument with lots of components, nooks and crannies, places not seen.

I enjoy cleaning pianos in Chicago because it has a positive effect, once completed. A clean piano reminds me of the feeling I get after an oil change or car wash; my car seems to run better. I believe clean pianos are more responsive. There is a definite improvement in tone once corrosion or buildup of atmospheric junk is cleaned from strings and contaminants are removed from hammer surfaces.

I have experienced the very disgusting, from roaches streaming out of a piano when I started tuning, to mice running out from under the keys (only once, but it happened). Our company has done its best to alleviate soot and smoke odors after fires. I have also found family items of great sentimental value which owners are grateful to rediscover.

A clean piano is a happy piano. It will smell better and look better. We know it is a very positive thing.

The most amusing item that I found inside a piano was a can of Schlitz Beer. The can was aluminum and stamped from 1969 (I don’t know how THAT smelled when opened!}. I also found an unopened pack of cigarettes in a Chickering Grand.

Piano cleaning is a vital step in keeping your piano in good shape.

Jeffrey Cappelli, RPT