I have recently inherited a 100 year old piano that has not had any love in a long time. I have tried to clean it with vinegar and water but it persists in being VERY sticky. I don't want to harm it but I want it clean. Any suggestions?

2 Answers 2


At 100 years old, there's a good chance that the finish on that piano is Shellac. The stuff can get sticky over time. As the linked article points out, the stuff is soluble in alcohol. I've use a cloth soaked in denatured ethanol to swab away sticky spots on a few of my hundred year old oak doors. Doing so gently, not scrubbing so hard so as to remove all the finish, left me with no obvious discolored spots on the wood and no stickiness, but of course, your mileage may vary. I'd suggest trying it on a small, discrete bit of the piano before going whole hog.

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    Do I need to replace the shellac after cleaning? Not entirely clear. Oct 2, 2013 at 12:44
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    I didn't need to. I think the small amount of alcohol I used just solubilized the sticky surface and let it dry back on nice and hard. Perhaps the sticky just ended up on the cloth I used. Whichever happened, there was no noticeable loss of color or gloss. Oct 2, 2013 at 15:11

I would actually suggest calling a piano tuner. If its old, and its been moved, it needs tuned anyway. Thats a job for the pro.

The tuner should also be able to clean it or advise you on the proper care and feeding of your new piano.

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    Piano tuning doesn't really address the question asked which is a woodworking / wood care question. Musicians <> Woodworkers Sep 30, 2013 at 19:14
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    " I don't want to harm it but I want it clean." - It is possible (probably unlikely, but possible) that certain techniques used to clean wood furniture may cause unwanted damage to a piano such as discoloration of the keys or affect the internal parts.
    – Freiheit
    Sep 30, 2013 at 19:45

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