Did you know that a standard piano has exactly 88 keys; 52 white and 36 black ones. Yeah, that’s a lot of keys especially when you look at the number to clean them rather than play them.
Now, if you’re involved in the music industry, you’ve probably touched different types of pianos to realize that they have a very specific feel (unless you touch one that hasn’t been cared for) and that’s because they’ve been kept that way, they’ve been protected, maintain and repaired and when you go into depth in how that’s done you’ll realize it’s not an easy task.
Each piano has a soul that needs to be nourished and every type of piano is different in how they need to be treated.
Nevertheless, every piano deserves care. So here we are with some basic and experienced techniques along with some hardcore methods on how to clean, remove buildup from and give your piano keys a fresh look and feel.
So stay tuned if you want your piano to be praised like a new one!
Still, keeping piano keys cleaned is also of great importance. Let’s move on to how to clean piano keys thoroughly that won’t damage your pianos!
How to Clean Piano Keys?
This section tells the methods of cleaning plastic piano keys, ivory keys and ebony keys.
How to clean the modern plastic keys?
If you’re cleaning a piano that was created after the 70’s, it’s most probably made with plastic keys because it’s much more efficient and lasting.
Now, unlike ivory keys, plastic keys don’t go pale or change colors over time; however, they do get dirty given the law of white color and your method of cleaning them as with every other type of key depends on the amount of dirt they’ve gathered “on” and “in-between” them.
Let’s suppose that only the top of the keys is dirty.
For plastic ones; they’re not porous and can be cleaned with a water-based cleanser. You would really only need just a micro-fibrous cloth and warm water.
If that doesn’t cut it, then some vinegar can also be used as its acidity will break down the layer of the dirt and grime but that much you would have guessed since it’s one of the classic cleaning methods.
If you have some really stubborn stains that the methods above fail at then a 90% rubbing alcohol solution should do the job.
Just spray it on some damp cloth and wipe the keys and they stains should start fading with some light swiping.
Here’s what to do if have ivory keys
Modern-day pianos do not have ivory keys as these are more of a challenge in the area of maintenance. They are porous so say goodbye to using water on them. Moreover, they’re also more expensive to produce on a large scale and they get yellow/stained after a few years.
So for these, your go-to method should be to use alcohol, which is a great way to clean ivory keys as alcohol won’t crack or expand the keys considering it’s volatile and evaporates swiftly.
One should use at least 90% concentrated solution of rubbing alcohol; Simple apply it onto a microfibrous cloth then clean the keys gently.
Keep in mind that Ivory keys need to be maintained as it’s difficult to regain their original color and texture if it has been ignored for a long period of time.
Sunlight exposure, surprisingly, helps fade the yellow tint. If that doesn’t help then one should remove each key that has changed in color and bleach them so all the keys have a consistent color to get that newish-perfect look.
What if you have ebony keys?
The black and white keys on your piano are currently probably made of plastic, however, before the 70s, the white keys were made of ivory (as mentioned above) and the black keys were sometimes made of darker ivory but they were mostly made from ebon which is a dense and dark hardwood.
Wooden keys with an ebony finish tend to retain oil a lot more than any other keys in such a way that the oil will appear to be absorbed. If it settles onto the ebony keys, it’s a given that a feather duster will outlive its usefulness here.
So here you’ll need to polish and condition the keys using a satin ebony polish such as ‘Cory’s satin finished conditioner’ to remove the oil.
It shouldn’t be applied directly to the keys but instead, again, on a micro fibrous cloth and then stroked on the keys along the grain on the wood. One should then use a dry cloth preferably micro fibrous to pat the remaining residue dry.
If the keys have buildup due to overtime ignorance, then the keys should be carefully removed and buffed using a special buffing soap for ebony keys.
Sticky residue after cleaning?
If the methods provided above are applied and they leave a sticky residue after the cleaning process, then the following methods would set that right.
Use a buffer to remove the sticky buildup then cleaning of the area with WD40 or alcohol/sanitizer; whatever you have.
Perfume has also been said to remove sticky residues so give them a final wipe with a perfume-damp cloth.
The Dos and Don’ts of Piano Care
1. Remember to keep liquids and drinks away from the keys- even using cleaning liquids in a way that they don’t drip down the side of the keys
2. Dry keys immediately after cleaning with a lint-free cloth such as a micro fibrous cloth to prevent stains and leftover sticky residue.
3. Don’t get ivory keys wet as the wood will swell or contract so best to use a specific cleaner or alcohol.
4. Too much alcohol or alcohol directly on wood can damage the finish so apply it on a cloth before cleaning and use a small amount.
5. Due to the wide range of cleaning products available one should always test the product on a small unexposed area first to make sure that the product isn’t damaging the finish of the piano. This is a necessary precaution before using the cleaning product on an exposed area.
6. One should not lift up the keys especially ivory keys as they’re delicate and can break easily.
7. Do not apply too much pressure while cleaning as this will create micro scratches on the surface of the piano which might cause the surface to appear dull over time.
Tricks to Prevent Dirt Buildup
The best way to prevent dirt from building up on the keys over time is to use the lid that goes over the piano keys. It’s also best to lock it up if either kids or consumable goods are in the environment around.
However, one should make sure that it doesn’t stay locked/closed for too long, and leaving the keys to be ventilated will prevent moisture buildup or other issues.
Regular dusting using a feather duster will also keep the piano maintained without affecting the integrity of the texture.
Frequently Asked Questions:
1. Can you clean the piano keys with alcohol?
This depends on the type of keys. If we’re dealing with plastic keys, using alcohol is not an issue as long as it’s done in moderation and it doesn’t drip down the sides. When using alcohol with ivory keys it should be first applied to a cloth and then wiped off quickly after as alcohol is preferred over water because it evaporates quickly and doesn’t damage the wood.
In the case of ebony keys, do not use alcohol as it can damage the finish of the wood as these keys are very delicate thus special cleaners for these keys are the way to go.
2. Use Windex to clean a piano?
For plastic keys, since they’re waterproof and very resistant to wear and tear, multiple cleaning detergents including dish soap, Windex and others can be used without a worry.
Spray the Windex/add the detergent to a damp micro fibrous cloth and clean the keys in a downward motion and wipe off the residue with a damp cloth(a dry one this time).
3. Can the above methods make my piano keys white again?
If your piano keys are turning yellow they’re ivory keys (plastic keys can also turn yellow but that’s only if they have been uncared-for, for a long period of time and that will be removed with a tough cleaning procedure using multiple cleaning products alongside scrubbing and maybe some alcohol)
Ivory keys’ yellowness is said to be bleached under the influence of UV present in sunlight.
However, if that does not work then each key that has yellowed is to be removed and bleached separately so that all the keys have a similar colored tone. This is a lengthy and difficult process but the most successful one thus far.
Be it the classical types or a modern-day piano, with our methods of cleaning, you’ll find it easier than ever to maintain this antique-yet-in-fashion instrument with minimal hassle.
With these, your piano remains preserved so do not need a full-blown and expensive heavy-duty restoration as it gets older. We hope our guide helps keep your piano shining through the ages!