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How to Clean Ivory Piano Keys

Even though it's currently illegal in the United States to manufacture pianos with ivory keys, due to a wildlife conservation act that protects elephants, plenty of older pianos with ivory keys still exist.

Ivory piano keys will yellow over time.

Things You Will Need

  • Clean, white soft cloths
  • Small container
  • Warm water
  • 4 to 5 drops of mild liquid soap

Even though it's currently illegal in the United States to manufacture pianos with ivory keys, due to a wildlife conservation act that protects elephants, plenty of older pianos with ivory keys still exist.  Ivory piano keys can suffer from the accumulation of dust and dirty fingerprints, and will eventually need cleaning.

Yet, unlike plastic keys, ivory keys are porous, so excess moisture can result in damage. 

  1. Fill a small container with warm water. Add 4 or 5 drops of mild soap to the water. Agitate the water with your fingertips to mix the soap and water.
  2. Dip a clean, white, soft cloth into the soapy water. Wring the cloth free of excess liquid.
  3. Wipe two or three ivory piano keys with the damp soapy cloth from top to bottom. Wipe the damp keys with a clean, white, dry cloth immediately to remove the residue.
  4. Rinse out the cloth and wring it as needed. If the cloth becomes soiled, retrieve a clean cloth for use. Repeat Step 3 as many times as needed to clean all of the ivory keys.
  5. Tip

    Alternatively, 2 tbsp. of white vinegar mixed with 1 gallon of warm water can be used instead of soap and water. If you use a commercial spray cleaner, proceed with caution. Saturating the keys with spray can cause damage.

    Warning

    While cleaning ivory with milk has long been thought a safe and effective method, it actually does nothing more than create a scummy, smelly coating on the keys.

    Do not use dirty or brightly colored cloths to clean ivory keys because they can stain the ivory.

    Avoid wiping keys from side to side so the cleaning solution won't seep in between the keys.

Things You Will Need

  • Clean, white soft cloths
  • Small container
  • Warm water
  • 4 to 5 drops of mild liquid soap

Tips

  • Alternatively, 2 tbsp. of white vinegar mixed with 1 gallon of warm water can be used instead of soap and water.
  • If you use a commercial spray cleaner, proceed with caution. Saturating the keys with spray can cause damage.

Warnings

  • While cleaning ivory with milk has long been thought a safe and effective method, it actually does nothing more than create a scummy, smelly coating on the keys.
  • Do not use dirty or brightly colored cloths to clean ivory keys because they can stain the ivory.
  • Avoid wiping keys from side to side so the cleaning solution won't seep in between the keys.

About the Author

Based in Texas, Cynthia Measom has been writing various parenting, business and finance and education articles since 2011. Her articles have appeared on websites such as The Bump and Motley Fool. Measom received a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Texas at Austin.

Photo Credits

  • Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images
  • Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images