Do you have an antique piano? Does your piano get a lot of use that you feel like your keys aren’t as white as they used to be?
You can’t escape the discoloration and yellowing, but there are safe methods to whitening your piano keys so that they look like good as new.
Before you grab the disinfectant wipes and cause permanent damage, you should read our tips on how to safely whiten your piano keys.
Ivory or Plastic?
Before you begin cleaning, you will need to find out if your piano keys are ivory or plastic.
If you have ivory keys and/or you have an antique/vintage piano, you may not want to consider whitening the keys. The yellowing shows the value and age of the piano, which can bring into question the authenticity if you wanted to resell it.
On the other hand, plastic keys are more flexible and less prone to the damage, including temperature fluctuations that easily damage ivory.
A good rule of thumb while cleaning ivory keys is not to use any liquid, chemicals or soaps. If you can, try to wear white cotton gloves while you are cleaning so you don’t get any of the dirt or oils from your hands onto the keys.
If you are gentle and cautious, use a very fine steel wool pad to scrub one key at a time. Emphasis on “very fine.” Any other texture could scratch the keys and ruin their condition. If this is the method that you choose, we suggest consulting with a professional beforehand.
One unconventional mean of preventing yellowing is moving the piano into the sunlight, where the sun has direct access to the keys. Typically with sun exposure, the coloring won’t fade but it will prevent any further discoloring to the keys. A good rule of thumb while cleaning ivory keys is not to use any liquid.
Another option to use is a white vinyl eraser. Don’t scrub too harshly and focus on one key at a time. Make sure to wipe off the excess eraser pieces so they don’t dissolve into the keys.
Plastic keys are opposite of ivory keys, meaning you can use gentle cleaning solutions to whiten the keys.
One of the easiest methods is to mix a couple of drops of dish soap into a damp white washcloth and wipe the keys down with a soft cloth, from top to bottom and not side to side.
It is crucial that there isn’t excess water on the rag so that the water doesn’t overflow into the keys. You also want to use a white washcloth because any coloring can transfer to the plastic or ivory keys.
For more aggressive stains or fingerprint marks on your piano keys, you can use a water and vinegar solution. Disinfect using 3 parts filtered water and 1 part white vinegar.
No matter what cleaning method you choose for your plastic keys, if you have a cover for your keys make sure that you leave it open. Doing so will help with proper ventilation, especially with the smell of vinegar.
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