How to DIY Clean Paintings
If the colors of your painting are gray or even yellowed, it’s time for a painting cleaning. Here we explain how you can clean your painting yourself like how the house cleaning would do it and when it is necessary to renew the varnish. In order to avoid damage, we also explain which household tips you should refrain from and when professional cleaning is necessary.
Pieces of bread & water: What should I avoid when cleaning the painting?
Various “household tips” for cleaning paintings are circulating on the Internet, which you should not imitate under any circumstances. When cleaning your painting, do not do the following:
- Water: can blur the color and change the texture of the canvas.
- Detergent, oils, or alcohol: attack the paint layer and canvas of the painting.
- Pieces of bread and potato slices: Food can leave residues that damage the paint layers of the painting.
- Paper towel: Residues can get stuck on rough paint surfaces.
Step-by-Step Guide: Cleaning Paintings Yourself
Before you start cleaning, you need to find out if:
- a simple cleaning is sufficient or
- whether the varnish needs to be renewed.
What exactly is varnish?
Varnish is used to seal paintings. The clear and transparent liquid is a binder dissolved in oil paintings based on oils, in acrylic paintings on the basis of water.
Cleaning paintings or renewing the varnish: how to find out
Take a cotton cloth and moisten it with saliva, then wipe over a small spot of your painting. If it has a:
- full colorfulness: easy cleaning
- yellowed paint layer: Renew varnish
Important: Before cleaning and varnish removal, first test a small spot on the edge to see if any damage is caused by the treatment.
To free your painting from dust and dirt, you will need the following utensils:
- soft brush
- Cotton cloth (must not lint)
- Saliva or distilled water
The most suitable for painting cleaning is saliva. Alternatively, you can use distilled water.
- Step 1: Remove – painting from the wall So that the painting does not accidentally fall off the wall during cleaning, you should lay it flat on a table or floor.
- Step 2: Remove – loose dust Gently remove loose dust and dirt from the painting with a soft brush.
- Step 3: Clean – paintings with saliva Wet the cotton cloth with saliva or distilled water, gently rub the painting piece by piece, and remove the dirt.
ALSO READ: Helpful Tips on Sketching Faces
Renewing varnish on paintings
If you want to clean a yellowed oil painting or if the varnish crumbles due to its advanced age, you must renew the varnish. For this you need the following utensils:
- Anacrosina (soapy liquid made from different solvents)
- distilled water
- Painting varnish
- soft brush
- soft brush
- Varnish brush
- soft natural sponge
Important: All utensils used must be completely clean.
If possible, you should remove the painting from the frame to renew the varnish so that you can reach all places. Then you can begin:
- Step 1: Clean the painting Clean – the painting from dust and dirt as described in the “Cleaning the painting” section.
- Step 2: Apply – Anacrosina Using the soft brush, apply the Anacrosina to the painting in circular motions. Wait for the painting to absorb the soapy liquid (takes about 10 to 15 minutes).
- Step 3: Remove – varnish Heat the distilled water lightly and moisten the sponge with it. Then carefully clean the surface until the old varnish and saponified anacrosina are completely removed.
- Step 4: Let – the painting dry Allow the painting to dry completely on the front and back to prevent mold growth.
- Step 5: Apply – varnish Apply the painting varnish with the varnish brush and allow the varnish to dry completely before framing the painting again.
Important: Observe the instructions for use of painting varnish and anacrosina before using the products.
When should I have a painting professionally cleaned?
First, find out how much the painting is worth. Is the price of cleaning by a professional higher than the value of the painting? Then it is worth cleaning the painting yourself.
For particularly valuable (whether tangible or intangible) or delicate paintings, you should hire a restorer to clean them. The same applies if you notice during painting cleaning that the paint is peeling off or cracks appear.
How often should I clean my paintings?
You should remove dirt and dust from your paintings about twice a year. You only need to replace the varnish if the painting yellows or the varnish dissolves on its own.
So that the painting is sufficiently protected from contamination and yellowing, you can also protect it with a glass pane. Especially for high-quality paintings, museum glass is recommended. It not only protects against UV radiation but also reduces light reflection and ensures color fastness.
Bringing out paintings properly
If your painting shines in new splendor, you can bring out the colors even better with the right lighting. Helpful tips can be found in our article “Illuminating works of art & pictures correctly”.
If you are still looking for a suitable picture frame or passe-partout, please take a look at our online shop. You can also order our products there as custom-made. For large quantities or questions, please contact us personally.