Ways & How

How To Clean An Oil Painting

How To Clean An Oil Painting

Knowing how to clean an oil painting allows you to preserve the beauty and originality of your work or purchased work. Paintings that date prior to the 1940s require extra cleaning care because these kinds of oil paints are very sensitive compared to the oil paints made after the 1940s. You have to learn to properly clean them. By restoring the glitter and luster of your valuable paintings, you will once again be proud to show them in public. Here are some steps to follow.

  1. Ascertain the oil painting’s age. Determining the age of the painting is very important so that you can apply the correct procedure to clean it. As mentioned earlier, oil paintings made prior to the 1940s deserve extra care in cleaning compared to contemporary art works. Years back, most oil paintings were covered with a thin layer of varnish to make the paintings shiny and to protect the layers of oil paint as well.

    Over time, the varnish will start to crack and to yellow. In effect, the original hue starts to look dirty, and the color starts to get dull and discolored.

    Thus, in this case you need a special kind of solvent that can help restore the color. For paintings created after the 1940s, cleaning them is a little bit easier.

  2. Examine the oil paintings closely. With the use of a magnifying glass, you can look for cracks. Once a crack is spotted, that should caution you to observe extra care while cleaning the painting. Your cleaning medium might get into the cracks and eventually cause damage to the whole painting itself.

  3. Apply the solvent. If your oil painting dates back prior to the 1940s, a solvent is necessary to remove the varnish. As an extra precaution, put in mind that the solvent or the emulsion as they call it, can also cause damage. So always be careful. To avoid damaging it, remove the painting from its frame and apply the emulsion on a small side portion or on the edge of the painting. This will allow you to observe how the oil painting will react to it. When using a solvent, make sure that your cleaning area is well-ventilated to avoid suffocation.

  4. Use a dry and soft bristle brush and a vacuum cleaner. If the age of your oil painting dates back after the 1940s, then you can do the cleaning daily with the use of a soft and dry bristle brush to take away dirt like dust, soot particles, dander, pet hair, and smoke. This cleaning procedure only cleans superficially. Therefore, for a thorough cleaning, try using detergents.

  5. Any chemical-based cleaning agent can trigger a chemical reaction on your painting. Do not just simply clean right away. First use a small amount of detergent and test to find out if it affects the color of the oil painting. If there is a reaction, stop cleaning and formulate a new mix with a lower detergent concentration.

The proper way to clean oil paintings should not remain a mystery for artists and art collectors. As time passes by, oil paintings become a haven for dust and other particles. However, the steps above on how to clean an oil painting are not hard to follow. For tough cases, do further research on how to properly maintain and preserve oil paintings. As a general rule though, prudence dictates that when you are not sure on how to go about a job do not hesitate to hire the services of a pro.


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