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How to Clean an Oil Painting or Oil Paintings

Oil Painting Restoration Houston Cleaning R

When you have a fine art oil painting that needs to be cleaned, the last thing you need to do is to attempt to clean it yourself or to take it to a restorer who does not have an established professional  reputation. If the cleaning takes off any of the original paint or tears the canvas or makes holes, you will need a service such as Life on the Wall to restore the painting. Why? Because you took an unadvised risk.

When we clean a painting we do a considerable amount of analyzing and only then do we come up with a plan for the project. Often two or three liquid solutions are mixed together in exact proportions specifically for each individual painting.

We have received quite a few paintings that needed to be restored because a layman has attempted to clean an oil painting or a restorer “by word only” has attempted the restoration. 

We absolutely are not advising you to attempt to clean your painting yourself.

We know that there will be explorers among our readers who will be a little stubborn and try something themselves. They may go online and get various advice, for instance using bread or a potato. 

In our opinion, an experience restorer may be able to use bread to clean an oil painting if the canvas has not been treated in certain specific ways. That is a humorous picture, because generally only a professional artist or restorer would be able to know if the canvas had been treated in a certain way. A professional art restorer would not be using bread to clean his clients’ paintings.

You may find advice online about using a soft brush and a cotton cloth without loose fibers to dust off your painting.

A major problem that could come up in cleaning an oil painting would be if the canvas is brittle. In that case, if the paint is not strongly adhered to the canvas, there might be flaking.

So our answer to how do you clean an oil painting would be. ..you don’t.  If you have a fine art painting, please don’t clean your painting yourself.  Not if you valve you painting. Just say, NO!

Cleaning an oil painting professionally usually means removing the old varnish.  Old varnish may be yellowing or cracking, etc., and will need to be removed without damaging the paint.

Before we remove the old varnish, we may need to secure the paint to the canvas with special solutions applied to the back of the canvas.

After we remove the old varnish, we would do any necessary restoring and then re-varnish the painting.

We probably don’t need to warn you not to attempt to remove old varnish. We can’t imagine anyone trying this without advanced restoration training.  

Our answer to the title of this blog is don’t clean a painting yourself and don’t give it to an unskilled restorer just because of price. Either way, you may end up with more damage than you started with. 

Give us a call at 713-984-0278 or send us an email to set up an appointment. info@lifeonthewall.net


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