Not quite understanding why you wash your hands before playing the piano

My niece wanted to play my piano, and I asked her to wash her hands. She said, "I don't need that, I have Magic Soap," and she produced a bottle of hand sanitizer.

Um, the purpose of washing your hands isn't so the piano doesn't get sick.

My piano-instructor cousin-in-law tells me that her young students often say, "My hands are not dirty. They are just a little sticky because I just ate a chocolate muffin on my way here. I don't think I need to wash my hands. Why do you always ask me to wash my hands before the piano lesson?"

Comments (15)
  1. Chad says:

    Magic Soap is going to kill us all. (just kidding). I'm not a doctor, but it's my understanding that the "rinsing" is the most important part of washing, not the "killing bacteria".

  2. tsrblke says:


    That depends on what your goals are though.  Studies have shown that "Magic Soap" is better than hand washing for non-visible dirt (i.e. germs).  So if your about to hit up a buffet, shake someone's hand, or the like, that stuff is where to go.

    Rising is good for "visable dirt" (i.e. the Chocolate muffin."  So if your about to play the piano, rinising become good.

  3. J. Peterson says:

    A children's piano recital is a pretty effective way of spreading germs.  My son performed at one, going up after a little girl with a very runny nose.  He was sick the next day…

  4. DG says:

    probably need more context, but the hand sanitizer would work well in many cases, right?

  5. David Walker says:

    Humans (most humans) have immune systems.  The over-use of hand sanitizer has been criticized by some doctors for contributing to the spread of sanitizer-resistant bacteria.  The survival of the fittest, etc. when you don't kill every last germ.

    I'm not in a position to know whether that's true or not, but I don't carry hand sanitizer around with me to use every waking moment.

    If you or your niece ARE concerned about germs, then your niece should hope that the previous piano players had washed or sanitized THEIR hands.  She shouldn't care whether her hands were sanitary!

    On the other hand (so to speak) washing hands is a great way to keep chocolate off of a piano.

  6. Joshua Ganes says:

    The purpose is not so the piano doesn't get sick, but it does help for the next person to tickle the ivories. A piano with sticky keys can make for some interesting improvisations to well-known pieces.

  7. Joren says:

    Before reading this post I had never heard of hand sanitizer. Must be a cultural thing.

  8. katchu says:

    I worked as a programmer in an IT department that often sent techs out to work on people's computers within the building. On occasion I went along. These were computers of professional, white-collar personnel. There is nothing so gross as the keyboards of many of those folks. Dirt, grime, cookie crumbs, spilled fluids, beard hair (I hope it was beard hair), lint, and whatever was smeared and pressed into the keyboards. Needless to say, the techs did as much remote assistance as possible.

    Check your keyboard now. Shame on you.

  9. @Jondr why don't you bring your keyboard along? Virtually all machines have USB ports right now.

    (It this is re-post, sorry. The first try did not go through).

  10. chrismcb says:

    I would assume you wash your hands before playing the piano, so the piano doesn't get sick (that is, the piano keys stay nice and healthy and don't get all sticky or get stuff between the keys)

    I would assume you wash your hands after playing the piano so you don't get sick.

  11. Rebecca says:

    Magic soap is something they always say at woodland park zoo…wondering if it may be a borrowed phrase :)

  12. Iago says:

    The kids don't think their hands are dirty because they themselves would be willing to lick their fingers.  "Dirty" is when you've got mud or something on there, right?  Food isn't dirt!

    I suspect many programmers have a similar attitude to code.  "I don't need to test this routine.  I wrote it myself.  I don't see any scope for bugs in that."

  13. woohoo says:

    just watch this in context of washing hands

  14. Mijzelf says:

    @J. Peterson: Then this illness was not caused by playing the 'infected' piano. The incubation time of a common cold is longer.…/incubation.htm

    Futher 'Magic Soap' only kill bacterias, AFAIK, and most diseases which you could get from a piano are caused by a virus. So washing with soap and a lot of water is a better idea. (And it also removes chocolate).

  15. David Walker says:

    Yes, @Mijzelf, viruses are generally harder to kill than bacteria.  I wish it were not so.

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