All You Want to Know About How to Whiten Piano Keys

by Madonna

Before diving into the cleaning process, it’s essential to determine whether your piano keys are made of ivory or plastic. The cleaning methods for each material differ significantly, and using the wrong approach can lead to damage. Here’s how to identify the key material:

Ivory Keys: Ivory keys have a distinct grain pattern and a slightly translucent appearance. They also tend to yellow with age and may develop hairline cracks or chips. If your piano is vintage or antique and has yellowed keys with visible grain patterns, chances are they are made of ivory.


Plastic Keys: Plastic keys, on the other hand, are uniform in color and texture. They may have a smooth or slightly textured surface, but they lack the natural grain pattern and translucency of ivory. If your piano keys are white and uniform in appearance without any visible grain, they are likely made of plastic.


How to Whiten Piano Keys

Once you’ve identified the material of your piano keys, it’s time to proceed with cleaning. Regardless of whether your keys are ivory or plastic, it’s crucial to use gentle cleaning methods to avoid causing damage. Here are some safe cleaning techniques:


Ivory Keys:

Start by lightly dusting the keys with a soft, dry cloth to remove any surface debris.

Create a gentle cleaning solution by mixing warm water with a small amount of mild dish soap.

Dampen a soft cloth or sponge with the cleaning solution and wring out excess moisture.

Gently wipe the keys in a back-and-forth motion, taking care not to saturate the ivory.

Use a separate cloth dampened with plain water to wipe away any soapy residue.

Dry the keys immediately with a soft, dry cloth to prevent water damage.

Avoid using harsh chemicals or abrasive cleaners, as they can damage the delicate surface of ivory keys.

Plastic Keys:

Begin by dusting the keys with a soft, dry cloth to remove any loose dirt or debris.

Mix a small amount of mild dish soap with warm water to create a gentle cleaning solution.

Dampen a soft cloth or sponge with the cleaning solution and wring out excess moisture.

Wipe the keys in a gentle, circular motion, paying attention to any areas of built-up grime.

Use a separate cloth dampened with plain water to rinse away any soap residue.

Dry the keys thoroughly with a soft, dry cloth to prevent water spots or streaks.

Avoid using harsh chemicals or abrasive cleaners, as they can scratch or damage the surface of plastic keys.

SEE ALSO: All You Want to Know About the Costs of Piano Restringing

Natural Cleaning Agents

For those who prefer natural cleaning solutions, there are several options that can be used safely on piano keys:

Lemon Juice: Lemon juice is a natural disinfectant and can help remove stains and discoloration from ivory keys. Mix equal parts lemon juice and water, dampen a soft cloth with the solution, and gently wipe the keys. Avoid using undiluted lemon juice, as it can be too acidic and may damage the ivory.

Milk: Milk is another natural cleaning agent that can be used to brighten ivory keys. Dampen a soft cloth with milk and gently wipe the keys, then follow up with a clean, damp cloth to remove any residue. The lactic acid in milk helps to break down stains and restore the ivory’s natural luster.

Commercial Cleaners

While natural cleaning agents can be effective, there are also commercial cleaners specifically designed for cleaning piano keys. These cleaners are formulated to be safe for use on both ivory and plastic keys and can help remove stubborn stains and discoloration. Some recommended commercial cleaners include:

Key-Brite: Key-Brite is a popular piano key cleaner that is safe for use on both ivory and plastic keys. It effectively removes dirt, grime, and fingerprints without damaging the keys’ surfaces.

Pianospray: Pianospray is another excellent option for cleaning piano keys. It is non-abrasive and leaves behind a protective coating to help prevent future staining.

When using commercial cleaners, always follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully and test the product on a small, inconspicuous area of the keys first to ensure compatibility.

Preventive Measures

To keep your piano keys looking pristine for years to come, consider implementing the following preventive measures:

Use Key Covers: Key covers are fabric or plastic covers that can be placed over the keys when the piano is not in use. They help protect the keys from dust, dirt, and UV exposure, preventing discoloration and damage.

Avoid Direct Sunlight: Exposure to direct sunlight can cause ivory keys to yellow and plastic keys to fade or warp over time. Keep your piano away from windows or use curtains or blinds to block out sunlight during the day.

Regular Maintenance: Establish a regular cleaning routine for your piano keys to prevent dirt and grime from building up. Dust the keys regularly with a soft, dry cloth and clean them as needed using gentle cleaning methods.

Professional Advice

If your piano keys are severely stained or discolored, or if you have any concerns about cleaning delicate keys, it’s best to seek professional advice. A piano technician or restoration specialist can assess the condition of your keys and recommend the most appropriate cleaning method or treatment to restore them to their original condition. Attempting to clean severely stained or delicate keys without professional guidance can potentially cause irreparable damage, so it’s always best to consult with an expert.


In conclusion, keeping your piano keys clean and well-maintained is essential for preserving their appearance and performance. By identifying the key material, using safe cleaning methods, and implementing preventive measures, you can ensure that your piano keys remain pristine for generations to come. Whether you prefer natural cleaning agents, commercial cleaners, or professional assistance, taking care of your piano keys will help preserve the beauty and integrity of your instrument for years of enjoyment.


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