How To Clean Piano Keys

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Playing the piano is an amazing skill. It can be relaxing and a life changing thing to do. Anyone that plays the piano will know how expensive a piano is and therefore it requires plenty of upkeep, care and attention. 

The thing is, it’s unlikely that you’re trained to professionally clean this huge musical instrument! So, what do you do? Who do you call? 

Forget hiring someone – follow these guidelines and keep your piano in perfect condition and let it last for decades! 

So sit back and relax. Let’s take a good look at how to clean piano keys. 

How to Clean Piano Keys

Keys – There Are Different Kinds 

It’s important to know that different keys will require some different cleaning techniques. Ivory keys which are generally on traditional pianos and plastic keys which are normally found on keyboards. 

Ivory keys will be a darker white color which over time transforms more yellow. You’ll also notice ivory keys come in two parts which are joined together. Whereas plastic keys will be smooth and have a shiny, white coating. 

Important Things To Avoid 

There are some things to take into consideration before cleaning any kind of piano key. Certain cleaning products and techniques will cause serious damage. Let’s explore these: 

  • Avoid cleaning products and polishes that are chemically based. They’re very harsh on the keys and the likelihood is they’ll be irreparably damaged. It’s better to use milder soaps.
  • Avoid using disinfectant sprays that kill harmful bacteria. Although it is recommended to spray down surfaces during flu seasons, spraying your piano keys will ruin the surface of the piano, the keys and potentially the inside of the piano. 
  • Don’t clean the keys left-to-right. It’s likely that moisture can get in the middle of them and damage them. 
  • Avoid using paper towels. Instead, opt for a lint-free cloth or a microfiber cloth that won’t leave anything on the keys. 
  • Use different lint-free cloths for the white and black keys. It is possible for paint to transfer from the black keys onto the white, leaving a smear. 

Correct Key Cleaning Technique 

As with many things, correct form is crucial. You should first inspect the piano and assess if there is any dust. It is wise to get rid of any sitting dust off the piano first before cleaning more thoroughly. 

Consider using a brush with soft bristles and brush downward towards the end of the keys so that dust leaves the piano’s surface. 

If you’re looking to disinfect the piano keys, it’s better to use white vinegar and clean water. Try to mix this first with ¼ vinegar and ¾ warm water due to the acidity of the vinegar. Use a flannel and maintain the cleaning process of going down the keys towards the bottom. It’s still important to remember using two cloths; one for black keys and one for white keys. 

This technique is best for plastic keyboard keys. For ivory keys, it’s worth mixing a solution of dish soap and water – ensuring you’ve diluted the soap effectively. Remember not to scrub too hard – try and be as gentle as possible. It’s also important to dry the keys in between cleaning, keeping them wet can cause damage and possibly stain your keys. 

Whitening Ivory Keys 

If you’re looking for beautifully white keys, there are some things you can do. Toothpaste can be used but it must not be gel which is corrosive and makes the keys discolored. So ensure you’re using simple, plain, white toothpaste. 

You could also opt for a white vinyl eraser. It’s a difficult task to do as it can have eraser bits fall off into the keys, so if you’re going for that – be extra careful and gentle. 

There are two other methods which sound crazy, but they do work! First, you can move your piano to indirect sunlight. Believe it or not, it can bleach the keys and enhance its white color. The other method is to use a mayo or yogurt and buff the keys out. Bacteria that reside in these foods can naturally bleach the keys! 

Avoiding The Huge Cleaning Process 

Prevention can make all the difference. If you hate cleaning, it’s better to try and reduce as much of the cleaning process as possible so you don’t have to work so hard next time. 

Consider consistent but basic cleaning as you go. This means after every use you’re dusting and giving the piano a basic clean. It’s also worth paying attention to the location of your piano. 

If your piano is in a difficult to reach area, consider moving it to somewhere where you can move around the whole piano. Doing this should also reduce the likelihood of a mass of dust. 

Before using your piano, remember to wash your hands thoroughly and dry them completely. This will prevent any sticky or greasy substances transferring to the keys. 

If your piano has one, remember to close the lid in between uses. This will protect the keys better. If your piano has no lid, consider buying a cover to prevent dust. It is important however to remove this cover or lift the lid every so often, as humidity can build under the cover leading to deterioration of the keys. 

It’s also worth noting that plastic piano keys can be permanently yellowed if kept in direct sunlight. If your keyboard is near a window, consider closing the curtains or moving it altogether. 

What To Remember 

Pianos are highly expensive and require a commitment to keep them clean. Keeping your piano clean will undoubtedly prolong its life. Needless to say, that makes things cheaper and easier. Who wants to move a piano every few years?!

Keep in mind the methods and techniques we’ve listed here. The key things to remember are:

  • Prevention is the best method. Consistent cleaning will prevent a big clean up being required. It’s a good idea to keep a cleaning schedule or clean as you go. 
  • Keep your piano’s location in mind. 
  • Clean and dry keys are happy keys. 

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