How to Clean Piano Keys? – Simple Steps to a Cleaner Piano!

How to Clean Piano Keys – Simple Steps to a Cleaner Piano

Are you using the piano for a while now? If that’s the case, then that’d explain why you would need to clean piano keys already! After playing the piano for a while, the keys get greasy, sticky, and if you don’t take proper care, the color of the keys starts to fade out. The black ones get greyish, and the white ones get yellowish.

So, as a pianist, it’s a very important thing to know how to clean piano keys, how to maintain them, and how to prevent them from getting dirty. In this article, I’m going to briefly explain the causes as to why your piano keys might get dirty, how you’re going to clean them, and what things to keep in mind if you want to prevent them from getting dirty.

Why Do Piano Keys Get Dirty in the First Place?

Have you ever wondered why do your piano keys get dirty even though you’re not exposing to dirt or moving them around places? Even if you’re using your piano carefully, the keys get dirtier day by day! It’s a really frustrating thing to see!

That’s where regular maintenance of the piano comes into mind. Pianists all around the world always do such hard work in maintaining the piano so that it can last a long time! Cleaning the keys is one of the prime activities of that maintenance.

The piano keys get dirty often if you –

  • Don’t use proper covering after you’re done practicing: Not covering the piano keys after practicing expose them to the dust particles in the air. Those particles often accumulate on the keys and gather around the corner of the piano. This makes the piano keys dirtier frequently.
  • Place them in a humid and moist area: Humid and moist areas make the piano keys to be vulnerable to water vapors in the air. The dust that sticks around on the piano keys when mixes with the vapor in the air create a sticky and dirty layer on the piano keys. This sticky layer can be one of the reasons behind the discoloration of the piano keys.  
  • Use them with oily, damp, or moist hands: This effect is the same as the previous point I was trying to make. Skin oil or sweats often react with the piano keys to make them oily or sticky. If you don’t clean them regularly, they’re going to have worse effects and damage the keys permanently.

No matter what type the keys are, these points are the main reasons that make the piano keys dirty.

Are All Piano Keys of the Same Type?

Nope! Not at all! You’ll find piano keys of different sorts. All of them are unique in their own way. Normally, you’d find piano keys made from 4 different materials.

4 types of materials used in making Piano keys. They are –

  • Ivory keys: They are normally hard and whitish material. You’d be amazed to know that they are prepared from the teeth and tusks of animals, i.e., elephants.
  • Ebony Keys: Ebony is mainly a dark tropical would. They’re also very hard and sturdy. Piano manufacturers mainly use ebony wood to make the black keys on the piano.
  • Cellulose Keys: Cellulose is a type of organic material. You can consider them as a replacement for ivory but a lot cheaper than them.
  • Acrylic Plastic Keys: These materials are common in modern pianos. So, they’re the modern standard material for pianos. They’re the cheapest among all other materials. Moreover, they’re a bit easier to clean but also a bit more sensitive.

Some Other Facts:

As I’ve already mentioned, plastic and cellulose take over the ivory keys. It happened during the 1930s. afterward, the use of ivory became banned in some of the countries around the world. However, if your piano is older than that, then your piano must have ivory keys!

You’ll find almost no visible differences between ivory keys and plastic keys. However, ivory keys have this thin seam that runs horizontally at the place where the white keys narrow.

How to Clean Piano Keys?

How to Clean Piano Keys

Now comes the most important question of this article! How can you clean the piano keys! It’s simple really! Just follow the steps I’m mentioning below, and your keys will be as good as new. So, I’ll explain how to clean piano keys simply so that even if you’re a beginner, you can follow it properly.

Steps to Clean Piano Keys:

  1. At first, you need to dust off the piano keys and make sure that there are no dust particles in them. You can use a soft paintbrush, a duster, or a brush with soft bristles.
  • Then take a microfiber cloth. Dampen it with lukewarm water with a little bit of liquid dishwashing detergent. Wring the cloth hardly so that there’s no water droplet dripping from the cloth.
  • Wipe the keys towards the ‘player’ direction with the cloth. Move it in a direction farthest from you to the closest from you.
  • Take another microfiber cloth. And this time, wipe the piano keys carefully in the same way you did in step 2.
  • If the piano is an electric one, make sure to switch off or unplug the piano so that the cleaning process doesn’t damage the electricity flow in the piano.
  • Clean the black after cleaning the white ones. Because you don’t want to stain the white keys.
  • Clean the entire piano with a new dry microfiber cloth so that no leftover dirt gets the benefit of the doubt to stay on the piano keys!

Keep This in Mind…

Just keep it in mind that, if your piano keys are made from ivory, it’s more vulnerable to specific cleaning components and methods. Since ivory is more porous than plastic ones, you need to take special measures for it!

For example, ivory keys might warp easily. Moreover, the glue that’s used for sealing the keys can get loose if you make them wet too much. So, before cleaning, make sure your cloth doesn’t drip water from them or is not too wet for the piano keys.

Be careful not to use any fabric that leaks color from it. This may cause the white keys in your piano to be dirty. Better if you use lighter-colored fabric, even better if you use a white cloth.

In cases of plastics, they are more resilient when it comes to cleaning. You can use other substances such as lemon juice, white vinegar, polish, and so on. Dish soap does the job, but you should use the previous ones because they do the job better in cleaning your piano keys!

Also, don’t forget to check my piano buying guide and piano apps article What is The Best Piano Brands in the World – A Complete Buyer’s Guide on 2021 and The 10 Best Piano Learning Apps for Android and iOS and piano Guide: 10 Common Mistakes People Make When Buying a Piano

Discoloration of the Piano Keys

The piano keys often get discolored if you play them for a very long time. The white keys get yellowish, and the black ones get pale. So, you might want to restore the color of your piano tiles.

Doing this is slightly tricky. If you have a piano with ivory keys, you can normal kinds of toothpaste to lighten up the tone of the keys. However, you can’t really return the previous color completely with this process only. If you really want your piano to look good as new, consult a professional piano cleaning service. They’ll dismantle the piano and bleach the keys to make it squeaky clean!

!!! Words of Caution!!!

The piano keys are a very sensitive portion of a piano. Be it digital or classic. There are a few things that you must avoid. These things create a bad effect on your piano keys, sometimes damaging them permanently.

Here are 4 things that you should definitely avoid while cleaning the piano keys!

Don’t Spray the Cleaning Solution Directly:

Cleaning solutions are generally very watery, and they have a very little amount of volatile alcohol in them. So, they’re not volatile enough to vaporize in 2-1 seconds after they’re sprayed on the keys. Since they’re not like that, it’s dangerous to spray the cleaning solution directly on the keys.

The water might get in between the keys damaging the string underneath it. Moreover, you won’t be able to clean the keys evenly if you do this. For example, spraying on the keys first – the keys will have the portion with the most concentration (where you sprayed), and there will be a portion with a less concentrated cleaning solution (when you wipe the solution to spread throughout the keys). So, the results won’t be as pretty as you wanted!

Don’t Wipe Horizontally:

If you’re new to cleaning the piano keys, you might try to wipe the keys, side to side thinking you can cover more surface area in this process. However, this is an absolutely wrong process.

If you do this, the key alignment may become messed up. And trust me, you don’t want this! The keys will become uneven. It’ll eventually be disadvantageous while playing. Moreover, dust might get in the corner of the keys, and between the keys. If this happens, the mobility of the keys will be affected. In both cases, you’ll have a hard time playing the piano later.

So, wipe the keys vertically outwards (90 degrees to the direction of the piano keys). In this way, you won’t face any problems later. For this reason, instead of wiping it up and down, you should only wipe the keys in one direction. More specifically, from up to down. This way, all the dust will be wiped, and the remaining dirt will be pushed out of the piano.

Don’t Use Any Kind of Scrubbing Brush:

How to Clean Piano Keys-Don’t Use Any Kind of Scrubbing Brush

Sometimes, you may find stains that are too hard to remove with just a soft cloth. Hard stains won’t go away no matter how much you rub them. It’s so frustrating, isn’t it?! Falling into temptation, don’t use any kind of hard bristled brush!

Brushes like scrubbing ones, or the scouring pad, all damage the piano keys and put scratches on them. Moreover, in the worst-case scenario, the keys will get dull with this. So, no matter what, stick to the soft microfiber cloth till the end!

Don’t Clean the Keys Up and Down:

Wiping something in an up-down (back-to-back) direction is an easier and faster way to clean something. However, DON’T do this while you’re cleaning the piano keys! The front and back motion of cleaning may stick more dust on the upper corner of the piano.

While cleaning the piano, you should move the cloth in one direction. More specifically, from up to down. Repeat this cycle. In this way, you’ll not only get almost all of the dirt removed from the piano but also, with this process, the remaining dirt will be thrown away as you move the cloth outwards. Though this process lacks a bit of mobility, it’s very effective!

Want to Prevent the Keys from Getting Dirty?

How to clean piano keys is an important thing to know. But do you know how you can prevent the piano keys from getting dirty? Well as the proverb goes “Prevention is better than cure”, it also applies in the case of cleaning piano keys!

Well preventing the piano keys from getting dirty, you’ll not have many hassles while cleaning them. Moreover, you’ll not even face problems like rough stains, or discoloration if you prevent the piano keys from getting dirty.

So, here are a few important steps you can follow to prevent the piano keys from getting dirtier:

  • Keep the keyboard of the piano covered with the attached board, that is, the lid. This will not let any additional dust gather around the keys. Moreover, it will protect the piano from any kind of accident like spilling water, dirt, or dust.
  • Dry clean the piano keys regularly. Leaving the piano keys exposed to dirt for even a day will generate a very thick layer of dust over the piano.
  • Clean your hands before playing the piano. Also, make sure that your hands are completely dry before you get to play!
  • Sunlight discolors plastic. So, if your piano has plastic keys, keep it in a place where it doesn’t get direct sunlight.
  • Piano keys of ivory, when you keep them in indirect sunlight, it whitens the keys. So, you know where to place your piano now!
  • Even if you’re not playing for a long time, let your piano keys breathe once in a while. If you don’t do this, the lid may become humid which eventually will damage your piano.

Final Words

Cleaning is a very important maintenance procedure for pianos. I’ve brought you this article on how to clean piano keys so that you may know what the most appropriate procedure for cleaning the piano keys is. After you’re done cleaning, you can start playing it as if it were new!

Nowadays, you’ll find pianos of plastic keys quite often. So, their cleaning procedure is quite simple. However, you should pay extra care if your piano is made from ivory. In both cases, you need to know how to clean piano keys properly so that the keys won’t get damaged.

So, read the article thoroughly, check whichever process works for you! If you have any questions, feel free to ask!!! Have a nice and clean piano playing experience!

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