Except that as I pointed out elsewhere here, the keys probably are not
actually ivory but some kind of plastic instead, unless it's an old or
valuable instrument. Most piano makers stopped using ivory quite some
Acetone is generally not kind to plastics. (Great cleaner otherwise.)
The fashion in killing has an insouciant, flirty style this spring,
with the flaunting of well-defined muscle, wrapped in flags.
Usually to remove a discoloration or stain, you use a solvent close in
chemical composition to the staining agent.
In this case, crayons are made of wax, so I'd try something in the mineral
spirits, Kerosene, etc., line rather than alcohols, bleaches, turpentine,
and solvents based on other chemicals.
And unless the piano is more than about fifty years old, the keys aren't
If the keys are plastic a swab moistened with a little WD40 may do it. The
janitor where I used to work removed all kind of marks, tape, and paint off
of plastic counter tops with it.
Test a small out of the way area first.
On Wed, 07 Jul 2010 21:47:06 -0700, David Nebenzahl
Unless of course the WD-40 cause discoloration that is worse and more
permanent than the original problem. WD-40 is also not safe on all
plastics regardless of what the literature says, and may soften them.
The literature deliberately and carefully says harmless to MOST
plastics. Some things will yellow real Ivory and some plastics badly.
I wouldn't even take advice from crayola on this problem. If it is a
decent piano, the OP needs to call a piano technician with a a good
resume and lots of testimonials.
Since you say so, I'm sure you do have ivory, but just to be sure,
ivory keys are in two pieces**. If there is no line between two
pieces, it's plastic. If there is a line, even with the end of the
black key, it's ivory.
**Three pieces if you count the front vertical part, but I only say
this to satisfy the nitpickers. :)
I woudn't assume invisible markers are also made of wax. Like almost
every company, Crayola has expanded its product line.
And test whatever you are about to do on the front of a key at the end
of the piano next to the wall. Or call someone with great
This was 45 years ago but it might still work.
I'm sure Crayola or someone here has a way to get it off, but if you
ever lose a whole piece, as the guys in my fraternity managed to do
with several before I got there, I called the place that repaired
pianos, and told them my problem (Of course being a poor college
student working on someone else's piano might have helped but might
not have been necessary.) And they gave me the phone number for their
west side of Chicago plant where they did the serious overhauls, and I
called up to see where they were and if I could come over, and I said
one sentence and she said What's your address. I didnt' have time to
give her a sob story and there was no charge.
And she mailed me a bag of ivories and a few black keys. 3 or 4 had
cigarette burns but most did not. And they were slightly different
colors of white. I think this was Lyon and Healy, even though I got
their name from the other piano company in town. This was when ivory
keys were still legal. I'm sure they saved all the ivory keys from
pianos they scrapped. Now there won't be so many getting scrapped,
but there might be as many that need repair, so you might be able to
get only a few.
I'm not much of a pianist, but I think ivory's better. I have a baby
grand Chickering Piano that my mother bought used in 1945. It has a
beautiful tone (better than my uncle's Steinway, afaic) and ivory
keys. The OP's not shopping but you others, don't get a Chickering
made before 1900. They weren't good yet.
Back to the fraternity piano, and this truly is home repair, I think,
I dusted the dampers and the dust kept coming off and off and off. I
wet a rag and kept at it. After 10 or 20 minutes, I started seeing
the wood grain. Eventually I got the whole thing clean and the grain
continued from one damper to another. It was beautiful. They were all
cut from one piece of wood. I don't know how old this piano was but
the house was a fraternity house for maybe 50 or 60 years at the time,
What's the name of the piano company hq'd in Chicago. Not Lyon and
Healy. They had a showroom on State St. in the Loop on the east side
of the street, and I took the elevator to the fourth floor marked Shop
(or maybe I went to every floor until I found the shop), introduced
myself to the first guy I met, and told him about the most serious
problem I had, which was all I hoped to get fixed from them. He took
me to a guy, who showed me what to do and gave me a few spare parts to
do it with. Then he took me to the next guy, who told me how to
replace a broken piano string (I had one) and told me to find out what
size harp I had. (It's a letter from A to G maybe that sticks out big
time at the narrow end of the harp) When I came back the second time,
he looked up the harp size and key number in a chart and gave me more
than enough piano wire to replace the string.
On the first trip, I also had a tightening pin that was loose and kept
coming loose, and the second guy took me to a third guy who gave me a
couple oversized pins and taught me how to put them in. You have to
jamb a 4x4 or something under the sound board and between it and the
frame of the piano, near the missing removed pin, so that when you hit
the new pin, you don't break the sound board, which can't be repaired,
so it's all over. I didn't have to hit the pin that hard, but the
sound board is fairly fragile.
Also some of the keys didn't work and the fourth guy gave me a small
roll of red felt (not a full roll) and some wood pieces that were in
fact missing, and eventually I took the whole keyboard out of the
piano to my bedroom, where I went over every key mechanism and glued
about 10 or 20 of them together with Elmer's white glue and rubber
When the fourth guy was done with me, he took me back to the boss, who
gave me the name and address of the wholesale piano parts store in
Chicago, and gave me his name and said I coudl use his name to get 50%
off on everything. I only bought a tuning wrench. I can't tune but
Joe Kowlkowski had a good ear and I got him to tune the piano.
The whole process took a month or two, and the two guys who could
really play the piano were very happy when it worked. You should have
heard Joe play "A Whiter Shade of Pale" on the piano. It sounded as
good as a whole band. He did classical too. I was happy too, and
played simple stuff.
So I dno't know how long the dampers took to get this dusty, but maybe
I woudn't at all assume every piano has dampers like this. I've never
noticed another one like it, though I don't usually lift the lid. I'm
pretty sure mine are just black.
I guess I was pretty confident dirt was coming off and not just some
sort of black stain. When I got down to the grain, it was still
varnished or had some smooth finish on it. I used very little water
and more rubbing.
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