Cleaning Piano Keys

I recently bought an old player piano. The keys are really yellow and I have tried many cleaners and nothing seems to be working at whitening the keys. Any suggestions?

Judy from PA

Answers:

They may not become white again...

If they are yellow and the piano is really old, they are probably ivory. Be careful what kinds of cleaners you use on pianos! You can ruin them quickly putting the wrong cleaner on them -- especially the newer ones with shiny black lacquer finish. My piano, in particular, can have no cleaner at all other than a slightly damp (with water only) soft cloth. I would ask a reputable antique dealer what to use to clean the keys. They may not become white again if they are ivory and very old. (04/12/2005)

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Vinegar

I have an antique piano with ivory keys. We have used straight vinegar to whiten and clean the keys since we got the piano in the 1950's. We dip the cloth to get it slightly wet and do a key at a time. You might have to repeat the process over time but they should get whiter each treatment. (04/12/2005)

Vinegar

I don't know how old this piano actually is, but if it is 50 or more years old, I am pretty sure that the keys are ivory, and ivory tends to yellow over age. DO NOT use chemical cleaners on the keys if they are ivory. The best thing to use for cleaning piano keys is a solution of vinegar and water. Ivory keys used to be the norm, and those keys turned yellow just because of age. There isn't a whole lot you can do about it, but if you do have ivory keys, that piano is probably worth having appraised.

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Modern piano keys are made of plastic, and they don't tend to yellow. Find out how old that piano actually is, and if it is old enough to have ivory keys, don't do anything -- other than dusting them with a dry dust cloth or washing them with vinegar and water. I know this because my mother was given my grandmother's piano -- a 1926 Steinway baby grand (5'2" long -- a very unusual size,) and my mother thought she was improving the piano by having it refinished, and a host of other things. The long and short of it is that she replaced the keys which happened to be ivory, and diminished the value of the piano -- and ruined a special part of it in the process. (04/12/2005)

By skbeal

Get Professional Help

Since this piano is obviously quite old, it's highly possible that the keys are real ivory. In that case, I don't think it's possible to change the color. However, having said that, my recommendation is that you contact a professional piano tuner and get his/her advice. You definitely don't want to use any excessive moisture on them. (04/12/2005)

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Keep the Lid Open

We were told when we got an older practice piano years ago that the best way to lighten your piano keys was to keep the lid open. The light will help take care of the problem. (04/13/2005)

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By Dee

The Sun

I've been assured that leaving the keys in the sun will change them back. (08/03/2006)

By Andrew

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