Having a grand piano in the living room creates a wonderful creative space. Pianos are perfect for all kinds of decors and themes. However, cleaning a piano is quite a bit of a challenge. The discoloration of the piano keys takes away all the charm. However, we’ve got the secrets to return the white of your piano’s yellowing keys.

yellowing keys
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In case you are unsure if your piano’s keys are ivory or plastic you can do a quick check. The plastic keys are smoother than ivory and usually come with a joint at the base. In either cases using soap and water does more damage to pianos than one can imagine. However cleaning and restoring pianos does not always require professional help. You can clean up those yellow keys during your free time using a few of the following tricks.

Here are a few steps to restore your yellowed piano keys to their former glory.

1. Removing stains from pure ivory keys with natural acids

Ivory is extremely porous by nature. This means cleaning your piano keys should take up at least a good couple of hours depending upon the severity of the stains. The trick is to dry each key after scrubbing.

  • Lemon juice is extremely useful when it you have to fight stains off yellowed ivory. But be careful as to dilute the concentration of the citric acid as it can corrode the bone down.
  • Milk is also a fantastic choice. Although it sounds bizarre, the lactic acid removes stain with mild care.

2. Cleaning real ivory keys with toothpaste

You can also clean the ivory keys with mild white toothpaste. Be sure to use normal, plain white toothpaste only. The gel and colored toothpaste corrode and discolor ivory. After wiping away the white toothpaste residue with whole milk the keys are to be dried immediately. To prevent the keys from yellowing again, you can expose the freshly cleaned keys to indirect sunlight. This is for ivory keys only as plastic keyboard become discolored in sunlight. Remember to use soft cheesecloth or flannel to clean the residues to prevent scratching.

3. Diluted vinegar works like magic

clean ivory piano keys
Image Courtesy of Steinway Piano Galleries

If you want a quicker result you can skip the toothpaste bit. You should first thoroughly dust the keys and then clean them with diluted vinegar. However make sure to use the teensiest bit, since strong acid with corrode dental bone. The ideal ratio is one part of vinegar in 4 parts of water. Also use only flannel or cheesecloth to scrub the keys. Even an old tee-shirt works fine for cleaning real ivory keys. Never even try removing impossible stains with steel wool or scrubbers – that would be unwise.

4. Erase the stains

cleaning piano keys
Image Courtesy of An Amazing Machine

Well you can erase the stains off the keys, literally. You can grate a white vinyl eraser (WHITE ONLY) and rub the grated eraser on the ivory. Remember to use only your fingertips or a very soft toothbrush (better go for a baby toothbrush) to wipe away the bits. This is a very simple process which works wonders on age old stains which simply refuse to be removed.

5. Direct sunlight

This is advisable only if your piano has pure ivory keys. Direct sunlight bleaches ivory. All you need to do is leave your piano uncovered in a sunny spot and let the keys bask in the sunlight. This is a fabulous and judicious method to prevent further discoloration of the ivory.

6. Easy polishing

You can also polish your ivory keys with the help of file #0000 steel wool pad. This removes yellowing as well as any other stains which may have been plaguing the beauty of your antique piece. However be sure to do this only once in a while. Since this removes quite a bit of the upper layer too and you may end up scratching your precious ivory keys.

7. Using mayonnaise and yoghurt to clean ivory keys

ivory keys
Image Courtesy of Metro News

Although this may sound weird but the acidity caused by the bacteria present in yoghurt and mayonnaise helps to bleach the ivory in a gentle way. This is a very effective technique as it does not corrode the ivory while cleaning. You need to wipe away the mixture after a few minutes. Then remember to buff each key with a dry cloth.

While cleaning your piano first determine if the keys are ivory or plastic. In case they are ivory, always remember that it is dental bone. So all the techniques you would like to use on the keys should be gentle, non-corrosive, and non-invasive.

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