How to Clean Piano Keys

Hands on ivory piano keys

The Spruce / Sarah Lee

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 10 - 20 mins
  • Total Time: 10 - 20 mins
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $5 to 10

A piano is an investment that will last for generations through many moves to a new home if it is cared for correctly. This is a statement piece in any home, and deserves to be cared for and cleaned regularly. After all, you wouldn't want such an important instrument collecting dust.

Learn how to best clean piano keys with just a few household supplies.

How Often to Clean Piano Keys

Piano keys should be dusted with an electrostatic duster weekly. A more thorough cleaning should be done if the keys appear smudged or dirty, at least monthly. The frequency of cleaning depends on how often the piano is used.

Before You Begin

If you have an older piano, it is important to determine if the keys are ivory and ebony or plastic before you begin cleaning. Ivory keys usually have a distinctive line at the base of the black keys that shows the ivory was applied in two pieces. Natural ivory has a grain that can be seen on the finish. Solid ebony keys are not shiny and may be worn down slightly at the ends from years of playing.

Plastic coverings for keys were introduced around 1930. You will not see a line on the white keys or detect any grain pattern. However, both natural ivory and white plastic piano keys will discolor and turn yellow over time.


Never spray any type of cleaner or polish directly on the keyboard. Excessive moisture can damage the keyboard permanently.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • 2 microfiber cloths
  • 2 small bowls
  • 1 soft-bristled toothbrush


  • 1 bottle mild dishwashing liquid
  • 1 bottle hydrogen peroxide
  • 1 disposable electrostatic duster
  • 1 tube non-gel toothpaste
  • 1 piece thin cardboard


Items needed to clean piano keys

The Spruce / Sarah Lee

How to Clean Plastic Piano Keys

  1. Remove Dust

    Use a disposable electrostatic duster or another type of duster to capture dust that has settled on the keys. Be sure to work slowly so the duster gets between every key.

    Person dusting plastic piano keys

    The Spruce / Sarah Lee

  2. Wipe Away Smudges

    Dampen a microfiber cloth with water and wring until it does not drip. Start at the top of each key closest to the key block and wipe toward the edge of the key. Apply gentle pressure and move to a clean area of the cloth as dirt is transferred.

    If the keys are exceptionally dirty or sticky, mix a solution of warm water and a few drops of a mild dishwashing liquid. Dip the microfiber cloth in the solution and wring until it no longer drips. Use the cloth to wipe away the dirt. Rinse the cloth out often and keep moving to a clean section of the cloth.

    Person wiping down plastic piano keys

    The Spruce / Sarah Lee

  3. Dry the Keys

    The keys must not be left damp after cleaning. Use a clean, dry lint-free microfiber cloth to remove any moisture.

    Drying plastic piano keys

    The Spruce / Sarah Lee

How to Clean Natural Ivory Piano Keys

Natural ivory comes from the tusk of an elephant or walrus. It is similar to the teeth of humans and can be cleaned similarly.

  1. Remove Dust

    Use an electrostatic duster to remove loose dust from the piano keys.

    Removing dust from ivory piano keys

    The Spruce / Sarah Lee

  2. Create a Cardboard Wedge

    Cut two pieces of thin cardboard to wedge between the keys as you clean. This will help prevent moisture from becoming trapped between the keys as you clean.

    Using cardboard wedges to clean in between piano keys

    The Spruce / Sarah Lee

  3. Mix a Cleaning Solution

    Squeeze a quarter-sized dollop of basic toothpaste into a small bowl. The toothpaste should not be gel-based or contain whitening ingredients. Add a three-fourths cup of warm water and stir until the toothpaste has dissolved in the water.

    Mixing a cleaning solution for piano keys

    The Spruce / Sarah Lee

  4. Protect and Clean

    Slip the cardboard pieces on either side of the ivory key you are cleaning. Dip the toothbrush into the solution and tap it on the bowl until it is not dripping—just damp. Start at the top of the key and gently scrub to the end. Do not overwet the keys.

    Using a wet toothbrush to scrub the ivory piano keys

    The Spruce / Sarah Lee

  5. Rinse, Repeat, and Dry

    Remove the cardboard and use a damp microfiber cloth to "rinse" the key. Reinsert the cardboard (replace the cardboard if it becomes wet) between the next keys and repeat the steps.

    Finish by drying the keyboard with a dry microfiber cloth.

    Repeating the process of cleaning ivory piano keys

    The Spruce / Sarah Lee

  6. Clean the Ebony Keys

    Dust and wipe the ebony keys with only a damp microfiber cloth. (No toothpaste)

    Cleaning ivory piano keys with a microfiber cloth

    The Spruce / Sarah Lee

How to Disinfect Piano Keys

To disinfect piano keys, dampen a clean microfiber cloth with hydrogen peroxide. It should not be dripping, just damp. Wipe each key and allow the keyboard to air dry before using.

Tips to Keep Piano Keys Clean Longer

  • Wash your hands before playing.
  • Keep the keyboard covered when not in use.