Cleaning Outside of Synthesizer?

Synth Wizards #6 got me thinking–what is your process for cleaning up the exterior of synths like that to restore their luster? I have a VFX I bought for a good price that works well, but has some grime, scratches, and marks, particularly in the corners and cracks. I also have a JX-8P that I’ve owned since new that has marks from where my hand would rest on it while playing. I’m not sure how to safely clean either to make them look as nice as you made the Jupiter look.

This reminds me of a story…

Back in the early days of Ensoniq, I had to send them keyboards for repair a couple of times. I wasn’t a slob or anything, but I was doing a lot of touring and those boards had probably circled the globe a few times. Any time I got anything back from Ensoniq, I was amazed that it looked practically new again. So I made it a point to ask about the magic stuff that they used the next time I was at their factory.

Soon, I was there, and I made the inquiry. The answer: a slightly damp cloth. And it’s true - it works very well.

That said, Gerald is the master of making a keyboard look new, and he uses several other things as well. Rubbing alcohol gets a lot of use here, and sometimes a harsher solvent but it depends on the panel - you can risk taking off the lettering or even paint if you use the wrong stuff. So always test it first, on a less-critical part of the panel, and with a quick application and quick wipe-off, to see how it fares. Most panels (JX-8P, for example) are powder coated, and that basic finish is almost indestructible. But anything screened onto it will be more at risk.

For Tolex and similar coverings, black shoe polish (the liquid kind in a bottle) works wonders.

One final note: it’s often much easier to clean out the cracks and crevices when the synth is more in pieces. Some parts can go into a sink of warm water with dish soap, and cleaned with a toothbrush. So if you are needing to disassemble anything, that’s probably the best opportunity for detailing.

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A word on the use of warm water and soap on plastic cases: it works great! Just be mindful of the temperature of the water and the hardness of the implement you’re using to scrub. Water that is too hot on a thin case will warp the plastic (as I discovered recently while cleaning a binned DX100), and a stiff-bristled brush cleaning could potentially scratch it.

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A Philips Sonicare with an old toothbrush attachment works wonders for getting crud out of little nooks and crannies. I use my wife’s but don’t tell her.

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