The average American household spends around $50-$60 every month on cleaning supplies.
We spend hundreds of dollars on cleaning every part of our homes, but one thing that often gets overlooked are paintings. If you have paintings in your home, you need to know how to clean an oil painting. Removing layers of grime that build up on the painting can get the looking years younger if done right.
Of course, there’s always the danger that the oil painting can sustain damage while cleaning, so how do you clean an oil painting safely?
Why Is My Painting Dirty?
Oil paintings become dirty over time, like all surfaces in a home. The air is full of particulate matter that settles where it lands, this includes dust and other contaminants. If a painting sits in the same place for an extended period of time, these contaminants build up on the surface.
The most common culprit is dust, which can make the painting’s colors more dull and less vibrant. It can also become noticeable on dark frames and paintings, distracting from the beauty of the piece. There’s no need to despair, dust is the easiest thing to get off of a painting.
Dusting a Painting
The first step in cleaning an oil painting is to remove the dust that it has gathered. This may be the only thing you need to do, or it could be only the first step. For dusting a painting you don’t need any solvents or liquids.
You should take a soft brush, with wide bristles, and go over the piece and its frame. This will help remove anything that is trying to stick onto the painting. Natural hair bristles work the best, as more harsh brushes can scratch the surface of the painting.
You should avoid using a cloth for this because rough patches on the painting can catch threads. If you have an old painting you want to protect and clean make sure you can do it, or take it to a professional.
More Than Dusting
You may need to do more than dust the piece, for instance, if a thin layer of grime has formed on the surface of the painting. To remove this layer, you can use a cloth soaked in a cleaning agent. You have to be careful which cleaning agent you use, to prevent damage.
Any kind of soap based on olive oil is the best, as it has the least chance of causing any damage. Be gentle but firm when you go over the surface of the painting. You don’t want the towel to be dripping wet, because then moisture damage could occur to the painting.
Whatever soap you choose, make sure that it has a low pH level. Anything that is acidic can cause damage over time by being left on the surface of the painting. Never use anything that has alcohol in it, as that will eat away the oil-based paint.
Cleaning the Frame
Cleaning a picture frame is a lot easier than cleaning the oil painting itself. If you want a clean oil painting, you need to make sure that the frame is also clean. Doing that requires more than soap and water, you want to keep a lot of moisture away from the painting.
A great way to clean a frame is to dust it and then apply a stain to the frame. You should remove a painting from the frame before you try anything. You’ll also want to make sure that everything is dry before you return a painting to its frame.
What Do I Need to Clean Oil Paintings?
When it comes to cleaning oil painting you may be surprised to learn that you won’t need much. Most of the time the cleaning can be handled by nothing more than a soft, gentle cloth and some q-tips. Q-tips can help you reach places on the painting that may not be accessible otherwise.
Another thing you’ll need is access to warm water. Distilled water works best for cleaning paintings because it doesn’t leave behind a lot of minerals. Normal tap water shouldn’t touch your painting as it can leave behind minerals that could cause discoloration.
Make sure that you have a bucket nearby, you want to always keep your cleaning method as dry as possible. Any extra moisture added to the canvas an oil painting was made on can cause additional damage to the piece.
These are a few painting cleaning tips. If you have a piece that is valuable or old, you should take it to someone who specializes in professional restoration. Don’t risk damaging an old, fragile painting if you aren’t comfortable with the cleaning procedures.
What to Avoid
Now that you know how to clean an oil painting, make sure you know what to avoid when cleaning one.
Of course, you want to avoid anything that has alcohol in it. This is a powerful solvent that dissolves paint from surfaces. You’ll also want to stay away from anything used to clean brushes with. If you want more information about how to clean brushes, you can click here for more.
It goes without saying that you should avoid harsh and abrasive surfaces as well. These can take small bits of the paint off. While you may not see any damage the first time you clean it, using a harsh surface will lead to an accumulation of damage that it is best to avoid.
The dirt and grime on the painting should come off without too much effort. Putting too much force into cleaning can cause damage to the painting, it can also rip the canvas. If you aren’t making the progress you want, dry off the towel you are using and apply your olive oil-based soap again.
Knowing how to clean an oil painting is important for those who want to have art displayed in their homes. If you have to take a painting to a professional, it will cost hundreds of dollars and the price goes up based on the size of the painting.
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