So, you’re an aspiring musician who has purchased a new piano or keyboard—Congratulations! Now, although you might have accomplished your dreams, I believe one disturbing question that will keep ringing in your mind is how to clean piano keys and keyboards.
To enjoy the beauty of music, a piano should be left looking beautiful and authentic just like the first day it arrived. You see, just like other home appliances, a piano or a keyboard needs to be dusted thoroughly to get rid of dust, dirt, debris, and oils that might accumulate over time.
Now, if I may ask, which part of your piano needs a thorough cleaning? If your answer is the keyboard, then you’re right.
The keys are what we touch most of the time when playing the piano. Due to this reason, dust and dirt emanating from sweaty hands can diminish their authenticity causing the polished surfaces to wear out in a short while.
Luckily, after conducting comprehensive research, we’ve gathered some surefire tips on how you can clean your piano or keyboard to restore it back to its former brilliance.
How to Clean Piano Keys and Keyboards
Most of us enjoy playing the piano, especially when aspiring to become a composer. But, did you know that piano keys can easily be damaged with sweaty, oily hands? You see, as you frequently play the piano, the polished surfaces of the keys tend to wear out allowing dirt and debris to penetrate into the pores.
Washing your hands before playing the piano may sound brilliant. You may also opt to give your piano or keyboard a quick dusting here and there to remove dust that might have settled at the top. But, will this really help to clean the keys of your piano entirely? The answer is NO.
Now, to give you a head start on how to maintain the quality of your piano or keyboard, this section will highlight some surefire tips on how to effectively clean your keyboard to avoid lackluster keys.
- Soft cloth
- Gentle cleaning solution
- Spray bottle
- Start with a soft cloth: a soft cloth is highly essential here. You can consider using a flannel cloth, microfiber cloth, cheesecloth, or chamois depending on your personal preference. Paper towels should be avoided at all cost.
- Cleaning solution: add warm water into the spray bottle and add a drop of mild soap (most preferably dishing soapy liquid). Shake the content gently and get ready to clean! Just a word of caution, avoid using harsh solvents or furniture polish as they’re too abrasive and can easily cause discoloration.
- Dampen the soft cloth: don’t spray soapy water directly into the piano keys. Instead, spray the soapy mixture on the soft cloth to make it slightly damp.
- Start with the white keys: though not a recommendation, start off by cleaning the white keys a few at a time starting from the back to the front with gentle pressure.
Avoid brushing the keys from side to side as this can transfer dirt particles or even moisture in between the keys leading to damage or sticky keys.
Also, avoid using colored clothes when cleaning white keys as some of them might bleed when moistened causing colors to transfer to the white keys. Cleaning this discoloration can be tough and lead to double work.
- Clean the black keys: using the same procedure, pick a new soft cloth and spray it with the soapy solution. Clean the keys from back to front gently enough to avoid touching the already cleaned white keys. Note that touching the white keys can cause you to transfer black color to the white keys which again can cause discoloration.
- Wipe off contaminants: when you’re done cleaning, pick a dry cotton cloth and use it to wipe off any soapy residue that might have gotten stuck in-between the keys.
- Disinfect the piano keys: disinfecting a piano is very important especially during the flu or cold seasons. To do this, make a solution comprising of 4 parts water and one part vinegar. Dip a clean cloth into the mixture and wring it well to make it damp. Clean each key thoroughly without leaving any moisture behind. Remember that vinegar can damage the keys if it’s left to stay on the surface for too long.
How to clean ivory piano keys
If you’re the kind of people that enjoy the beauty of music, a piano is one musical instrument that will guarantee you the best music experience. Unlike most other musical instruments, a piano requires proper maintenance to keep it up and working.
Now, before I get to the nitty-gritty of cleaning ivory piano keys, I think it’s wise to mention a thing or two about these rare keys. Why rare? You see, most pianists today are used to keyboards with plastic keys. But, there are rare cases where a piano may contain precious materials such as ivory and ebony.
Unlike plastic keys, replacing keys made of ivory or ebony can be very expensive, difficult, and time-consuming so extra care must be observed when dealing with such materials.
For the sake of ivory, this material is very porous and cleaning will involve using a light-colored cloth to avoid discoloration. Also, the immediate drying of ivory keys is very crucial as excess moisture can cause the keys to get malformed.
What’s the difference between plastic and ivory keys?
As I mentioned earlier, ivory keys are rare and can easily be confused with plastic keys as they fairly look the same. Although most pianos today use plastic keys rather than ivory keys like it used to be back in the days, there are some key differences you need to be aware of.
- Ivory keys are purely white.
- Ivory keys may become yellowish with time.
- Every key made of ivory has two parts joined together. This is visible if you look closely.
- Ivory keys are not as smooth as plastic keys.
- Unlike plastic, ivory keys cannot be penetrated with a red hot needle tip.
- Also, ivory is very rare to find.
Tips on cleaning ivory piano keys
- Since ivory is so porous, keys made out of it can be delicate to clean. Therefore, you need to take your time to clean every octave thoroughly and make sure you dry them entirely.
- Don’t use lemon juice to clean the keys but instead use milk. Since ivory is much like a dental bone, the acid properties of lemon juice can wear the surface of the keys over time. On the other hand, milk is rich in calcium and fatty acids. These properties are of paramount importance as they will enhance the longevity of the keys.
- For the sake of stubborn stains, you can purchase a scraper. However, to avoid damaging the keys, you need to consult a licensed technician or a professional.
- Dust the keys: the first step is to dust the keys with a soft-bristled paintbrush to remove dust and dirt particles.
- Dampen a clean cloth: take a clean cloth and dampen it with warm water. Squeeze any excess water and clean each key individually to remove any stains, marks, or dust particles. Don’t drench the keys into the water as this can cause them to swell making it hard to play.
- Apply the milk: although some people might opt to use a little soap, it’s better to use milk as most soapy detergents contain harsh chemicals which can damage the highly porous ivory surface. Simply dampen a light clean cloth with a small amount of milk to clean stains and fingerprints from the keys.
Wipe the keys from the back to the front and don’t scrub them too hard as this can damage the surface. Since ivory is a kind of dental bone, the calcium and fatty acids in the milk will help extend the longevity of the keys.
How to care for your piano keys
- Wash your hands often: always keep the piano clean by washing your hands before playing it. It’s also wise to wipe the keys after you’re done playing to keep dust and dirt particles off the ivory keys.
- Direct sunlight: if the keys are made of pure ivory, you may opt to expose them in direct sunlight. Direct sunlight actually bleaches the ivory keys allowing them to brighten up. Also, to protect the keys from dust and dirt, consider covering the top with a long cover and only open it when you’re playing the piano.
- Avoid using sprays around the piano: air fresheners and other aerosol products should not be sprayed anywhere near the piano as they can easily damage the ivory keys and cause them to yellow over time.
How to clean yellowed ivory piano keys
Pianos made from genuine ivory are hard to come by these days. This is due to strict rules that have totally prohibited the manufacture of such pianos thanks to the recent wildlife conservation act. So, if you have a piano or a decoration made of ivory that means it’s simply an antique.
Why was ivory so common back in the days? First, ivory was preferred because of its value and esthetic properties. Secondly, ivory has the advantage of absorbing perspiration which prevented the pianist’s fingers from slipping.
We mentioned earlier that most piano keys made from ivory are definitely antiques. Due to this reason, their keys tend to yellow with time due to age and use. To restore them back to their natural whiteness, you, of course, need to clean them but, with a different approach.
Unlike cleaning plastic piano keys, ivory keys cannot be restored back to their original color using household cleaners and bleaches as they can damage the keys beyond repair. So, having done enough research across the web, here’s a step-by-step procedure on how to clean yellowed ivory piano keys.
Things you’ll need
- White soft cloth
- Small container
- Warm water
- Step one: cut some pieces of cardboard and fit them between the keys to preventing excess liquid from penetrating through.
- Step two: using a clean container, make a thin paste of lemon and salt. You can also cut the lemons in halves and add salt to the already cut sides. Some people may also opt to use plain yogurt or toothpaste instead.
- Step three: moisten the white soft cloth with the lemon solution and use it to clean the yellowed ivory keys. In case you’ve cut the lemons in halves, gently squeeze the salted exposed side on the ivory keys to remove stains.
- Step four: when you’re done, leave the piano to self-dry for some time. Do not wipe the lemon juice immediately.
- Step five: soak a white clean cloth in clean water and wipe the keys gently one at a time. Wipe everything including tight corners and crevices to remove all lemon juice. When you’re done, leave the piano to self-dry naturally.
Compared to the rest of your indoor furniture, a piano stands out as an indestructible beast. But, quite the opposite is true. You see, cleaning your piano—regardless of its wood construction—is different from cleaning the rest of your household furniture. This is because a piano is very delicate and a little mistake can damage the entire unit both in the interior and exterior.
Thankfully, having done comprehensive research in the arena, this guide has offered ingenious hacks on how to clean piano keys and keyboards.
Like I mentioned earlier, a piano is a meticulous musical instrument that needs to be handled with extreme care to avoid damage. When it comes to safety, it’s wise to wash your hands before playing the piano and cover the piano top in case it’s not being used.
Other than that, I believe this guide was informative enough. If there’s something you’d like to add on what we’ve already mentioned, please don’t hesitate to share your thoughts in the comments section below.
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