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Do disinfectant chemicals such as isopropanol damage piano keys? (Read 849 times)

Offline ardith

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I'm under pressure from the organizers of a chamber program I'm in to "sanitize" my piano keys with Clorox or Lysol wipes.  Clorox is a corrosive acid.  The active ingredient in Lysol is benzalkonium chloride.  Then there's isopropanol (rubbing alcohol).  Is there any definitive, reliable information on what these chemicals do to piano keys (plastic or ivory)?  One lesser-known fact is that most of these wipes are only guaranteed to be effective if the surface remains "visibly wet" for a period of time, often several minutes (it's written on the packaging).  Apart from potentially corroding the material the keys are made of, that raises a concern about liquid leaking down between the keys, which is known to be damaging.  Are there any experienced technicians or piano manufacturers with good information on this?  I submitted a query to Schimmel a few days ago, but have not heard back.  FWIW I found this: "I am not sure alcool [sic] is OK for polycarbonate. On piano keys for instance it will make them porous in time. Eventually cracks may develop." Source: https://forum.weldingtipsandtricks.com/viewtopic.php?t=12073  Also, the book "A Textbook of Engineering Materials and Metallurgy" by Alavudeen et al says that cleaning fluids can damage acrylics, and at least some plastic piano keys contain acrylics.

Offline andrew_s

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Re: Do disinfectant chemicals such as isopropanol damage piano keys?
«Reply #1 on: March 18, 2020, 09:44:34 AM »
I also find your question and the situation difficult and have been looking for an answer. It seems experienced technicians give different answers but I assume it depends on how much and often you apply those chemicals and also on the condition of the piano.

I mean, if it is a new expensive concert grand which is what the most experienced technicians usually work with or a brand new piano in a show room there is no reason to take the risk to destroy the key surface with strong chemicals.

But if you have an old teared down piano in your school or studio, strong chemicals or alcohol will make a big difference in killing viruses but may not make the condition of the the piano keys much worse.

Until now I have been using either soap or alcohol based hand disinfection on the piano in my teaching studio occasionally during flu periods. I haven't even reflected about the question in the past. The piano is 30 years old so I expect the keys to look a bit used and weared anyway.

If you ever get a reply from Schimmel, please post it here.

Offline thirtytwo2020

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Re: Do disinfectant chemicals such as isopropanol damage piano keys?
«Reply #2 on: March 18, 2020, 06:00:51 PM »
This seems to be quite reliable advice, from the Piano Technicians Guild and a chemist with an interest in piano keys :)
(found these in one of piano street's recent blog posts)

https://www.ptg.org/covid-19

https://www.pianoeducation.org/pnohygen.html

Offline dogperson

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Re: Do disinfectant chemicals such as isopropanol damage piano keys?
«Reply #3 on: March 18, 2020, 08:47:47 PM »
This seems to be quite reliable advice, from the Piano Technicians Guild and a chemist with an interest in piano keys :)
(found these in one of piano street's recent blog posts)

https://www.ptg.org/covid-19

https://www.pianoeducation.org/pnohygen.html

This does not seem to address the question of which cleaning options are effective against the Coronavirus while not destroying keys.  It discussed mild cleaning agentsó- which are not effective antivirals

Offline Bob

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Re: Do disinfectant chemicals such as isopropanol damage piano keys?
«Reply #4 on: March 18, 2020, 10:58:47 PM »
Maybe none?  Just wait a few days and the virus, if present, dries up and dies.
Favorite new teacher quote -- "You found the only possible wrong answer."

Offline lostinidlewonder

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Re: Do disinfectant chemicals such as isopropanol damage piano keys?
«Reply #5 on: March 19, 2020, 03:05:23 AM »
I have used 70% Isopropyl to clean my keys for years and years, no problems at all.
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Offline ahinton

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Re: Do disinfectant chemicals such as isopropanol damage piano keys?
«Reply #6 on: March 19, 2020, 10:55:00 AM »
I have used 70% Isopropyl to clean my keys for years and years, no problems at all.
I have done the same, likewise without problems but I suppose that, to some extent, it depends upon what particular key surfaces one's piano has; I can only vouch for mine which, as it is a Steinway Model C from 1896 whose refurbishment several yeas ago did not include stripping and replacing the ivory surfaces (which would have been unnecessary given their condition), has not been adversely affected by such treatment.

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Offline dogperson

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Re: Do disinfectant chemicals such as isopropanol damage piano keys?
«Reply #7 on: March 19, 2020, 11:48:38 AM »
Maybe none?  Just wait a few days and the virus, if present, dries up and dies.

If your keys are plastic, you would be waiting a long time as Coronavirus can live on plastic and wood for up to nine days.

Offline quantum

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Re: Do disinfectant chemicals such as isopropanol damage piano keys?
«Reply #8 on: March 19, 2020, 01:55:01 PM »
I've been using a damp microfiber cloth with a bit of dish detergent for many years on my home piano, it's an 80s Yamaha with synthetic ivory keys.  Whether or not it is effective for Coronavirus is unknown.

A public piano, such as in universities or performing venues would likely have a need for more stringent disinfecting.  When I was in university I remember a number of fellow students getting hand infections from playing on school pianos.  I used to clean the keys of practice room pianos before playing them.  The importance of hand washing when playing public pianos should be emphasized. 

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Offline Bob

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Re: Do disinfectant chemicals such as isopropanol damage piano keys?
«Reply #9 on: April 07, 2020, 12:12:54 AM »
Couldn't you use something a little more, as long as it's on the plastic keys (assuming they're not ivory), and then wipe it down with water and rubbing alcohol, making sure it's dry?  The first cleaner would do a little more cleaning.  The second water/alcohol solution would clear up the first cleaner and dry up.  Then make sure it's dry and there's none of the first cleaner left over.  Is that going to hurt the keys?
Favorite new teacher quote -- "You found the only possible wrong answer."

Offline lapland_girl

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Re: Do disinfectant chemicals such as isopropanol damage piano keys?
«Reply #10 on: April 29, 2020, 03:47:05 AM »
I read that piano technicians are advised to use alcohol sprayed on a towel first. Check their website