How To Clean An Oil Painting - Cleaning Talk - Professional Cleaning and Restoration Forum
 
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post #1 of Old 12-23-2010, 12:50 PM Thread Starter
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How To Clean An Oil Painting

“My grandmother did several oil paintings before she died. They are lovely, but only valuable to our family. My mother, a heavy smoker, hung a small oil painting (about 12” x 18”) in her small studio apartment for many years. This week she is moving, and gave me the painting. It is sticky and drippy with smoke residue.

My local art gallery wants almost $200 to clean it!

Is there a home-remedy that I could attempt? Obviously, I don’t want to damage it, but it’s not a valuable piece, and I just want it cleaned enough to hang in my kitchen (still life with wine and fruit). Thanks for any advice you can offer!”

I can’t make any guarantees (because I'm not a curator) about the safety of these methods for your particular painting. But I can tell you what I do to clean the paintings I own.

1.The safest option, but won’t work on sticky areas is to use a very soft brush to remove dust and soot particles (super soft paintbrush, baby toothbrush, shaving brush, that kind of thing). You can buy a micro attachment kit for your vacuum that has small brushes (under an inch in diameter) for deeper cleaning (don’t scrub the surface with the bristles, though–just light, circular passes). If that doesn’t work, you can use a dry rubber sponge in short strokes across the surface, but only if the surface isn’t damaged or flaky. It picks up every last bit of dirt and soot, but likely won’t work on the really sticky parts.

2.The other option is to use soft, clean cloths and water with a few drops of dish detergent. If you can remove the frame to test this on the side or edge of the painting first, do so. Watch the surface of the painting and check the cloths to see what’s coming off, and obviously if the paint colors are lifting off, stop cleaning. Try just damp cloths at first, dab the painting, no scrubbing. If she painted on canvas, be careful not to stretch the canvas by pressing too hard. If damp cloths aren't working, use a bit more water, just beware that water can seep under varnish, if there is any, and that if the paint is thin, and the canvas or board gets wet, it can shrink or warp and cause cracks in the paint.

I've cleaned my own paintings this way, but a conservator would wring my neck if I ever tried it at a gallery! I've also used rubbing alcohol on a cotton ball for really bad areas…scary, but it works. Use a tiny amount of alcohol.

If these methods don’t work, it might be worth it to ask around at the gallery to see if there is a conservator’s apprentice or helper working there. Ask around unofficially by checking with the security guards, reception staff, gallery shop clerks, etc. He/she might be willing to look at your painting to recommend a solvent or clean it for a lower price (under the table on his/her own time). You could also check antique and framing shops to see if they have lower prices for cleaning services.
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post #2 of Old 03-06-2011, 03:20 AM
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cool

Wow.. very informative post.. Really learned from it,,. Oil painting really stain really hard to clean.

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post #3 of Old 03-06-2011, 12:11 PM
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my opinion...

any cleaning service that would even think bout trying to clean a oil painting is crazy. This gal got herself banned for a lot of these "off the wall" posts cuz she doznt no what she talking bout
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post #4 of Old 03-07-2011, 07:47 AM
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No matter how much better they appear to you, altering true antiques almost always decreases their value.



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post #5 of Old 06-17-2011, 12:06 AM
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Improper cleaning can harm a painting.Many oil paintings can be destroyed beyond repair by use of soap and water,home remedy solutions,linseed oil, glue remover, or other household cleansers.Old oil painting most often comes with a price so it must be taken care of seriously.
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post #6 of Old 06-18-2011, 03:37 AM
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post #7 of Old 06-26-2011, 08:21 AM
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Great post!

Thanks,im thinking of getting a replica oil paiting of a certain photo of zeus and i smoke as well, so thanks a bunch.
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post #8 of Old 06-27-2011, 09:02 AM
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hey, thanks.. I was wondering how to clean my painting as it is so dusty....

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post #9 of Old 08-20-2011, 06:36 AM
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Oil paintings are a unique and quantitative media. Most of these paintings take up to six months to completely cure. To clean off a small amount of dirt and grime, use an onion cut in half.
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post #10 of Old 08-20-2011, 11:05 AM
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I think the $200 they are charging is justified to be honest. Oil paintings are really really sensitive to the kinds of cleaning materials you may use at home, and its beauty might get affected. It's best just coughing up the money if you are interested in preserving the paintings.
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post #11 of Old 04-25-2012, 03:39 PM
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Apply Gainsborough Neutralizer to a piece of cotton wool or white cotton cloth and gently wipe over the face of the oil painting to clean off the surface dirt. Use a cotton swab to test a corner of the oil painting with Gainsborough Emulsion Cleaner and Varnish Remover to determine which product will best clean the painting. Emulsion Cleaner will remove dirt and smoke, whereas Varnish Remover will remove yellowed varnish in most cases. For more difficult or special situations, Kotton Klenser™, Varnish Softener, Mastic Varnish Remover, or Linoxyn Remover may be required. Immediately after each test, apply Gainsborough Neutralizer to a clean piece of cotton and gently wipe over the test area to neutralize the cleaning action.




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post #12 of Old 05-08-2012, 06:45 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Justin98 View Post
Apply Gainsborough Neutralizer to a piece of cotton wool or white cotton cloth and gently wipe over the face of the oil painting to clean off the surface dirt. Use a cotton swab to test a corner of the oil painting with Gainsborough Emulsion Cleaner and Varnish Remover to determine which product will best clean the painting. Emulsion Cleaner will remove dirt and smoke, whereas Varnish Remover will remove yellowed varnish in most cases. For more difficult or special situations, Kotton Klenser™, Varnish Softener, Mastic Varnish Remover, or Linoxyn Remover may be required. Immediately after each test, apply Gainsborough Neutralizer to a clean piece of cotton and gently wipe over the test area to neutralize the cleaning action.




Thanks,
Paul-Emile Borduas
Informative article. With the help of cotton ball and Gainsborough Neutralizer carefully rub the affected spot on the carpet. Before continuing, check the cotton ball to ensure the paint is not coming off. Once the place is washed, immediately wipe the washed place with a wet sponge or cloth. Make sure to get all of the soap off.

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post #13 of Old 05-22-2012, 08:48 AM
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Thanks for providing good piece of info. Thanks for sharing good tips.
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post #14 of Old 04-29-2019, 08:22 PM
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Good share
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post #15 of Old 05-07-2019, 10:37 AM
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Dust the painting with a clean, soft shaving brush. Rub the brush over the painting with only a small amount of force, being careful not to stretch the canvas as this can cause cracking and flaking of the the paint. The soft brush should remove any dust and dirt not cleaned by vacuuming.

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post #16 of Old 05-19-2019, 04:07 AM
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Here's another way to go about it

  1. Remove the picture frame if possible. If nails are removed keep track of which nail goes into which hole so the frame can be put back together exactly as it was when the cleaning is completed.
  2. Lay the painting on a soft flat surface. Look for cracked or flaking paint. If paint is flaking then cleaning may not be possible without damaging the painting. If paint is not flaking use a vacuum cleaner with a soft brush attachment to clean the surface dust. Rub only the soft bristles of the cleaning attachment over the painting. Check frequently to see that paint flakes are not being vacuumed off the painting; if they are, stop all cleaning and bring the painting to a professional restorer.
  3. Dust the painting with a clean, soft shaving brush. Rub the brush over the painting with only a small amount of force, being careful not to stretch the canvas as this can cause cracking and flaking of the the paint. The soft brush should remove any dust and dirt not cleaned by vacuuming.
  4. Put 5 drops of lemon juice into a teacup of lukewarm water. Dampen a cotton ball in the solution. Squeeze most of the water out of the cotton ball and then dab the damp cotton ball gently onto the painting, being careful not to stretch the canvas and crack the paint. Continue dabbing until an area of the painting is damp, then gently wipe the cotton ball across the painting. Check the cotton ball for flaking paint. If paint is flaking off, stop.
  5. Dampen a soft sponge in plain water and gently wipe off the lemon solution. Allow to dry.
  6. Dissolve half a teaspoon of sodium carbonate crystals in a teacup of warm water. Dampen a cotton ball in the solution and then gently dab and rub the moist (not wet) cotton ball across the painting. Do not stretch the canvas. Dampen a clean soft sponge with plain water and wipe gently to remove the sodium carbonate solution and allow to dry.

Last edited by S Fernz; 05-19-2019 at 04:14 AM. Reason: Spelling
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