Music Teacher's Helper Blog

Cleaning Your Instrument

My piano keys are ivory; it’s an old piano and looks well used, but suddenly I realized how dirty the keys had become.  I thought about ways to clean them, and then the same day, my son asked me about ways to clean his trumpet.  How many students, and even teachers, aren’t sure about how to clean their instruments?

Some instruments work better when cleaned; others just look nicer and cleaning them adds a bit of pride and attachment to the owner.  Here are a few tips you might find helpful, whether for yourself or just as links to offer your students, on cleaning a variety of instruments — piano, piano keys, violin/strings, brass, woodwinds, and drums/cymbals.instrumentsonly

We’ll start with the piano.  First, I’ll toss out a personal tip I just learned the other day–one simple way to clear piano keys is to use a pencil eraser!  I used one of those desk erasers, as the one on my pencil disappeared pretty fast.  My ivory keys look clean and white for the first time in a long time!   For a professional look at cleaning pianos, here’s a video from   And here’s one from on cleaning piano keys (apart from my brilliant suggestion above!).

A good general guide to cleaning guitars comes from a technician at Taylor Guitars and is sponsored by Elixir Strings.  They also have a special guide for cleaning a bass guitar.

For stringed instruments, much can be learned from David Kaynor’s explanation on behalf of Expert Village on cleaning a violin.  Many videos on cleaning instruments can be found there, and be forewarned that they often start with ads you can skip after a few seconds.

For brass instruments, here are several videos from Expert Village — cleaning a trumpet; cleaning a trombone; and cleaning a baritone horn.

Here’s how to clean a clarinet mouthpiece.  And how to clean a flute without taking it apart.

Need a guide to cleaning drums and cymbals?  This one is from DrumSetGuide.

Enjoy a brighter tomorrow as your students come in with clean instruments!

About the Author

Ed Pearlman
Ed Pearlman has focused on performing, teaching, and judging fiddle music for over 30 years, offering performances and workshops throughout the USA and in Canada and Scotland. His original training was with members of the Chicago and Boston Symphonies, and he played with orchestras and chamber groups at Yale and in Boston. He currently teaches privately in Maine and at workshops around the countr... [Read more]


  1. Heather Korn

    Every Fall before cold and flu season starts I send out my “Here Comes Cold & Flu Season” newsletter to remind students and parents of the following things: 1) 60+ hands touch my piano a week – wash hands before you sit down at my piano. 2) The study by Oklahoma State university on germs, molds, yeasts and fungus that can grow in band instruments and make kids sick.

    I encourage all of my instrumental and band students to invest in good cleaning kits and reed guards for their instruments and for parents to encourage them to use them regularly. I also encourage my students to invest in horn stands to use at home and to not put their instruments in closed cases unless they are traveling or at school. Generally, once parents read about the study and see that their kids’ band instrument can be a literal petri dish of germs and bacterias that can make their kids sick, they are willing to pay $20- $30 for a good cleaning kit and horn stand. Woodwind players also need to be reminded about reeds and the signs of mold and fungus when it starts to grow on reeds and to toss them when they are past their prime. Making parents and kids educated about how to clean instruments and why we need to clean them, helps them catch on pretty fast – reminders once a year at the beginning of the school year or early Fall are what works the best for me.

    One of the greatest things you can have in your teaching studio is a can of Lysol spray. My piano, bench, music stand and studio bathroom get Lysol spray every day before lessons start and every night when lessons end. If you are worried about Lysol on your piano keys, spray them down, wait about a minute and then wipe your keys down with a paper towel or cloth – (I use a soft old t-shirt.) I find that informing and reminding everyone on why you are being a “clean-freak” in the studio and that it’s for everyone’s benefit including your own generally keeps things cleaner and keeps you, the teacher, healthier during the year too.

  2. Sharon Ellam

    Thanks for this. In the winter my greatest challenge is disinfecting the piano & piano keys from green snot, sneezing & coughing. UGH! I use an alcohol solution used by hairdressers to sterilise their combs. I spray it lightly on the keys & wipe with a cloth. Any other ideas???

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