How to Clean Yellowing Piano Keys

Ivory keys on a piano become yellowed over time from being played, or just sitting around in the dark. While most people see the yellow and think it is disgusting to look at, the yellow is actually a sign of age. If looking to sell an antique piano, keeping the keys yellow will help distinguish its age and worth. If looking to clean yellow piano keys on a family piano to help it look pretty and shiny, then there are a few tips to getting those Ivories white and clean. Keep in mind that most of these tips are trial and error. What works for some people, might not work for others.

Many of these tips come from personal experience and information provided by a respected local piano store.

  1. Ivory is dental bone. Treat it like teeth to clean yellowing piano keys.
  2. This is the sure-fire method of getting the yellow out of those ivory keys. What a dentist would recommend to whiten teeth will also whiten ivory piano keys. To clean yellowing piano keys use toothpaste. Make sure it is white toothpaste that is gentle, such as Arm & Hammer. Gently apply the toothpaste to the keys either wearing white gloves, or using a soft toothbrush. Wipe the toothpaste off the yellowing piano keys with a lint-free cloth.
  3. Clean yellowing piano keys with steel wool-Never scrub ivory keys with a scouring pad or other rough surfaced cloth. This will destroy the ivory and only make things worse. Use very fine steel wool, the finest available, and very gently and slowly, polish the keys. Clean the yellowing piano keys with a dry lint-free cloth afterwards.
  4. The magical wonders of sunlight to clean yellowing piano keys-Most people think they should cover the keys to prevent dust from building up. However, keeping the lid up and letting some fresh sunlight hit those ivories will do wonders. No, it will not bleach the keys to pure white, but it will prevent further yellowing. Just do not overdo it with the sun, because heat and humidity can harm the ivory as well.
  5. What not to do to clean yellowing piano keys-Ignoring these tips can harm the ivory on the piano keys. Others might say to use some of these methods to clean yellowing piano keys, but they can be harmful. Use others tips at your own risk.
  • Never use water. Most people see water as safe and clean, but that is not the case with ivory piano keys. Not only will chemicals in the water harm the ivory, but too much moisture will harm the entire piano. Never use wet cloths to clean yellowing piano keys.
  • Never use alcohol, soap, or other cleaning chemicals.
  • Never scrub piano keys with a rough surfaced cloth or heavy steel wool.
  • If ever unsure about how to clean yellowing piano keys that are made of ivory, then go to a professional who has the proper tools and know-how.
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