Old Masters Academy

To Clean an Oil Painting –




Compared to other mediums of painting such as water colours or acrylic or charcoal and so on, oil paintings have always been a favourite medium for artists as well as art lovers. However, the oil medium has its own peculiarities particularly with respect to how it weathers the passage of time.

For an oil painting to retain its original shine and form, the artist or the collector needs to maintain it carefully. Particularly if you are an art lover or collector who owns one or several oil paintings, the best way to maintain the paintings is to get some professional help to clean or refurbish your valuable collection.

But hiring a professional can be quite expensive and time consuming. If you follow a few simple steps carefully, you can effectively clean the oil paintings on your own. Here are some easy to follow steps, guidelines and directions on how to clean oil paintings yourself.

1. Use soft brushes

To maintain the quality of the oil painting always give stress on using very soft brushes to remove dirt. While dusting an oil painting make sure not to flex the canvas or to remove the oil paints by bumping the painting. Avoid dusting the loose flaking paint as while doing so you might damage the paint completely.

2. Use gentle solvent

If the original oil painting is in good shape but the varnish is quite aged, you can apply a gentle solvent known as conservation liquid for cleaning it. Use the solvent with a cotton swab and apply it on the paint very carefully. To be on the safer side, it is advisable to test the reaction of the solvent by applying it on just one corner before trying it on the whole canvas. Use the solvent in an area with sufficient ventilation.

3. Clean the back of the painting

You must also pay attention to the back of the painting and clean it regularly by brushing or vacuuming. But before cleaning the back, remove the painting from its frame and place it on a clean surface. You can remove the dirt by vacuuming it with the help of a small nozzle with a brush attachment. If possible you can also use a cover on the back of the painting to prevent the accumulation of dust behind the painting.

4. Stop bacterial growth

For a new oil painting, chances are high for build-up of dirt, smoke, and bacterial or any fungal growth. After making sure that the paint is not showing any cracks or flakes, cautiously dust the surface with a baby toothbrush or shaving cream brush. Also make sure that the painting is not accumulating moisture in any form as it would totally damage the painting in the long run.

5. Remove the surface dirt

If the dirt accumulated on the front surface of the painting cannot be removed by dusting, you can use cotton pads dampened with distilled water. The cotton pad must be lightly rolled on the surface to remove dirt.

6.   Avoid extra decoration

Additional decorations such as placing live plants around paintings must be avoided at any cost as pests and insects can stain the oil painting and damage the frame.

7.    Take help of experts

Take the help of qualified experts to clean or refurbish any oil painting which is covered in dust or has completely yellowed varnish. Such paintings cannot be cleaned properly by novices. If you try to make such a painting look brighter with some handy tips, you might damage it completely.

Follow these steps and enjoy the charm of an original oil painting for generations to come.

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