How to Clean a Canvas Painting

Paintings are important pieces of artwork we keep in our homes for many different reasons. But whether it was a special gift from Aunt Bessie or that piece you just had to get for your bathroom ensemble, a canvas painting can lose its luster over time as its colors fade and dirt builds up. Our personal treasures are no different from Da Vinci’s “The Last Supper.” So for any art lover, knowing how to clean a canvas painting can save time and money.

Cleaning Oil Paintings

No matter what age your painting is, the most important thing to remember is patience. Restoration work takes time due to the risk of damage to the painting. Older works usually have a layer of varnish that could be making it look dirty. A dry brush used gently on the surface is usually the first method of cleaning. As a last resort, a mild solvent can be used. It is recommended to do a test spot first.

Newer paintings are more likely dirty due to a build up of dust, pet dander and other foreign objects. Cleaning these can be easier. Just use a damp cloth to carefully brush over the canvas surface. Rubbing is not a good idea in these cases as you really don’t want the paint to get too wet. Remember, a gentle touch and patience make all the difference.

Cleaning Acrylic Paintings

An acrylic painting is as susceptible to damage as an oil painting. As with oil paintings, using a dry brush to gently scrape away dirt and dander is one choice. A can of compressed air is another good means of getting rid of dirt buildup that will do minimal damage. Introducing moisture to the canvas surface is a last resort. Due to the nature of acrylic paint, you risk embedding foreign objects in it if you rub too hard. However, with care and patience it is possible to clean with a good result.

Remember, if you have a work of art you love, you need to access its condition before trying any type of restoration. Every time your painting is touched it is being changed on some level, so ensuring the method of cleaning is imperative to keep damage to a minimum. Knowing how to clean a canvas painting will keep your treasures beautiful for years to come. Aunt Bessie will be happy too, wherever she may be.

Betsy Cline

Betsy Cline has been a professional house cleaner for 15 years and also a mother of 4 amazing kids (who make lots of messes). She is the founder of How to Clean It and loves to share tips and advice for cleaning up anything life throws at you.

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