How to Clean Piano Keys

By October 09, 2015

Cleaning your keyboard may make some noise, but soon your fingers will be delighted to tickle those clean ivories.

Dusting the Keyboard

Some pianists prefer to only dust their keyboard, as a more thorough cleaning can leave the keys feeling slippery to the touch.¹ Here are some tips to help you quickly get those keys dust-free.

You Will Need:

  • Vacuum hose brush
  • An air duster
  • A paintbrush

Steps to Dust the Keyboard:

  1. Use a vacuum hose that has a soft-bristled brush.²
  2. Spray the keys with an air duster or a soft-bristled paintbrush to dust between the keys.¹

General Cleaning

The most important part of cleaning piano keys is to ensure that no water or cleaning fluid drips between the keys, which can cause the wood underneath the keys to swell and crack the keys.³

You Will Need:

  • An eraser
  • A lint-free cloth
  • Ivory Soap
  • Vinegar
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Toothpaste
  • Milk

Steps to Clean the Keys:

  1. Use an eraser to clean the sides of the black keys that are hard to reach.⁴
  2. Wipe a damp cloth over a bar of Ivory soap and use the soapy cloth to wipe each key lengthwise. Use a dry cloth to wipe any soap residue off the keys.⁵
  3. To remove fingerprints, make a solution of 1 part vinegar and 4 parts water. Moisten a cloth with the solution and wipe each key with the cloth. Work in sections and use a dry cloth to dry each key before moving on to the next section. Leave the keys uncovered for a day to allow the vinegar smell to dissipate.⁴
  4. Dilute three tablespoons of rubbing alcohol in a ¼ cup of water. Dampen a cloth with the solution, wipe each key, and allow the solution to dry.⁶
  5. For a more thorough cleaning, apply plain white (non-gel) toothpaste to a damp cloth and use the cloth to scrub plastic or ivory keys. Wipe away the toothpaste with a cloth dampened with milk and then buff the keys with a dry cloth.⁷

Restoring Yellowed Ivory Keys

Ivory piano keys can become yellowed over time. If the keys are badly yellowed, consult a professional cleaner to have keys scraped and polished. For slight yellowing, choose one of the following methods to restore the keys to a gleaming white.

You Will Need:

  1. Baking soda
  2. Lemon
  3. Salt
  4. Mayonnaise
  5. Toothpaste

Steps to Restore the Keys:

  1. Cut pieces of cardboard to fit between the keys to avoid having any liquid drip between the keys.⁴
  2. Mix ¼ cup of baking soda in a quart of water or make a thin paste with lemon juice and salt.⁴You can also use plain yogurt,⁸ mayonnaise or plain white toothpaste instead.⁴
  3. Moisten a soft cloth with the cleaning solution, and use the cloth to wipe each key.
  4. Wipe each key thoroughly with a cloth dampened with plain water to remove any cleaner residue.
  5. Buff each key with a dry cloth.

Additional Tips and Advice

  • Do not use soap to clean ivory keys, as they may stain.²
  • Leave ivory keys uncovered on sunny days to prevent yellowing. The sunlight will bleach the ivory.⁶
  • Keep the cover closed between uses to prevent dust from gathering on the keys.¹

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