Cleaning Piano Keys

April 3, 2011

Piano KeysOne day I was showing my cousin how to play the piano and I used a dry erase marker to write the notes on the keys. Now it won't come off! I tried rubbing alcohol, water, and Windex. Please help!


By Sami from Twin Bridges, MT


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April 4, 20110 found this helpful

Wow, don't have any advice but wondered why you would do such a thing!

April 4, 20110 found this helpful

I hope you named the keys correctly! Good for you for passing on your music training.
Go to an office supply store. They have a solution you can buy just for that. Unfortunately, I don't know what it is called.
Or you could try a little hairspray (but that's mostly alcohol).

April 4, 20110 found this helpful

When this happens on a dry erase board, I just run the marker over the spot again. It seems to wet it enough, where it comes off. Good luck.

April 4, 20111 found this helpful

As a teacher this is something common that happens in a class room. Get a rubber eraser and rub hard and it will erase it. Sometimes following this up with hairspray or alcohol also helps.

April 5, 20110 found this helpful

OFF bug spray. Crazy but it works. Took permanent marker off of the wood part of the piano and did not bother the finish whatsoever. Amazing! Let us know what works.

April 5, 20110 found this helpful

Hello Sami. Yikes! I'm sure you are regretting writing on the keys, but please don't rely on "home remedies" to solve this problem. Please contact the manufacturer of your piano for the ultimate results.


While some of the suggestions listed here might work for some piano keys, your particular solution will depend on the materials used to make your particular piano: Very old piano keys were actually made of wood and ivory. Newer pianos are made of different materials and composites and finishes that I believe have changed over the decades, and since you didn't mention the age or manufacturer of your piano, the generalized suggestions listed here might not be the best for your particular piano and keys.

If you can't contact the manufacturer, please find a reputable piano sales store to ask for more advice. What works to clean a whiteboard was probably not designed to work on your piano keys so don't count on an office supply store or a well intended share site like this to give you "things to try". Please go to a more primary source, for the ultimate solution.


A piano is a huge investment. To protect your investment, again, please go to the most primary source you can find before "experimenting" with unproven solutions for your particular piano.

And Sami, good for you to share your knowledge of music (what a gift) . . . just don't write on piano keys again, okay? :) Good luck and best wishes!

April 5, 20110 found this helpful

I think that's a great idea. I would just leave them there.

April 5, 20111 found this helpful

Ok, thanks everyone! The rubber eracer actually worked. And it isnt a piano piano, it is just a keyboard. I would never write on a real piano!!

April 6, 20110 found this helpful

I'm grinning, grinning, grinning, Sami! So glad you found a solution to erase your "keyboard" labeling vs. a full sized, very expensive, real piano "key" labeling with a dry eraser pen!


But seriously (LOL) consider using post-it notes above the keys next time! :) (You can buy the skinny ones very inexpensively that are designed to merely mark pages)

So very happy all worked out well for your dilemma and keep passing on your music abilities as you can! Best wishes!

July 23, 20160 found this helpful

I live in the UK and we have a disinfectant called Zoflora that I used to do this

September 20, 20160 found this helpful

First you need to determine whether they are covered with ivory or plastic. It is easy to tell; if each white key is topped with two pieces - a larger, rectangle piece (the end that you press) and a separate, skinnier piece that goes between the black keys, noted by a seam in between, they are probably ivory. If it is one piece, generally it is topped with plastic. You cannot tell by age as I have a Hamilton / Balwin studio model that was built in the 1950s & they are plastic. I've successfully removed dry ink markings on the plastic, capped keys as well as much of the yellow nicotine stain using a 3/8" - 1/2" block wrapped with a rag lightly soaked with 90% Isopropanol, (Rubbing alcohol), & a little elbow grease.


The keys are acceptable but not perfect. I have yet to find a product that removes the remaining 62 years of yellow stain, however, short of replacing the tops, this may be as good as it gets. Somewhere I read to use Hydrogen peroxide. I would not recommend it as it seemed to melt the keys so I stopped.

September 10, 20170 found this helpful

I used aftershave and put on a sock and it came right off try that

February 8, 20180 found this helpful

Thanks so much Paulette it helped so much hairspray works like a charm I love it thanks!!!

September 22, 20180 found this helpful

Use nail polish remover

November 17, 20190 found this helpful

I had exactly the same problem but I found that body sprays work really well however I used my sisters Victorias Secret one so Im not sure if others will work. Hope this helped!

December 2, 20200 found this helpful

Do you need some milk?:

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8 More Questions

Here are the questions asked by community members. Read on to see the answers provided by the ThriftyFun community.

September 13, 2009

My daughter put a Sharpie stain on one of the keys of our piano. Any suggestions on how to remove it? Thanks.

By Hema Kapadia from San Jose, CA


September 13, 20090 found this helpful

Hey Hemakapadia, try alcohol, it should come right off :)

September 17, 20090 found this helpful

Try using a little bit of fingernail polish remover on a cotton ball. I have gotten Sharpie off plastic, as well as hard things. Hope this helps.

September 17, 20090 found this helpful

Alcohol works really well. If that doesn't do it, try a bit of baking soda on a damp cloth scrubbing carefully. The abrasive soda should take it off with a bit of elbow grease.

November 2, 20160 found this helpful

You can use a dry erase marker, rub it over the sharpie stain, and it should work. I saw this on the internet so give it a try if you want to.

September 18, 20170 found this helpful

Eucalyptus oil, works a treat gets rid of very easily

October 2, 20170 found this helpful

It's stained it more

August 5, 20190 found this helpful


February 13, 20200 found this helpful

DO NOT use nail varnish remover it only fades the ink and damages the keys
DO NOT use white board marker it just makes it worse
USE toothpaste


My 12 yr old daughter decided to help her 10 yr old sister learn the piano by marking every piano key with a sharpie. I tried all three of the above and the only one that worked was toothpaste. I used 'Aquafresh' triple protection which was marginally better than 'Senodyne' but they both worked. Hope this helps!

June 21, 20200 found this helpful

It stained it more, thanks.

July 19, 20210 found this helpful

Use eucalyptus, nail polish remover and Sensodyne toothpaste. I guarantee it will work!

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May 10, 2018

How do I get Sharpie off of my piano keys? I regret it and the more I try to clean it the worse it gets. I've tried alcohol, putting dry erase marker over it and taking that off, nail polish remover, and none of it seems to work at all other than taking a little off or smearing it more.

How can I take it off?


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May 10, 20180 found this helpful

There are just too many "things/products" for removing Sharpie but few that say it is safe for piano keys.

  • Piano keys can be plastic/vinyl or ivory and so some of the recommended solutions may damage the keys (especially if they are ivory). I believe most piano keys will be made of plastic.
  • I use Krud-Kutter Graffiti Remover for marks and stains like this and it works for me.
  • Krus-Kutter Graffiti Remover and be purchased at Walmart, Lowe's, Home Depot, Target and many other stores as well as online.
  • You have already tried several methods but here is a list of methods that I have seen in the past.
  • Be careful and test unknown methods as many are abrasive and could damage the keys.
  • Goo Gone, hairspray, tooth paste on damp cloth, Barkeepers Friend, glass top stove cleaner, olive oil on a cloth, shaving cream, magic marker eraser.
  • Check out these links for more suggestions.

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May 10, 20180 found this helpful

Try a magic eraser


Bronze Post Medal for All Time! 107 Posts
May 10, 20180 found this helpful

There is a piano forum here and apparently it's more common than you think.

Some suggestions were rubbing alcohol, toothpaste, and baby wipes.

Also you have to make sure that they are plastic v ivory before trying anything too drastic


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May 11, 20182 found this helpful

I'm a pianist and I use toothpaste with a microfibre cloth :)


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May 11, 20180 found this helpful

I have removed a sharpie mark with WD-40. I can't remember what it was on but it wiped right off. I don't think it would hurt to put a little on a cloth and try it on the keys.

May 14, 20180 found this helpful

Find someone with a Norwex rag - the fine silver wound-in is shockingly powerful against nearly any surface stain.

September 27, 20190 found this helpful

Thank you for the advice to use a microfibre cloth on the piano keys to remove ink,it works well!

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November 15, 2010

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?

By Kathi from Montgomery, AL


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November 15, 20100 found this helpful

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.

November 16, 20100 found this helpful

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


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November 16, 20100 found this helpful

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!

April 5, 20160 found this helpful


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December 6, 2014

Hubby hired a new cleaning service, and I don't know what they did to dust the piano, but half of the keys have some kind of rough residue on them now. It is so distracting when you play! I tried a little alcohol. I tried spraying general cleaner on a soft cloth. Nothing seems to touch it. Help?

By Jen H.


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December 5, 20170 found this helpful

I would call the cleaning service and ask them what they used. It would be much easier to remove it if you knew what you were removing. Are the keys ivory or plastic? Ivory ones are sensitive to what they can be cleaned with, where as plastic ones are not. You might also try calling a piano tuner and ask their advice as well. We have a Steinway baby grand. I clean the keys only with the brush attachment on our vacuum cleaner, and keep the keys covered when not in use. I think the next time cleaners come, I would put a do not clean sign on the piano.

If they keys don't come clean, you may have to have them replaced.


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December 5, 20170 found this helpful

Clean with ivory soap

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June 26, 2011

I need to know how to clean black spray paint off of white ivory keys. Is it even possible?

By Julie


June 27, 20110 found this helpful

Believe it or not, Off! Bug spray. It works! I took permanent magic marker off of my piano and it did not leave any residue or hurt the finish!

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ThriftyFun is one of the longest running frugal living communities on the Internet. These are archives of older discussions.

November 15, 2010

How do I clean nicotine off of ivory piano keys?


October 11, 2010

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?


September 4, 2006
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