How to Get Rid of Color on Clarinet Keys

Clarinets have 24 silver, nickel or silver plated keys that need to be cared for to prevent discolouration. Keys become discoloured for a variety of reasons. The most common is tarnish in which oxidation from chemicals in the air causes a blue-black patina to form on silver keys and a dark grey discolouration on nickel plated ones. Contact with pollutants in the air such as sulphur vapours can also cause discolouration. If you have high acidity in your system, discolouration can occur when acid from oils in your fingers wear the plating away. While some people choose to keep discolouration, others want to find methods to get rid of colour on clarinet keys.

Prevent discolouration by washing your hands and drying them completely before playing your clarinet. This prevents acids from oils on your fingertips from forming grooves in the silver plating covering the keys. Wipe the keys with a cotton cloth after playing.

Wipe tarnish gently from clarinet keys with a small amount of high quality silver polish make of extremely fine particles.

Mix baking soda and water to form a paste. Apply the paste and let it dry. Wipe the paste away with a clean cotton cloth to remove tarnish from clarinet keys. Baking soda and water is a natural, safe alternative to silver polish.

Wipe tarnished keys with a silver cloth, which is a cloth infused with silver polish.

Take your instrument to a professional instrument technician for tarnish removal and replating. It's safer than trying to do it yourself and less expensive than replacing an instrument.


Place anti-tarnishing silver strips in your clarinet case to prevent tarnish.


Do not over polish your clarinet keys as too much polishing wears off the silver plating. Avoid using toothpaste, brillo pads or other abrasive materials to remove tarnish. Abrasive materials wear away the keys.

Things You'll Need

  • Cotton cloths
  • Silver polish
  • Baking soda
  • Silver cloth
  • Anti-tarnish strips
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About the Author

Cathryn Whitehead graduated from the University of Michigan in 1987. She has published numerous articles for various websites. Her poems have been published in several anthologies and on Whitehead has done extensive research on health conditions and has a background in education, household management, music and child development.