How to Clean Plastic Or Ivory Piano Keys- 2022

It is not uncommon for the piano keys to pick up dust or grease on the surface and it could be disheartening to see a thousand dollar investment getting dust accumulation. Most of the piano keys are either made of ivory or have ivory embedments so that they render an excellent tactile feel on the fingers and prevent them from slipping.

Ivory is a hard and white material that is derived from the tusks and the teeth of elephants. These ivory keys are now superseded by cellulose and plastic in the year 1930s as it has become illegal to use animal parts in most of the countries. But the tell-tale sign of these ivory keys in pianos is that they carry a thin seam that runs horizontally where every white key narrows down. Here is what you can do to clean the white piano keys.

Dry cleaning the keys with a cloth

Cleaning the keys with a microfiber cloth is the first step in cleaning the acoustic piano with ivory keys or a digital piano with plastic keys. Cleaning it with a clean and dry microfiber cloth will help remove all the dust that has settled on the keys superficially. While wiping, start from the top of the keys to the near edge, as you sit at the piano. It is not a good idea to wipe horizontally as it can misalign or damage the keys when done harshly.

Also read: How to Clean Piano Keys and Keyboards?

Wet cleaning of the keys

The next step is to clean the keys with a damp cloth that is dipped in the soapy solution. But we have to keep in mind that ivory is a porous material that can be damaged by some cleaning techniques. For example, it could cause the ivory keys to warp and the glue sealing in them can get loose if they are wet.

Thus, it is important to make sure that the cloth is just damp to clean the dirt and we should also wipe off the moisture quickly with a dry cloth. In this technique, it is important to use only white cloth and not colored cloth, as the color from the cloth can get transferred to the piano keys. 

Plastic Or Ivory Piano Keys

Step by step cleaning technique for a sparkling shine on the keys

  • Switch off the piano and unplug it.
  • Be sure to remove any batteries, if it is an electric piano.
  • Mix a solution with one part of dish soap and four parts of water
  • Use a white cotton cloth and dab it in the liquid slightly.
  • Ensure that the area of the cloth that is damp is not more than the size of your fingertip.
  • Start the cleaning process from the lowest white note on the piano and work your way up.
  • Make sure that the keys are rubbed back to front, to draw the dust off the keys.
  • Continue the cleaning process, one octave at a time, and use a separate cloth to dry the keys quickly.
  • If the cloth gets dry or gets dirty, pick another spot on the cloth, dab in the solution, and continue cleaning.
  • After wiping down every key, return to the lowest white note and wipe down the fronts as well.
  • Repeat the cleaning process for the black keys as well.
  • Clean the white keys completely and go on with the black keys, to avoid staining the white keys.
  • Give a final cleaning touch for the entire piano with a dry cloth to remove any leftover dirt.

Getting the spark back on the white keys

With age and repeated use, we can find that the piano keys get discolored and it could be quite trickier to restore the white tone to the piano keys. For pianos made of real ivory keys, using toothpaste in the cleaning process mentioned above can help in lightening their color slightly. If the regular cleaning doesn’t bring any good effect, the best way is to consult a professional piano cleaning service providers, who will get ahead to bleach the keys.

You can also try moving the piano to a place where it gets indirect sunlight, as it can help bleach the keys to get them to look whiter again. Alternatively, you can also try using a white vinyl eraser to rub down the white keys and restore their shine.

Strict precautions to take before initiating the cleaning process

It is important not to try pouring the cleaning solution or use them in excess so that they get extensive and direct contact with the keys. This will cause the water to seep between the keys and result in irreversible damage to the piano. It is important not to wipe side to side, as they could loosen the alignment of the key or move the dust between the keys, causing them to stick.

It is important not to wipe them from front to back either, as this will help to push the dust behind the keys. And most importantly, while cleaning we should not use a scrubbing brush or a scouring pad in an attempt to remove tougher stains, as it could get the key surface dull or scratch it extensively.

Bottom Line

Though the above-mentioned tips help in preventing the keys from getting dirty, prevention is always the best means to keep the piano protected. It is important to stay on top of the dust built-up by regularly wiping the keys. Never leave the keys exposed even for a single day, as it can propagate the buildup of dust.

The pianist should wash their hands and make sure that they are completely dry before sitting down to play on the piano. This will prevent the transfer of dirt and grease to the keys. Avoid exposing the plastic keys of the piano to direct sunlight as it can create a yellow layer on the keys. Most importantly, when the piano is not in use, close the lid and use a dust cover to protect the keys. This will prevent spillages and prevents the build-up of dust and dirt from the piano. But do not keep them closed always, as they have to breathe often to prevent the build-up of humidity.

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Being in love with music, Larry started this website to help piano lovers get the most detailed and accurate information with his 5 Years of experience of working in a music store.

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