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Maintaining the Elegance: 7 Steps To Clean Ivory Piano Keys

by Madonna

When it comes to musical instruments, a piano is often considered the epitome of elegance and sophistication. Ivory piano keys, in particular, are prized for their beauty and historical significance. However, like any valuable possession, pianos require regular maintenance to keep them in pristine condition. Cleaning ivory piano keys is a delicate task that necessitates careful attention and the use of appropriate materials. In this article, we will explore the best practices for cleaning ivory piano keys and preserving their timeless allure.

Understanding Ivory

Before delving into the cleaning process, it’s essential to understand the material you are working with. Ivory, traditionally used for piano keytops, is derived from the teeth and tusks of animals such as elephants, walruses, and hippopotamuses. Due to conservation efforts and international bans on the ivory trade, it’s rare to find modern pianos with genuine ivory keys. However, many vintage and antique pianos still possess ivory keytops. As a result, proper care is essential to maintain their condition and value.

See Also: 5 Most Challenging Piano Pieces to Play: A Quick Guide

The Necessity of Cleaning

Over time, ivory piano keys can accumulate dirt, oils, and grime from the fingers of pianists. This build-up not only affects the aesthetics of the piano but can also impact the feel and playability of the keys. Regular cleaning not only restores the keys’ natural beauty but also ensures that they remain responsive and smooth to the touch.

Materials Required

Cleaning ivory piano keys requires a gentle touch and the right materials. Here’s a list of items you’ll need:

1. Soft Cloths or Microfiber Towels

Soft cloths or microfiber towels are essential for wiping down the keys. These materials are gentle and won’t scratch or damage the ivory.

2. Distilled Water

Distilled water is free from impurities that can harm the ivory. It’s crucial to avoid tap water, as it may contain minerals or contaminants that could leave residue on the keys.

3. Mild Ivory Soap

A mild ivory soap is a safe choice for cleaning ivory keys. Make sure it does not contain harsh chemicals or additives that could harm the ivory.

4. A Bowl or Container

You’ll need a bowl or container to mix the soap and water solution.

5. Soft Bristle Brush

A soft bristle brush, such as a clean makeup brush or a small paintbrush, can help you clean between the crevices and edges of the keys.

6. Soft Toothbrush (Optional)

If there are stubborn stains or grime, you can use a soft toothbrush to gently scrub the affected areas. Be very gentle to avoid scratching the ivory.

Step-by-Step Cleaning Process

Follow these steps to clean ivory piano keys effectively:

1. Prepare the Cleaning Solution

Fill a bowl or container with lukewarm distilled water. Add a small amount of mild ivory soap and mix it to create a soapy solution. Ensure that the soap is well-dissolved to prevent soap residue on the keys.

2. Dampen the Cloth or Towel

Dip a soft cloth or microfiber towel into the soapy water. Wring out excess water, ensuring that the cloth is damp but not dripping.

3. Gently Wipe the Keys

Starting from one end of the keyboard, gently wipe each key with the damp cloth. Use light, even strokes and avoid excessive pressure. Make sure to cover the entire key surface, including the edges and sides.

4. Use the Soft Bristle Brush

For the crevices between the keys, use a soft bristle brush to remove any trapped dirt or grime. Be gentle to avoid causing any damage.

5. Rinse with Distilled Water

After cleaning, rinse the keys by wiping them with a separate cloth dampened with distilled water. This step helps remove any soap residue.

6. Dry the Keys

Use a dry, clean cloth or microfiber towel to pat the keys dry. Ensure they are completely dry to prevent moisture from seeping into the ivory.

7. Optional Stain Removal

If there are stubborn stains or marks on the ivory keys, you can use a soft toothbrush dipped in the soapy solution to gently scrub the affected areas. Be cautious and avoid excessive scrubbing, as this can damage the ivory.

Additional Tips

1. Avoid Excessive Moisture:

It’s crucial to prevent excess moisture from coming into contact with the ivory keys. Moisture can lead to warping or damage. Always ensure that your cleaning cloths are only damp, not wet.

2. Frequent Cleaning:

Regularly cleaning your piano keys can prevent the build-up of dirt and grime. Aim to clean them every few months or as needed.

3. Climate Control:

Maintain a stable humidity level in the room where your piano is located. Fluctuations in humidity can affect the ivory’s condition. Use a piano humidity control system if necessary.


Cleaning ivory piano keys is a meticulous process that requires care and attention to detail. By using the right materials and following the steps outlined in this article, you can ensure that your piano remains a symbol of elegance and musical excellence for generations to come. Regular maintenance and proper care will preserve the beauty and functionality of your ivory keys, allowing you to continue creating beautiful music with a touch of timeless sophistication.

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