How to Clean Plastic Or Ivory Piano Keys – 2023

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. How to Clean Plastic Or Ivory Piano Keys – will be discussed in the article. 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.

The piano keys may eventually become dirty; that much is certain. Whether you play frequently or merely occasionally, maintaining your instrument will help it live longer. Dust, dirt, and skin oils can get between the keys as well as on the surface, making practice sessions sticky and unpleasant. However, one must first realize that you cannot clean your instrument the same way you would a window or a table before you acquire your cleaning products. There are procedures you must follow. If not, you risk accidentally breaking your piano. 

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 These ivory keys are now superseded by cellulose and plastic in the year the 1930s as it has become illegal to use animal parts in most countries.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 an 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 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

Material Used in Piano Keys –

Tops and fronts of piano keys are normally constructed of one of two materials:

  • Plastic 
  • Ivory

Since ivory is no longer permitted, most manufacturers now fabricate their piano keys out of acrylic plastic or Ivorite, an imitation ivory substance, that is usually strong plastic. Because that is the industry norm and you probably bought the piano brand new, it was probably constructed with this material. Ivory, on the other hand, is a different matter; piano keys in the US and Europe were still produced of this material as recently as the 1970s. Elephant tusks are used to make ivory, which is now illegal worldwide because of widespread poaching that has put this wonderful animal in peril.

However, this does not imply that possessing a piano with ivory keys is prohibited. If your piano was constructed before 1970, it probably was not made of ivory, but if it was, you can determine by checking when it was made by examining the keytops closely. Off-white ivory ages to a yellowish color.

A horizontal line that passes through the white keys at the bottom of the black keys connects the key’s stem to the key top because ivory keys are also composed of two parts on top. Your keys are presumably made of ivory, as indicated by this. They are typically more challenging to clean than plastic keys because they are porous. To avoid harming the instrument by using the incorrect cleaning procedure, one must differentiate between the two materials. 

  • Both ivory and plastic keys can be cleaned using these straightforward, step-by-step methods. As white vinegar is great at eliminating stains and fingerprints, you can also use it to clean plastic keys. But you should be cautious not to use too much water on your cloth as this can harm it while washing the plastic keys on a digital piano. But just in case, make sure to read the manufacturer’s handbook for more information on how to maintain digital pianos.
  • One thing to keep in mind, though, is that you should not expose plastic keys to direct sunlight for an extended period. They could lose their color and turn yellow as a result of this. If the instrument is in direct line with the sun, cover the windows using curtains, blinds, or even other sun protection measures. Interestingly, the converse is true for ivory keys, as prolonged exposure to intense sunshine can cause them to become noticeably whiter.
  • While having to clean plastic and ivory keys is similar, the polishing process for ivory is different. The ivory keys will gradually lose their whiteness and begin to discolor. You can replace ivory keys, if necessary (using legally obtained ivory or keytops from old pianos), but you can also polish them to restore more of their original colors. Fortunately, you do not have to buy an unknown and costly product to do so as well! Surprisingly, toothpaste is a regular option used to polish ivory keys, and it works well. It is discovered that the brightening agent in this dental product that is used to whiten can also be utilized to whiten ivory 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 to the entire piano with a dry cloth to remove any leftover dirt.
how to clean plastic or ivory piano keys

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 on How to Clean Plastic Or Ivory Piano Keys –

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 on How to Clean Plastic Or Ivory Piano Keys –

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.

The keys should look brand new after cleanup and buffing and be ready to play again. To keep the keyboard or piano in good condition, disinfect it every couple of weeks and clean it at least once a month. You can space out how often you clean it if it’s not used very often, but dusting with a brush may be something you’ll want to do every couple of weeks if it’s not being used so that the keys will still accumulate a lot of surface dust.

You can also try to reduce cleaning in between uses if everyone who uses the piano, including yourself, washes as well as dries their hands before using it. It is critical to clean the piano. It keeps it shiny and helps it last a long time. While some parts require more frequent attention, caring for your piano is an essential part of being a pianist. 

Related Guides:


  1. How to find the difference between ivory keys and plastic keys? 
  • Ivory keys are more off-white in colour than white.
  • Plastic keys have a smoother surface and a clear-like coating.
  • Ivory keys will also have two visible parts that are joined together.
  • Ivory keys will turn yellow as they become dirty.
  1. How to clean the soundboard of piano? 

Place the compressed air can a few inches well above the soundboard. Blow the dust in an exact way as the strings with vertical strokes. Avoid touching the strings or soundboard with your hands or the can. After that, blow the debris and dust into an accessible part of the instrument. The dust can then be collected with the vacuum cleaner. 

  1. What is the importance that one should not do after cleaning the piano? 

Your piano does not serve as a table! While it may be convenient to place items on your piano, it is best to refrain from doing that (especially food and drinks). If you must place something on your piano, a preventative fabric or coaster is recommended. 

  1. Suggest an easy way to whiten the keys

One final method for whitening your piano keys is to gently rub a white vinyl eraser down each white key, making sure to do each key separately to prevent any eraser bits getting in between the keys. 

  1. What product can be used to clean piano keys?

Utilize vinegar and water to clean plastic keys. Water is required for ebony and ivory keys, and a gentle quantity of soap is ideal. Simply use water and piano polish to clean the case. 

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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