Cleaning Piano Keys

By Kathi 1

I just got an old piano and there is some gunk, like old stickers on some of the keys. How do I clean this off? I can't use Goo Gone because of the ivory keys, correct?

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By Kathi from Montgomery, AL

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By Suntydt 75 877 Flag

November 15, 2010

I think the ivory can take it. I would try the Goo Gone or if you are really paranoid about that stuff try some Simple Green. Spray it on and let it soak, then clean it off. I used to buy Simple Green at my local automotive store like Pep Buys, High Gear, Advanced Auto or Auto Zone. Any of them should have it.

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By shirley dobie 11 61 Flag

November 16, 2010

In days gone by we used mayonaise to clean ivory keys.

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By Dena Roberts 35 491 Flag

November 16, 2010

Whatever you use, don't spray it on as the excess leaks down between the keys into the piano. Wipe anything on with a soft cloth and use sparingly. Doing this 2 or 3 times is better than having the excess ruin the inner workings and the wood!

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Archive: 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)

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.

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)

By

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)

By Dee

The Sun

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

By Andrew

Archive: 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

Feedback:

RE: 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

RE: 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

RE: 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

RE: 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)

RE: 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)

RE: 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.
(01/24/2008)

By Patty

RE: 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

RE: 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)

(11/22/2008)

By Emmery

RE: 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

Archive: Cleaning Piano Keys

How do I clean nicotine off of ivory piano keys?

By Kay from Nashville, TN

Feedback:

RE: Cleaning Piano Keys

Alcohol was the recommended cleaner for ivory. I don't know what else is safe for them. (10/12/2010)

By aldishopper

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Piano Keys
Cleaning Piano Keys
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