How to Polish Lacquer or Polymer Piano Finishes


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To polish your piano without causing damage to the finish or to the instrument itself, be sure to first go over the basic guidelines for cleaning a piano. It's also imperative to keep wood polish off the keyboard; there are unique methods for cleaning piano keys.

Lacquer vs. Polyester Finishes

Before you polish your piano, you'll need to find out whether it's been finished with polymer or lacquer; these two surfaces must be polished differently to avoid damage or irreversible blemishes.

Here’s how to distinguish lacquer from polymer piano finishes:


Lacquer is most common on North American pianos and will resemble most other pieces of wooden furniture. You can usually see the wood grain under the finish, and the surface will seem easily scratchable.

Most Tell-Tale Lacquer Problem

A waxy buildup is common on lacquer finishes, as is a softening of the varnish. Lacquer can also dry out very quickly depending on cleaning habits and local weather.

Polymer (or Polyester)

Polyester finishes are hard and are usually dark and reflective. It’s annoyingly easy to spot fingerprints, and difficult to see the wood grain.

Common Polymer Annoyances

Polymer finishes rarely dull, and can hold their own against spills, deep scratches, and dents reasonably well. However, that same stubborn shine can highlight otherwise minuscule flaws, and improper cleaning can allow a pattern of hairline scratches to take over the piano’s surface.