How to Unstick Piano Keys?

The piano is one of the most prominent instruments that reached its pinnacle during the Industrial revolution. In that time, it gained new modern features thanks to the Broadwood firm owned by John Broadwood. Since then, it has inspired many virtuoso composers and performers who have dedicated their time and patience to master playing.

However, great talent, practice, and dedication usually go hand in hand with some problems of technical nature. All of the pianists have encountered the sticky keys issues as it comes along with playing the piano. These issues shouldn’t stand in the way of greatness and talent. Therefore, we will talk about how to unstick the piano keys, so you don’t need to lose energy and time to solve these obstacles.

Why Do Piano Keys Stick?

There are a few primary reasons why the piano keys stick. Some of them are complex, so you should ask for professional help. However, you can probably solve the problem on your own in most cases. Let’s take a look.

Some easy-to-solves problems include:

  • Jammed items between and under the keys
  • Swelling of the keys as a result of humidity
  • Dirty keys

These are simple tasks that you can resolve yourself quickly, and it won’t cost you anything. On the other hand, a few problems need a piano technician’s help, such as:

  • Tightening the bushings
  • Tightening the sluggish parts
  • Repairing keys bounded by the keys slip
  • Dealing with fractures in the balance rail pins

For these tasks, the professional will use specialized tools and need more time since they are more complicated and require the piano’s disassembling.

Ways to Unstick Piano Keys

1. Jammed items between and under the keys

Jammed items between and under the keys
Image: Noname Music

In most cases, you will need only everyday household tools and a few minutes of your time to remove debris or small items stuck between keys. Often, you can blow out some tiny particles such as food crumbs or small pieces of paper.

Additionally, you will need a sharp thin knife or some thin wire to remove everything there. Gently reach the particle and dig it out. For coins, earrings, and other metal pieces, you can use a magnet.

If the object is under the keys, you will need a screwdriver to remove the piano lid and a music shelf. Then, you need to unscrew a fallboard. In case you don’t know which parts are those, you should leave that task to a professional.

When removing screws, it is advisable to mark them as you will need to put everything back as it was before. Once you have taken out all the pieces, you should grab the back part of the keyboard with one hand, while elevating the front part with the other. Then, shake it a bit, and take out the problematical stuck object.

Make sure to uplift the front part of the keyboard for about 0.5 inches (12 mm). Once you have finished, you should assemble the piano as it used to be. Always keep in mind that the piano is a delicate instrument, so you need to be highly careful and gentle.

2. Moisture and swelling of the keys

For all of you living in humid and wet regions, swelling of the keys caused by humidity can be the possible reason for the problem. Luckily, you have all the tools for solving this issue at your home.

First, prepare the thin-tipped screwdriver. The next step is to locate the key that is stuck and press it. You need to attach the screwdriver between the stuck key and the next one. While doing so, don’t let go of the key you are pressing. That will be enough to separate the stuck key from the neighbor one.

Unfortunately, this issue may occur all the time as keys are made of wood, and the wood tends to swell in wet areas. Therefore, you should master ways to fix this problem, as you will need that skill more than once.

3. Dirty keys

In most cases, solving the problem with dirty keys is not complicated, and all you need is a good cleaning. To do that, you need to prepare a soft lint-free cloth, warm water, and a few drops of mild detergent or soap.

Always make sure the cloth is not too wet to prevent the swelling of the keys. Always rub them one by one. Once you finish the job, you need to wipe all the keys thoroughly with a dry cloth.

The best way to clean the plastic keys is with a bit of vinegar and warm water. The procedure is basically the same. Wipe them with a not too wet lint-free cloth. As soon as you finish with wiping, polish them out with a dry lint-free cloth.

In case you have ivory keys, you will need some non-abrasive toothpaste and a soft toothbrush or dry cloth. You need to clean the entire keys one by one, not just stuck and sticky ones.

If you want your piano keys to shine, you can buff them with milk. Always use water and soap to finish the task, but the toothpaste will give them extra gloss.

For cleaning the black keys, you should use the method with soap or vinegar. Keep in mind that the toothpaste method doesn’t apply to black keys!

4. Other problems

Other problems that may occur are more delicate and ask for more experienced and skilled people to deal with them. Unless you are qualified for this job, I suggest not trying to solve the issue with stuck keys on your own. Otherwise, you will probably face significant and expensive damage.


In the past, the piano was the symbol of wealth, status, and talent. Nowadays, it is more common for people to have pianos than it used to be two centuries ago. Therefore, it is easier to find experts, piano tuners, and piano technicians to help you when any issue occurs. Plus, their service is not that expensive as it used to be. In many cases, it is more comfortable to call them to solve the problem with stuck keys.

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