Piesik Piano TuningPiano Repair Service
John E. Piesik, RPT(760) 726-4665
 

 

Registered Piano Technician – Member of the Piano Technicians Guild
Serving North San Diego County – Since 1990

 

Keytops – Keys

Ebony and Ivory

The white piano keys are called the "naturals," of which there are 52.  The black piano keys are called the "sharps," of which there are 36.  The naturals are typically made of plastic or ivory.  Sharps are made out of plastic, hardwood, or ebony.

 

If your piano has ivory keytops, and only a few are missing, it may be possible to have them replaced, or reglued, especially if you still have the originals.  However, the ivory replacement will never exactly match the original piano keys, no matter how carefully the repair is done.  Though it is possible to have an entire set of new ivory keytops installed on a piano keyboard, it's done at an enormous cost and is highly impractical, unless the piano is of very significant value.

Why Replace?

Why replace an entire set of piano keytops if only a few are worn or missing?  There are several reasons:  because the performance of the piano depends upon all the keys being of a uniform thickness and height;  it is nearly impossible to exactly match the color of the original keytops with a single replacement;  single keytop replacements will have a different "feel" from the rest of the keys which affects the playability of the piano.

Piano Key Bushings

Key bushings can have a great effect on the way your piano plays, yet they are often overlooked because of the time and effort it takes to replace them.  The key bushings are designed to prevent the wooden key mortices from rattling against the metal balance rail and front rail pins.  If the key bushings are too tight, the action can be sluggish causing sticking keys, and the key bushings will need to be carefully eased.  If the key bushings are worn, damaged, or missing, the keys may be noisy and wobbly.  A good time to replace worn out key bushings is during keytop replacement.  We use only premium-quality bushing cloth and proper techniques in order to obtain a precise fit on the key pins and to assure your keys will perform like new.

The Key Point

If your keys are unsightly, noisy or wobbly it is recommended that the entire set of piano keytops and key bushings be replaced with new, affordable, plastic keytop material and premium bushing cloth like that used on newly manufactured pianos.  The results are astonishing and will add instant value to your piano.  In addition, your piano will be so much more inviting to play with new key bushings and a beautiful new set of keytops.

 

    

How to Clean Piano Keys

Cleaning piano keys with a damp cloth is not a very effective method for removing finger oils, dirt, crayon or even peanut butter.  Using a damp cloth and soap is not recommended since it can be difficult to remove all of the soapy residue.  So, what should be used?

 

For in-home piano key cleaning and maintenance, the hands-down winner is Key-Brite® Key Cleaner by Cory.  Key-Brite® is safe for cleaning all types of piano keys - plastic, ivory, ivorine, ivorite, cellulose, hardwood, and ebony.

 

Key-Brite® is water-based, effectively cleans wax, grime and greasy build up, and is safe to use whenever you want to clean your piano keys.  Key-Brite® can be safely sprayed directly onto the keys, and any overspray will not harm the surrounding surfaces.

 

Use Key-Brite® with a clean, very slightly damp, light-colored terry cloth (avoid dark colors that could bleed through).  Clean about an octave or two at a time, swiping from back to front.  Use a t-shirt or soft cloth, such as a cloth diaper, for polishing and buffing the keys after cleaning.

 

Do not get the keys overly wet, allow moisture to remain on top of the keys for any extended period of time, or allow moisture to get between the keys.  Ivory, which is porous and typically thinner than plastic keytops, is more susceptible to excessive moisture.

 

When cleaning piano keys, especially ivory, be careful not to catch the cloth on the edge of a keytop and accidentally pull it off.  Be careful when cleaning between the sharps not to put too much sideways pressure on them which could weaken the glue joint, or worse, break one off.

 

A word about Windex®… The following is not an endorsement for Windex®;  however, for spot cleaning, or for a one time initial cleaning of very grimy, dirty keys, if no better product is available, Windex® could be a used in a pinch.

 

It's best to use Windex® by spraying it onto a slightly damp cleaning cloth, not directly onto the keys.  Windex® comes out in a heavy spray that can get the keys too wet, and any overspray may not be safe on the surrounding areas.  But, before using Windex® please keep reading

 

Some claim that Windex® with ammonia will melt or pit plastic piano keys.  This is partially true only for certain plastics such as acrylic and plexiglass, and only when using high concentrations of ammonia.  But, it is not true when using a low ammonia concentration (under 5-10%) product such as Windex® when used on most plastic piano keytops, especially when used sparingly and infrequently.  The facts are ammonia is a good disinfectant, ammonia is an excellent cleaner of grease and grime, and Windex® with ammonia will not melt or pit most plastics, including plastic piano keytops.

 

But, what Windex® with ammonia can do is dissolve some flat and matte painted finishes.  Ammonia is sometimes used in paint removers.  Be cautious when using any ammonia based product on painted surfaces such as black piano keys made out of wood.  Windex® with ammonia can break down the painted finish on some types of black piano keys which can end up ruining the finish and making a mess.

 

Although Windex® with ammonia can be used for cleaning plastic (and even ivory) piano keys, it's generally not recommended, should not be used as your regular piano key cleaner, and should be used only as a last resort.  As with any cleaner, always do a test on one or two keys before you decide to use it.

 

Some other ammonia free products, besides Cory Key-Brite®, that are effective glass and plastic cleaners include Sprayway®, Plexus® and ammonia free formulas of Windex®.

A Few More Piano Key Cleaning Tips

Toothpaste and milk will not whiten ivory piano keys.  Never use furniture polish to clean your piano keys.  Avoid rubbing compounds and steel wool which can leave your piano keys dull, stained or scratched.  Never use nail polish remover or any product containing acetone on your piano keys (acetone instantly dissolves plastic and glue).  Never play your piano immediately after polishing your nails (nail polish can be extremely difficult to remove from piano keys).  Never stick anything onto your piano keys including keyboard stickers, decals, scotch tape, masking tape, etc.  WD-40® and Goo Gone®, if used judiciously, can be effective in removing adhesive residue from your piano keys.  Ivory keys stay white in light.  Covering ivory keys can cause them to yellow.

 

And finally, like mom used to say, "Wash your paws before playing the piano!"

 

Contact Piesik Piano Tuning:

 

(760) 726-4665

 

E-mail:  john@piesikpiano.com

 

          

 

John E. Piesik, RPT | Registered Piano Technician | North San Diego County | (760) 726-4665 | © 2010 - 2017 Piesik Piano Tuning

 

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