3 Effective Ways To Clean An Oil Painting

Clean oil painting

We all love stuff that takes us down the memory lane or simply hits us up with some nostalgia.

An age-old priceless painting certainly comes in this category.

A painting is known to last for ages but only if you take proper care of it.

Hence in today’s article, we will help you with how to clean your oil painting.

It is, in fact, a necessary part for the preservation of your artwork.

The problem is that many times, it is a part which is blatantly overlooked at and not considered as an essential part of the process.

Cleaning oil painting

Imagine your beloved oil painting crumbling with the pressure of time due to dust and dirt particles.

It can be the metaphorical equivalent of putting a knife through your heart.

I hope that it has become evidently prominent by now as to why you must clean your oil painting after some time.

As oil paintings are generally very precious and expensive it is highly recommended that you get a professional conservator to clean your oil painting.

This is a great way to ensure that there is no damage to your oil painting.

Let us now discuss the various methods adopted for the cleaning process.

  • Removing dust particles with a brush

a) Place the painting on a stagnant or flat surface

If the painting is already in a sturdy position, for example, it is hanging on a wall, you can leave it there to clean it.

However, it is greatly recommended that you remove the painting and place it on a flat surface.

Use ample of light to view and clean, any macro or minuscule dust particles that may be present on the painting.

b) Choose a soft brush

It is mandatory that you use a soft brush to stroke your painting to remove the dust particles.

It is also important that you are as gentle as possible.

A feather duster may seem like the ideal choice but remember that the feathers have barbs that can scratch the painting hence they are not recommended.

c) Dust a small section of the painting

Starting from any corner of the painting gently brush a small section of the painting, so as to get a hang of it.

d) Continue brushing small sections of the entire painting

Once you have got a hang of it cover small sections and gently brush away all the dust and dirt particles inch by inch with a sable bristle brush.

e) Take your time rather than increasing the pressure and intensity of the brush strokes

Like with most other things the principle of ‘haste makes waste’ applies here.

Applying more pressure will only remove the superficial dust that is the dust particles that have settled on the top layer.

Other issues like ingrained grime and stains cannot be removed by pressing hard into the surface.

  • Cleaning with saliva

Before you go on spiting your way on a precious and rare painting please read and try to understand the proper method or process of this technique.

Now I know that using spit may seem really weird and harmful but professionals around the world have used this method safely and to full effect for ages.

a) Dampen the end of the swab with your saliva

Roll the cotton swab on your tongue enough that it is damp but not saturated and dripping with your spit.

The saliva in your spit has enough enzymes to break down dirt particles but will not harm the paint in any way.

b) Swipe the swabs over a corner to assess the painting’s reaction to it

It is always safer to try out this method in a corner of the painting before wiping down the entire painting with your saliva.

Saliva is considered to be effective but prevention is always better than cure.

c) Repeat the process of dabbing the cotton swab over small sections of the painting

Clean oil painting

It is better to work a square inch at a time and thus this process can be very tedious and time-consuming.

It is not recommended that you move the swab from side to side rather you should swipe it up and down in small light dabbing motions.

Be very cautious with your approach and do not apply excess pressure or make any hasty movements.

d) Switch to the other side of the swab once it starts to look grimy and worn out

Repeat the same procedure with the other end i.e. moisten the swab with your saliva until it is damp.

Repeat all of the steps that are mentioned above.

Once the other end of the swab becomes frizzy, discard the swab and use a fresh one.

  • Procuring the services of a professional conservator

a) Take your precious and valuable oil painting to a professional conservator

The surface or outer layer of an oil painting is very delicate and any wrong move can change or permanently damage the painting.

Hence it is best that you show your painting to a professional especially if your oil painting is really old and worth some money or just holds great sentimental value for you.

Whatever it may be but procuring professional help and expertise can be the best option available to you.

Some tips to help you out:

  • Get your valuable and precious oil painting insured before showing it to a professional conservator.
  • If you are really adamant to get it cleaned by yourself then we recommend that you practice on a non-valuable painting first.

 

Some big ‘NO’s’ to keep in mind while cleaning your oil painting.

a) Don’t use bread or potato to clean your painting

Quite a few amateurs may tell you that using a piece of bread or a cut potato is a great way of removing dirt from your oil painting.

Food-based cleaning techniques may leave behind crumbs and residue.

b) Avoid the use of water, alcohol or baby oil for cleaning your oil painting

Water will change the texture and look of the paint on your canvas.

Alcohol acts aggressively and rubbing it on the canvas will completely remove the paint.

A coat of baby oil may, in fact, make your oil painting look brighter and shinier but in reality, it only makes the oil painting more oily and susceptible to dust particles from the surrounding environment.

Your oil painting may be damaged beyond repair by using any of the above-mentioned substances.

 

Some signs that your artwork is aging

  • Flaking paint
  • Discoloration
  • Cracks
  • Warping

These are some vital and pivotal signs which show that your artwork is fading away and in need of some proper care and restoration.

If you are an artist then it is also important that you keep your brushes, palate in spick and span condition so as to increase their lifespan and longevity.

 

Everything is said and done it is still highly recommended that you give your oil painting to a professional conservator.

Never the less I have tried to give all essential and helpful details regarding cleaning and preserving your oil painting in this article.

Our team here at PortraitFlip hopes that this article may have been of at least some use to you.

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