How to Keep Ivory and Bone Items Clean

Things You'll Need

  • Vacuum

  • Dust cloths

  • Mild liquid detergent

Cleaning household items made of ivory and bone takes a delicate touch. These materials have a special beauty as they develop a butter cream-colored patina over time, which not only makes them lovelier but more valuable as well. To keep delicate jewelry and objects d'art clean, you need to clean carefully and gently so as not to disturb that beautiful patina.

Step 1

Keep bone and ivory free of dust. Dust collecting on these materials will settle in to crevices and detail work, especially if it is a delicate or lacy design, and become very hard to remove. Keep ivory and bone dusted with a duster or the brush attachment of your vacuum cleaner.

Step 2

Never put anything made out of ivory or bone into the dishwasher. Some knives are made with beautiful ivory or bone handles. These must be washed by hand with a very mild detergent and warm water. Don't leave these items to soak in the water, however, as the glue holding the knife blades in place can loosen. Wash bone and ivory with a sudsy, mild liquid detergent. Wash it gently, rinse well and dry it well.

Step 3

Clean a piano's ivory keys with a little dab of any of the following products: milk, plain white toothpaste, rubbing alcohol, yogurt, baking soda and water paste. The key to cleaning the keys is to just put a little dab of one of these on the key face, being careful not to get anything in-between the keys. Put a dab on with a clean soft cloth and rub it gently until it shines.

Step 4

Keep ivory objects where the sun can get to them. The sun has a bleaching effect and it will keep the ivory from turning a dingy darkened color. If your ivory does turn a yellow color that looks dirty, clean it with a half of a lemon dipped in table sale. Rub this over the ivory surface and let it dry well. Buff it with a clean, soft dry cloth to shine it up.


Always make sure that you wash your hands before you handle bone or ivory. Not only does the dirt come off, but the oils in your skin can harm these materials as well.


Don't clean very old or expensive ivory or bone on your own when it's dirty. Consult a specialist who conserves old pieces.