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Cleaning Piano Keys

How do I get the yellow out of my ivory piano keys without harming it. It has to be a child and animal safe substance. We have tried fingernail polish remover. Does this damage the keys?


Kiki from SC


Cleaning Piano Keys

I just read on another website that a solution of 30% hydrogen peroxide and an ultraviolet light is used by a professional antique piano restorer to whiten genuine ivory. This sounds like a treatment used by dentists to whiten teeth. I just used a solution of regular hydrogen peroxide and some swabs to clean my yellowing ivory piano keys. It certainly removed some built up dirt and oil from previous owners. As far as whitening it immediately I haven't noticed anything extremely significant. However, it seems to evaporate quickly off the keys which seems like a good idea. (03/14/2007)

By Jennifer

Cleaning Piano Keys

I have had an old Heintzman Upright Grand for about 40 years. It was built in Toronto Canada iin the 20s. It is in pristine condition. I have had many piano tuners over the years, however the very first fella that came had been in the piano tuning business for many years. He gave us the very best advice for whitening and cleaning my ivory keys.

A little lemon juice on a soft rag with a little elbow grease.
Do it often so that the oils from your fingers do not have a chance to build up residue on the keys. Air-borne dust, dirt, and particles can also lead to graying of the keys so if you value your piano and play it often, wipe the keys often with lemon juice. You will notice results. (04/01/2007)

By My Ivory

Cleaning Piano Keys

"Spray Nine" is the name of a cleaning agent sold in paint stores. A reputable piano restorer suggested I use it to clean the keys by rubbing with 000 steel wool and "Spray Nine" and it worked quite well. (04/25/2007)

By Jay

Cleaning Piano Keys

I have a very rewarding 1898 Bechstein upright with original ivory keys, the ivorys are in excellent condition and my piano tuner always remarks on their whiteness.

My secret is to treat them like you would treat your teeth, ivory is bone after all.


Never use WATER or anything ACID or SOLVENT based, this will damage and erode the ivory.

I firstly wipe over the keys with a dry lint-free cloth, then I gently apply regular non coloured toothpaste and gently rub it in. Then the toothpaste is rinsed away with milk using another lint-free cloth. Finally I use an extra soft lint-free cloth to buff the keys to a brilliant shine.

Also it helps if you wash your hands or at least wipe them in a dry towel before playing an instrument with ivory keys. Keeping the lid up to expose them to sunlight does also help and wiping the keys after playing can be beneficial. (07/14/2007)

Cleaning Piano Keys

That is if your piano keys are ivory, piano keys using early plastics discoloured easily from body oils and the old plastics also discolour purely from age anyway. In this case the only option is to have the keyslips replaced with new plastic. Though if it is an antique piano yellowed keys are an expected feature by dealers and buyers. (10/19/2007)

Cleaning Piano Keys

My mother said, "that her mother told her 45 years ago, to clean them with real mayonnaise". We tried it on a 100 year old piano that we just acquired, and guess what? It really worked. They are not snow white, but it did make a really big difference. And they are silky to the touch.

By Patty

Cleaning Piano Keys

My mother told me that her Mom told her 45 yrs ago that real mayonnaise would clean the keys. They didn't turn out pearly white, but it made a huge difference. We thought we get even more creative and use peanut butter. It did an even better job, go figure. Our updates will continue as we experiment further. Peace out. (01/24/2008)

By Patty

Cleaning Piano Keys

Some pianos use bone and mammoth tusk material for key tops also. All ivory key tops have a head and a tail piece distinguished by a fine line joining them near the end of the sharp keys. Some plastic tops look very similar with even a grain structure molded in, but they are all one piece without the line.

There is a polish called Ivorene used for ivory by piano technicians that works well. Also sunlight works best for age yellow. Contaminated ivory suffering from piano lounge syndrome ie., cigarette smoke, can be rubbed with the finest steel wool and then polished with fine rubbing compound.

Real ivory is an opaque material that lets sun shine through it. Manufacturers used zinc oxide on top of the keys to whiten them first so that the ivory will appear whiter on top. If you have to glue one back on, make sure the wood is covered in white first if it came off with the glue wafer they used.

(piano technician)


By Emmery

Cleaning Adhesive Off Piano Keys

I've had great luck getting old sticker and tape adhesive off ivory piano keys by rubbing olive oil on the keys, then gently scraping the adhesive off. Works like a charm, and doesn't harm the ivory! (09/16/2009)

By purplepudley

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