How to Clean Piano Keys Without Damaging Them

If you are a piano player then you will know an important part of the upkeep of the instrument is to give it regular maintenance, cleaning and repairs when necessary. One of the main tasks you will need to do is cleaning your piano keys without causing any damage. The keys collect oils from your skin as well as dust and dirt that can cause them to look dingy.

Even if you wipe the keys regularly and wash your hands before playing you will still notice wear on both the white keys and the black keys. Cleaning your keys is simple and can be done at home without needing to call in professional help. Read on to find out more about the key cleaning process and how you can do so without causing damage.

Piano Key Type

Before you being to clean your piano keys you will need to know what kind of material they are made out of. The material may affect the cleaning process.

There’s a big difference between cleaning plastic keys versions a piano with ivory keys. Keyboard keys tend to be made from plastic whereas if you have a piano then they will have ivory keys. There are newer pianos however that may have plastic keys so you need to check which ones you have before you begin to clean.

The Don’ts of Cleaning

If you are planning on taking on the task of cleaning the piano keys yourself there are certain things you cannot do. Be sure to avoid the following things as doing any of these could end up damaging your keys.

  • Do NOT use a chemical cleaner or polish. They are too harsh and will cause damage. Stick to mild soaps if possible.
  • Do NOT use paper towels to wipe the keys. You will need to use a lint-free cloth that leaves no residue behind.
  • Do NOT wipe your keys from side to side as moisture can get in between them and cause damage.
  • Do NOT use the same cloth for black keys and white keys. Sometimes paint from the black keys can transfer onto the white ones.
  • Do NOT use spray-on disinfectants as these can destroy the surfaces of both ivory keys and plastic keys as well as causing harm to the rest of the piano.

Clean Each Key Carefully

Before you starting cleaning the keys properly take a dry cloth and give each key a wipe so that any dust sitting there is removed. You may also use a soft-bristled brush or a duster.

If you want to disinfect your keys then you can use a solution of water and white vinegar to wipe down the keys. Take a cheesecloth or flannel and wipe the key vertically downwards, letting the keys dry in between each wipe. Remember to change your cloth between the white and black keys. This solution is the best way to clean plastic keys. Only use a little bit, one part vinegar to four parts warm water so that the acid doesn’t cause damage.

For piano ivory keys make sure to use a mild solution of warm water and a small amount of dish soap. The damp cloth will be sufficient enough to clean the keys. Use a gentle brushing motion and never scrub as this could damage ivory keys.

Whiten Ivory Keys

White toothpaste is a great way to clean ivory keys. Make sure it’s plain white toothpaste with no color in it. Gel toothpaste will corrode ivory. If you are finding that your ivory keys are discoloring quite often then you may want to consider moving the instrument away from direct sunlight because this can cause the keys to bleach.

Another way to whiten ivory keys is a little unconventional. You may want to apply mayonnaise or yogurt using a cloth to the keys and wipe them down. The bacteria present in these foods will bleach the ivory in a gentle way that is effective to get them looking white again. Just remember to buff each key afterward using a dry cloth so that any food residue is removed.

Ready to Play

Now that your keys are clean and buffed you should be ready to play again. It’s a good idea to disinfect your keys once every few weeks and to clean them at least once a month to keep your instrument looking and sounding great. If you don’t use your piano that much then you can leave longer gaps between cleaning, giving it a light dusting with a brush or damp cloth once every few weeks. You can take great care of your keys if you wash your hands before playing as this removes the oil from your fingers that causes the keys to discolor.

If you have a piano teacher then they may be able to give you advice and best practices for cleaning your specific piano type. You can ask them about how frequently you should be cleaning them as well as the best technique to clean your key material. If you have an antique piano it’s always best to get advice from an expert before you start to clean it on your home. Not being careful in this scenario could mean that you are risking what the instrument is worth and may end up doing a lot of damage that is irreparable.


Can you clean piano keys with alcohol?

Using rubbing alcohol can be a good option for cleaning piano keys if you want to clean them and disinfect them at the same time. All you need to do is put a small amount of rubbing alcohol on a soft cloth and wipe down each key from top to bottom. Always check the material that your keys are made out of before you start using alcohol as this could cause damage to certain materials.

How do I get my piano keys white again?

Ivory piano keys can go yellow over time. To get them white again gently buff the keys with a thin layer of mild toothpaste. Wipe the toothpaste away with a cloth dampened with milk and dry they keys immediately.


Now that your keys are clean again you can start to fill your rooms with beautiful music once more. Happy playing!

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