It is rare for pianos to be made with ivory nowadays, which makes learning how to clean ivory piano keys even more valuable. Modern pianos are made with a plastic that resembles and mimics ivory. This makes pianos with ivory keys rare and worth a pretty shiny penny. The yellow on the keys often decides a piano’s worth. The more yellow, the older the piano might be. It could also mean that the piano was neglected and diminish the worth. There a few ways to clean ivory keys, and all of them require a delicate touch.
If unsure if the piano has ivory keys look for an uneven grain pattern on the keys. This is similar to how wood has a grain pattern. Some plastic keys are made to look like ivory, but their fake grain is typically more uniform.
- How not to clean ivory piano keys. There is a list of Never's to remember when cleaning your piano. Never use water to clean ivory piano keys. There are chemicals in the water that will harm the ivory. Also, water can get in-between the keys and ruin the piano itself. Never use scouring pads or any rough cloth. Always use dry lint-free cloths to clean ivory piano keys. Never use soap, alcohol, or other cleaning supplies with harmful chemicals. Ivory is very sensitive, and all of these typical cleaning supplies will hurt the ivory. Never use anything acidic such as lemon juice. Again, this will destroy the ivory piano keys.
- To clean ivory piano keys, imagine the keys as teeth. Ivory is dental bone. That means that what a dentist would recommend for cleaning teeth will work to clean ivory piano keys. Use a gentle white toothpaste. While wearing white gloves or by using a soft toothbrush, gently apply the toothpaste one key at a time. Then wipe it off using a dry lint-free cloth.
- Clean ivory piano keys with baking soda. Similar to using toothpaste that has baking soda in it, like Arm & Hammer, just using baking soda will work as well. Create a paste out of the baking soda using milk, not water. Apply the mixture to each ivory key, one at a time, and then wipe them clean with a dry lint-free cloth.
- Dust ivory piano keys daily with a toothbrush. It is important to clean ivory piano keys regularly to keep the dust off. Also, to clean off the grease from fingertips after the piano has been played. Use a very soft toothbrush to carefully dust off each ivory key one at a time. Start at the back of the key, working forward with the dust and gunk. Again, use a dry cloth to completely wipe off the keys.
- Use steel wool to clean ivory piano keys. It must be a very fine steel wool. Use the steel wool to get off old black dirt that is caked on. Very gently scrub the keys one at a time, wiping them off with a dry lint-free cloth after.
- A little bit of sunlight is good for everything, even ivory piano keys. It might seem like a good idea to keep piano keys covered to keep out dust and dirt. However, sunlight will do wonders for ivory. Leave the lid open, allowing the keys to get some sunlight for a while. This will not bleach the keys, but will help prevent them from turning yellow.