Pianotech

Expand all | Collapse all

Cleaning mold or mildew

  • 1.  Cleaning mold or mildew

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 11-12-2017 23:03
      |   view attached
    What is the state of the art for cleaning white fuzzy stuff from inside vertical pianos?

    I've got a customer with an older Steinway upright that had some mice in the past, was in a somewhat humid environment, and now it looks like each little puddle of mouse pee has grown a white tuft of mold or mildew.  This is mostly down on the trapwork and bottom board.

    I'd like to wipe it down with an abrasive pad and am wondering what liquid to use.

    Some research in our archives and on the web produces conflicting advice.  Options include mild detergent and warm water, dilute bleach solution, dilute vinegar, dilute muriatic acid, alcohol, X14, Medica DC 10, and a host of others.

    I'm hesitant to get bleach anywhere near the interior of a piano, to prevent rusting strings.  Same with acid (vinegar or muriatic).

    What has worked for you?

    Thanks,



    ------------------------------
    Greg Graham, RPT
    Brodheadsville, PA
    ------------------------------


  • 2.  RE: Cleaning mold or mildew

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 11-13-2017 01:10
    I've found a solution of borax can be useful in inhibiting the growth of mold, the kind that thrives in damp, dark environments.  About 1/4 cup to 1 gallon water.  Forget where I picked up this tip, but it seems to work better than bleach or detergent.  It's also less toxic.
    Borax is also useful as a insecticide.  A solution of borax painted on wood will act as a prophylactic against dry-wood termites, and the finely powdered version you can buy at the pharmacy scattered around the keyed and bottom board will kill cockroaches, silverfish, and other creepy crawlies.   After having an upright brought into the shop some years ago that was infested with roaches, I often do this now with a new arrival of dubious provenance,  just until I get the time to take it apart and clean it.

    ------------------------------
    Cecil Snyder
    Torrance CA
    310-542-7108
    ------------------------------



  • 3.  RE: Cleaning mold or mildew

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 11-14-2017 02:46
    I agree that borax is an underutilized material.  I contacted the Borax Co. and asked questions of the chemist;  borax is a rust inhibitor and does not corrode most metals (like copper) but it is corrosive on aluminum.  Spraying it around in a piano should be safe and it does inhibit mold and insects.  Just don't spray it in an aluminum frame spinet!

    ------------------------------
    Blaine Hebert
    Duarte CA
    626-795-5170
    ------------------------------



  • 4.  RE: Cleaning mold or mildew

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 11-13-2017 01:43
    I would recommend a mild dilute bleach solution. A drop or two of detergent will allow it to penetrate better.

    Ammonia is also a passably decent disinfectant but bleach will kill or neutralize more virus, bacteria and mold and will help to remove discoloration.

    I would not recommend getting any bleach on the strings, especially on the bass strings though.

    ------------------------------
    Blaine Hebert
    Duarte CA
    626-795-5170
    ------------------------------



  • 5.  RE: Cleaning mold or mildew

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 11-13-2017 02:03
    Do not mix ammonia and chlorine bleach! It generates chlorine gas.

    https://www.google.com/search?q=ammonia+and+bleach+reaction&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8

    ------------------------------
    Susan Kline
    Philomath, Oregon
    ------------------------------



  • 6.  RE: Cleaning mold or mildew

    Member
    Posted 11-13-2017 07:51
    Contact Dave Swartz, owner of Cory Care Products.  He is an expert in dealing with mice in pianos and also sells several products specifically designed to work with those problems.  But whatever you do - wear gloves and a mask - it's a haz mat concern. ( Cory Care Products )










  • 7.  RE: Cleaning mold or mildew

    Posted 11-13-2017 09:42
    Back in the day, when I refinished old uprights and studio pianos, most of them were in country farm houses or barns. Of course, the mice love those as their playgrounds. I know that mouse droppings can be dangerous to inhale and it's not unusual to pull a dead mouse or two out of a piano. I just held my breath while the vacuum ran. Then I just used Isopropyl alcohol, which also kills germs, evaporates quickly and never harmed any metal, like old rusted tarnished piano strings. Lots of Q tips get the alcohol into tight places. So the piano gets cleaned and sanitized. I also have old surgical tools to get pads dipped in alcohol into odd spots on pianos. Back in my surgical assistant days I used a lot of strong 90% rubbing alcohol on the tools used in the operating room before I autoclaved them and set them up for anesthesia or surgery. There you had to wear the full surgical gear and mask. Today rubbing alcohol is only sold at 50% strength at the Dollar Tree where one can purchase plenty of Isopropyl, as well a Q- tips and have at it. 70% Isopropyl alcohol is available at most drug stores and costs a bit more.  I always have exam gloves. I use them when cleaning up a piano or applying finish stripper. Over the years I have breathed up lots of mouse fragrance, and lots of chemicals from furniture and piano refinishing but that's not a problem since I never had any brain cells to lose to begin with :-)  

    Bob Highfield 





  • 8.  RE: Cleaning mold or mildew

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 11-13-2017 11:12

    ​Timely topic, just got done restoring a piano from a house fire and will second the comment contacting Dave Swartz, he was invaluable with his help and knowledge.  The piano had some mold along the inner rim, I found this article to be of great help and information. 


    Remove Mold From Wood - 2014 Guide to mold removal
    Remove Mold Guide remove preview
    Remove Mold From Wood - 2014 Guide to mold removal
    Wood is a hygroscopic material, which is a fancy term that means it likes to soak up and retain water (think of a sponge). This makes sense, since wood comes from trees, which soak up water to grow. While this is good for the tree, its not good for your lumber, furniture, or trim.
    View this on Remove Mold Guide >


    ------------------------------
    Jim Fariss, RPT
    Black Forest Piano
    Black Forest, Colorado
    (719) 425-8845
    ------------------------------



  • 9.  RE: Cleaning mold or mildew

    Posted 07-19-2019 18:52
    Nice article. I'd like to add a couple things. The article said, "...bleach can only kill mold spores that are on the surface of the wood. Mold in wood, however, tends to grow and establish roots below the surface and into the wood fibers."  For the past 2 years, we've had excessive rain and mold in my area. There have been what I am calling "mold blooms" in buildings as well as pianos and other instruments. We had a couple at our college, and the biology department told me to not bother with bleach on anything except non-porous surfaces. They said what this article said, and added that once the bleach evaporates, it leaves behind moisture which can actually encourage mold growth from deeper in where the bleach didn't reach.  Everything I suggested trying, the biology department found reasons it wouldn't work, so I'll just share what I've had luck with. Denatured alcohol has been my go-to for mold clean up, followed by a dehumidifier system. In my home, I've found "Scott's Outdoor Cleaner" does a great job on my instruments, walls, and laundry (yes, it's been bad). Since Scott's Outdoor Cleaner is HYDROGEN PEROXIDE based, I suspect it's basically the same as plain hydrogen peroxide, but I'm going to by trying it on pianos soon. It doesn't bleach my clothing so I'm very pleased with that. I've used it on my home pianos, guitars, recorders, etc. with no ill effects that I am yet aware of. Good luck!

    EDIT: I TYPED ALCOHOL WHEN I SHOULD HAVE TYPED HYDROGEN PEROXIDE. The correction is in CAPS.

    ------------------------------
    Maggie Jusiel
    Athens, WV
    (304)952-8615
    mags@timandmaggie.net
    ------------------------------



  • 10.  RE: Cleaning mold or mildew

    Registered Piano Technician
    Posted 11-13-2017 20:25
    First of all, what ever uou use make sure you are wearing a mask or even a respirator as they fuzzy stuff can get into your lungs when you breath and can cause serious health problems.  Cory products has a formula for treating that kind of infestation.  You can find them on line.

    ------------------------------
    Clarence Zeches
    Piano Service Enterprise School of Technology
    Toccoa GA
    706-886-4035
    ------------------------------



  • 11.  RE: Cleaning mold or mildew

    Posted 07-19-2019 05:42
    There is a lot of moldiness on the walls. Drying with electric heaters does not give any result since there is no full ventilation. Humid air should be removed, and dry come regularly. In my opinion, the best solution is to use a solar air collector. It will bring dry, heated and purified air into the room. But until we get to it, we must remove the already existing moldiness. I have found on the Internet https://cleanhomeguide.com/rmr-86-review/ such product. Can you tell me if it will help?


  • 12.  RE: Cleaning mold or mildew

    Posted 07-19-2019 18:56
    Since that cleaner is bleach based, I personally wouldn't use it on wood. I'll be trying this soon on other peoples' pianos: https://www.scotts.com/en-us/products/outdoor-cleaners/scotts-outdoor-cleaner-plus-oxicleantm-ready-use . It comes in gallon size, also, which is what I've been buying since I've been using it on EVERYTHING, including my piano, other instruments, and laundry. I've also had some luck with denatured alcohol, but I found the Scott's seems to last longer.  Good luck!

    ------------------------------
    Maggie Jusiel
    Athens, WV
    (304)952-8615
    mags@timandmaggie.net
    ------------------------------



  • 13.  RE: Cleaning mold or mildew

    Posted 07-20-2019 09:31
    boric acid is relatively non-toxic and is excellent at killing mold. mix the powder with warm water. also you may want to look into ozone generating machines.

    ------------------------------
    Jason Leininger
    Pittsburgh PA
    412-874-6992
    ------------------------------



  • 14.  RE: Cleaning mold or mildew

    Posted 08-10-2019 18:46
      |   view attached
    3 things:

    1) This is great info and gives me ideas. I'll probably experiment with them.

    2) I mis-typed something in my first post; it's corrected in CAPS.

    3) We have 3 types of mold here that I typically find in pianos. The fuzzy white or fuzzy green I also find in other places such as walls, furniture, other instruments, books, and closets. This flossy yellow type I've only seen in pianos and outside, never elsewhere indoors. I'm going to attach a picture (yes, this is a mold/fungus). I currently have enough actions with this in them that our chapter could do an experiment with different cleaners. I'll suggest it. I'm definitely going to try peroxide as long as I can confirm it won't hurt anything else; I have no clue yet. In the past, I've used denatured alcohol. If my chapter does this, what would you all like us to try as cleaners?

    PS - Our college biology department has identified several molds for me but can't narrow this one down to a single species without a fruiting body. I haven't found one yet. My favorite fruiting body was an orange mushroom growing out from under a grand. LOL!

    PPS - When I say "mold bloom" I mean it's on everything in varying degrees.

    ------------------------------
    Maggie Jusiel
    Athens, WV
    (304)952-8615
    mags@timandmaggie.net
    ------------------------------



  • 15.  RE: Cleaning mold or mildew

    Member
    Posted 08-10-2019 21:14
    That looks like dump material.  How often do they clean the air ducts in the buildings?

    ------------------------------
    Regards,

    Jon Page
    mailto:jonpage@pianocapecod.com
    http://www.pianocapecod.com
    ------------------------------