How to Clean Ivory Piano Keys

An antique piano has an exceptional feature that the naked eye cannot see. Beyond its fine-looking vintage aesthetics, did you know that the piano keys of an antique piano are precious? The pianos that were manufactured before the 1975 international trade banning of elephant ivory have piano keys made of ivory.  Basically, only the top layer of the white piano keys is made of ivory and the rest, including the black keys, are made of ebony or plastic. There had been several alternatives for ivory, such as porcelain, cedar, polished wood, plastic, and silver, but none of them could mimic the effectiveness of ivory for better gripping. Ivory piano keys are glossy, smooth, and slippery, but comparing them to other materials, the former provides better gripping for sweaty hands. Our fingers tend to sweat when being used with pressure in a long period of time, just like when playing the piano, so ivory piano keys, which are porous in nature, are perfect for this condition.

However, the production of any craft made of ivory was banned in 1975 when Asian elephants were placed on the Appendix One of CITES (Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species). A few years later, the African elephants lessened in population too, which brought incommodious concern worldwide.  As an alternative, ivorines were invented. An ivorine is an artificial plastic that resembles the color and texture of ivory. Since then, the white piano keys were crafted with ivorine. But for the benefit of those who are lucky enough to own an antique piano from their ancestors, I will share with you efficient techniques on how to clean ivory piano keys so that owners may preserve it better.

The most basic rule in cleaning ivory piano keys is to treat them as teeth, because in actuality ivory is a dental bone. This means avoiding any harmful and staining substances to drop on the ivory piano keys. There is also a tendency for ivory piano keys to turn yellowish over a long period of time. This is normal, which also indicates a piano’s worth. However some get bothered by it so the best solution is to whiten them mildly similar to how we brush our teeth using a toothpaste and a soft brush. The only difference is to remember not to drip the piano keys with water. Brush each key with gentle strokes and then using a soft cloth or sponge, dip it into the water, squeeze, and then wipe off the excess toothpaste on the ivory piano keys. Use a dry cloth to do the final cleaning and let the piano keys dry completely from sun and air exposure. A little bit of sunlight is good for ivory piano keys maintenance so permanently position the piano where you can easily tie up the curtains or roll back the blinds.