Instrument Insight

How to Clean Piano Keys Safely? (Step By Step Guide)

How To Clean Piano Keys

Learn how to clean piano keys [both Ivory and Plastic] safely in a step by step process, different types of piano keys, tips and tricks and much more!

If you are a pianist, nothing can be more frustrating for you to see your piano keys covered with dust. If you are away from your piano for long or just using it for a year without cleaning the keys, it will look dirty. Dirt, dust, and oils from your skin damage the brightness of the piano keys. 

However, there is no alternative to proper care and maintenance to keep your piano keys shiny and bright like new for years. But, is it really easy to clean the piano keys? Not so much if you do not know how to do it. In case you start cleaning the keys without knowing the right way to clean them, you might end up damaging them instead.

So, to help cleaning your piano keys easily, we have come up with this guide on how to clean Piano keys safely. In this article, we will explore the types of piano keys, how to clean them, and what not to do while cleaning the piano keys.

We will also try to share some tips and tricks on how to take care of the keys. Let’s go ahead.

Different Types of Piano Keys

The first step to clean the piano keys without damaging them is to know what type of keys your piano comes with. When you know the information about your piano key’s material, you can easily clean them at home or with the help of a professional. Piano keys are usually made of one or more of the four materials as follows:

Ivory Keys

Ivory keys are made from the teeth and tusks of the elephants and other animals like that. This material looks shiny and feels hard. However, when it comes to color, they are off-white. Each ivory key is combined with two parts that you can easily differentiate from each other. When the ivory keys get dirty, they look yellowish. Though you can whiten ivory keys, this is a challenging task to do.

Ebony Keys

When it comes to making the black piano keys, ebony is widely used. Ebony is hard. Being made from tropical wood ebony keys are dark in color.

Cellulose Keys

Cellulose Keys can also be named as imitation ivory. These keys are made up of organic plastic.

Acrylic Keys

Acrylic keys are also very common in the modern piano.

Here’s an Expert Recommended Piano Keytops Complete Set you can look at for your replacement needs.

Characteristics of Different Piano Keys

Characteristics of Different Piano Keys

Though keyboards are made with plastic and piano with the ivory keys most of the time, the condition is changing. As ivory is getting rare day by day, many pianos are using plastic keys instead of ivory keys in the piano. Plastic keys are smoother than ivory keys as they come with a clear coating over them. On the other hand, plastic keys do not feature grain as ivory keys do.

In the beginning, ivory keys were used widely for piano keys. However, when it started to become rare, cellulose and plastic keys started to replace them. From the 1930s, the plastic keys and cellulose keys started to become popular and continued to be more popular when many countries declared the use of ivory in the piano as illegal.

However, if you have got an age-old piano with a thin seam running horizontally at the narrowing point of the key, you’ve probably got a piano with ivory keys.

Pianos with ivory keys are considered as classic and are usually quite costly when compared with the cost of the piano with plastic keys.

However, Piano keys are usually categorized as being either made of ivory or plastic.

It is important to know about the materials of your piano keys because the cleaning process will differ based on the material. If you do not know about the material used in your piano keys, you might end up damaging your piano keys while your intention is just to clean the keys.

Now that you know about different kinds of Piano keys along with the special characteristics and features they come with let’s see how you can clean both the ivory and plastic keys.

How to Clean Plastic Piano Keys [Step by Step]

How To Clean Plastic Piano Keys
  • First of all, prepare the necessary liquid to clean the plastic piano keys. Take a bowl of warm water. Add a few drops of mild dish soap in the water.
  • Soak a clean piece of microfiber cloth in hot water and soap solution. Make sure that the cloth you have taken is white.
  • However, bring out the cloth after dipping that in the liquid for a few seconds. Get rid of any extra water from the cloth by twisting it. You have to ensure that the cloth is not so wet that water from the cloth enters between the keys and damage them forever. So, using just a damp cloth is ideal for cleaning the piano keys.
  • Now, start cleaning the piano with the white keys in a brushing motion. Do not rub the cloth abruptly or press hard on the keys. Be gentle while you clean the keys on by one. While you stroke the keys with the cloth in a brushing motion, make sure that you clean the keys following the back-to-front method and not a side-to-side method. If you adopt the side-to-side bruising method, there is a possibility of moisture and dirt getting transformed between the keys. Also, make sure that you are not wiping the keys from backwards.
  • When it comes to cleaning the black keys, take another microfiber polishing cloth and stroke gently by going from back to front.
  • Once you have cleaned both the white and black keys with two different clothes, take another dry cloth to wipe off the moisture on the keys or any soap residue.
  • When you have completely dried up the piano keys, cover them so that no dust can damage them.

Keytops, Liquid, and Microfiber Cloths (Expert Recommended):

How to Clean Ivory Piano Keys [Step by Step]

How To Clean Ivory Piano Keys

Well, now that you know the process of cleaning plastic piano keys, it’s time to know how to clean ivory piano keys. Note that, if you find the cleaning process complicated, you can also take professional help. Anyway, let’s go ahead.

  • Firstly, determine whether your piano with ivory keys can be categorized as antique. If it is an antique, your improper cleaning can damage its real value.
  • While you go for cleaning the ivory piano keys, refrain yourself from using any chemicals and soaps.
  • Manage a pair of cotton gloves. Make sure that the pair of gloves you choose is white.
  • Take a paintbrush with soft-bristle or any delicate microfiber duster to clean off the ivory piano keys.
  • If you intend to whiten the ivory keys of the piano, you can use a white vinyl eraser to rub the upper surface of the ivory carefully and gently. Repeat this for all the keys of your piano. You can also use a steel wool pad to whiten the ivory keys.
  • Exposing your ivory keys to sunlight is another effective way to whiten the ivory keys.

Necessary Things to Execute Cleaning Your Piano with This Method (Expert Recommended):

Things to Avoid while Cleaning the Piano Keys

Thigs To Avoid While Clening The Piano Keys

Here is a list of a few things you should not do while cleaning the piano keys. If you do these, you might damage your piano keys:

  1. If you need to use anything artificial, keep that limited to mild soaps only. Never use chemical cased polish or cleaners as these are too harsh and not appropriate to clean piano keys.
  2. Avoid using paper towels to wipe off both the black keys and white keys of your piano. Use only the cloth that does not come with lint and does not hold any residue.
  3. Wiping the piano keys side by side is damaging for the keys as moisture may get inside. So, brush or wipe off the piano keys following the back to front technique.
  4. Avoid using the cloth for cleaning the black keys that you previously used to clean the white keys. Use separate cloths for cleaning black and white keys.

Tips for Maintaining the Piano Keys

Tips for Maintaining the Piano Keys
  1. Try to clean your piano keys every day before you start playing the piano. You can buy a soft and long-bristled paintbrush to clean the piano keys after a regular interval.
  2. Wash your hands and then dry up before playing the piano each time.
  3. Keep your piano keys covered so that they are not exposed to much dirt.
  4. Place your piano in a place that is clean and spacious.


Pro Tip For Better Maintenance

  • Using a good quality dust cover while your piano not in use will solve more than half of your cleaning and maintenance issues away. So, if possible, make a habit and try to pro-actively maintain the habit of using a dust cover. This one here comes with a piano chord eBook, built-in-bag, elastic cord, and locking clasp for absolutely free.
  • If the piano is playing by your kids, you can use awesome stickers which has dual advantage- it can save dust as well as it will be fun to play and make the learning journey more enjoyable.

Final Thoughts

Having a piano can be very handy at times because it’s the most basic instrument for a musician. Even you can tune your other instrument like guitar with it. Curious to know how? Check this out!

And to keep your piano flawless, it is mandatory to keep the keys clean. There’s no other option and it’s not very tough if you know how to clean them. We hope that our guide on how to clean piano keys safely will help you to clean your piano keys without damaging them.

Author | Piano Expert at Instrument Insight | Website

Amanda A. Evans comes from a small town in Indiana. At 25 years old, she is an expert on pianos and their gears. She has a great understanding of how pianos are made, their playability, and the different materials they are built with. Her knowledge of the history and origins of various piano brands is unparalleled. Amanda loves to share her expertise with others and help them find the perfect piano for their needs.

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