How to Clean and Care for a Music Box

By Douglas Christian Larsen

Things Needed

  • Clean 100-percent cotton cloth
  • Mini computer vacuum
  • Pure white vinegar
  • Distilled water
  • Cotton swabs

A music box, or musical box, whether antique or new, should be handled with care and stored in a location of respect, preferably in a glass cabinet, and dusted often. Give a music box the same level of attention as fine furniture, keeping the instrument out of direct sunlight, always allowing the movement to wind down before storing, and never winding while the music box is in motion. A new music box, maintained wisely, can become a cherished heirloom, bringing joy to generations.

Cleaning the music box

Dampen the cotton cloth with distilled water and gently rub the music box in a circular motion, removing all fingerprints and dust. Thoroughly dry with a 100-percent cotton cloth. Use another cotton cloth and a small amount of pure white vinegar to clean glass covers. Wipe gently and dry with another cotton cloth moistened with distilled water.

Clean the inside of the music box by vacuuming away all dust and debris with a a small, inexpensive computer vacuum. Take care around small moving parts and don't touch any of the music box surfaces with the computer vacuum. Vacuum inside the lid and around the bedpan (the foundation of the music box mechanism).

Use a cotton swab moistened with a small amount of pure white vinegar (the swab should be damp, not dripping wet) to gently clean the comb (the tiny metal pieces that are "plucked" to produce musical tones) and cylinder, making certain not to snag the cotton fluff of the swab on the myriad tiny mallet-spikes (the tiny protrusions that "pluck" the teeth on the comb).

Play the music box, thus rotating the cylinder, allowing for complete cleaning of the cylinder and all mallet-spikes. Discard cotton swabs as they become visibly soiled.

Go over all parts a second time with a cotton swab moistened with distilled water to remove all traces of vinegar from metal parts

Use a cotton swab moistened with a small amount of pure white vinegar to clean the inner receptacle of the key (if removable), as well as the crank to which the key attaches. If the key is permanently affixed to the music box, use distilled water rather than vinegar to clean around the key. Dry with a 100-percent cotton cloth.