Clean Oil Painting

How to Clean Oil Painting?

When you have made an investment in the artwork you cherish, it’s worth a little extra effort to keep your treasured pieces in the best possible condition. The surface of oil paintings is unique and sensitive, so they collect dirt, grime, and stain over time. It is highly important to keep them clean so that those art pieces never lose their charm and spark with time. How exactly we should do that? Let’s learn how we can actually clean oil painting and never let that charm of our precious artwork go.

-So when exactly we should clean oil painting? Some symptoms of aging and damaged artwork are:

  • Flaking paint
  • Discoloration
  • Cracks
  • Warping


1. Dry Cleaning Method

Dry Cleaning Method

Dry Cleaning Method

Although you can remove light dust, airborne pet hair, and even soot from an oil painting yourself, a deeper, more thorough cleaning should always be left to a professional. As long as the painting isn’t damaged, however, you can prolong the life of your oil painting with these easy maintenance steps.

You will need

  • Soft brush
  • Compressed air
  • Fresh white bread

Steps to remove the dust:

A). Place The Oil Painting On Table

If the painting is stable where it’s already hanging on the wall, you can leave it in place to clean it. However, it’s usually recommended that the painting be taken down and placed on a flat, stable table or propped up against a sturdy easel for the best results.

PRO TIP: it is advised to remove the painting from the wall as it allows you to look at the painting in different lighting conditions and get a better view of the dirt on the surface.

B). Take A Soft Brush

The larger the painting, the larger the brush should be. Otherwise, you might be dusting a large piece with a small paintbrush for hours! No matter what size you choose, feel the bristles first to make sure they’re soft and free of moisture before you get started. Sable bristled paintbrushes are known for their softness and considered to be safe for this procedure.

Pro Tip: Feather dusters may seem soft, but they are not recommended for this task. Feathers have barbs that can scratch the surface of an oil painting.

C). Start Dusting The First Section Of The Painting

Starting at one of the top corners, swish the paintbrush very lightly back and forth across the surface, working on several inches at a time. Then, work your way slowly down that section of the painting until you reach the bottom.

  • Working from the top down ensures that the dust is removed rather than just moved around.

D). Start Cleaning The Next Section

Move to the next section and, starting at the top, lightly brush back and forth as you work your way down the painting. Continue in this way until you’ve dusted the entire piece

E). Take Your Time

This technique only removes superficial dust and dirt from the surface of the painting. Ingrained grime, deep soiling, stains, and other issues can’t be cleaned this way, no matter how hard you push the brush into the surface.

Pro Tip: Work slowly, be gentle, and take your time for the best results.


2. Cleaning With Saliva

Cleaning with saliva

Cleaning with saliva

You will need:

  • Cotton swab
  • Saliva
  • Clean hands

Steps to clean the painting:

A). Dip the cotton swab in the saliva

Dip either side of the cotton swab into the saliva; make sure the cotton on the end of the swab gets damp and not saturated. Using saliva for cleaning your art pieces might seem a little odd, but many museum curators and other professions have been using this cleaning technique from centuries.

B). Swipe one of the corners first to gauge the painting’s reaction.

Before wiping down the entire painting with a cotton swab, do a spot test in one of the corners so you can make sure the saliva isn’t damaging the surface.

Pro Tip: if an of the paint color shows up on the cotton swap do not proceed

C). Dab the moistened swab on the painting

Its best to work on 1 square inch of a surface at a time, so this technique might seem a little time consuming

Pro Tip: use only dabbing motions, do not move the cotton swab from side to side

D). Switch to clean ends

Simply moisten the end by dipping it into the saliva and continue dabbing. When that end gets dirty, discard the swab and grab a fresh one. Depending on the size of the painting and how dirty it is, you may go through many q-tips in this process. So HANG ON!

Pro Tip: it is important to switch to a fresh swab frequently to avoid swiping the painting‘s surface with a dirty tool.

3. Cleaning with the Lemon Juice

Cleaning with the Lemon Juice

Cleaning with Lemon Juice

You will need:

  • Lukewarm water
  • Bowl
  • Cotton balls
  • Lemon

A). Prepare the solution

To prepare the solution Mix a few drops of lemon into lukewarm water and leave that solution as it is for a couple of minutes and then strain the remains of the lemon. Your solution is ready

B). Cleaning with the help of solution

To clean Oil painting with this solution,  Dampen a cotton ball into the solution. Squeeze most of the water out of the ball and then dab the damp cotton ball on the panting. Continue dabbing until an area of the painting is damp then gently wipe the cotton ball across the painting.

PRO TIP: make sure the paint does not flake if the paint is flaking stop right away

C). Allow it to dry

Dampen in a soft sponge in the plain water and gently wipe off the lemon solution. Allow the painting to dry.

4. Clean with Sodium Carbonate

Clean with Sodium Carbonate

Clean with Sodium Carbonate

Things you need:

  • Water
  • Sodium carbonate crystals
  • Warm water
  • Spoon
  • Cotton balls

A). Cleaning with sodium carbonate crystals

Dissolve a half tsp of sodium carbonate crystals into a cup of warm water and dip a cotton ball into the mixture and start dabbing the cotton ball onto the painting from an upward to lower direction.

B). Allow it to dry

Do not stretch the canvas. Dampen a clean soft sponge with plain water and wipe gently to remove any sodium carbonate left on the painting and allow it to dry

PRO TIP: do not forget to wash your hands thoroughly after cleaning the painting as sodium carbonate is toxic for the body.

5. Cleaning Like A Professional

You will need:

  • Gainsborough Neutralizer or similar
  • Gainsborough Emulsion Cleaner or similar
  • Large sheet of clean paper
  • Cotton balls
  • Cotton swabs with long (6″) wooden handle
  • Varnish for Oil Paintings (optional)


A). Place The Painting

Lay the painting faces upon a large sheet of paper. (If you have anything you can place under the canvas of the painting to keep it from stretching downward as you apply gentle pressure, it will help to protect your artwork.)

B). Apply

Apply neutralizer to a piece of cotton. Wipe it over the surface of the painting, changing dirty cotton balls as needed, to clean away surface dust or dirt. Although the neutralizer should be perfectly safe, begin in a corner to test it before you cover the entire painting.

C). Start Cleaning

Clean in small sections, about 3-4″ square at a time, by rolling the cotton swab with emulsion cleaner over the surface using only gentle pressure. Do NOT scrub; the rolling motion is very important.

D). Work In Sections

After you clean each section, go back over it with the neutralizer on a cotton ball. Make sure you work in sections small enough so that the emulsion cleaner does not dry on the surface before you use the neutralizer. This is an important step. You must neutralize the cleaning agent in order to prevent possible damage to the painting.

Pro Tip: If you desire, finish with a gloss varnish to preserve and protect the painting.

Additional Tips

  • If you desire a deeper clean, you can purchase an art restoration kit from an art supply store. Follow the directions carefully, and clean at your own risk! If the painting has value, it’s always worth the investment to have it cleaned properly by a professional.
  • Avoid introducing moisture to the surface of your painting. It can seep inside invisible cracks and cause damage.
  • Do not attempt to clean a damaged painting.
  • Do not use a feather duster or dusting cloth to clean an oil painting, as they can leave scratches or push the dirt into the painting.

Some more tips :

1. Take Your Valuable Paintings To The Conservator

The surface of an oil painting is fragile, and it can be permanently changed or damaged by home cleaning techniques. If your oil painting is old, worth money, or holds great sentimental value, cleaning it at home is not recommended. Take it to a professional conservator to have it cleaned.

  • Get valuable paintings insured before allowing a professional to clean it.
  • If you want to clean the painting yourself, practice on a non-valuable oil painting first to gauge the results of your techniques

2. Don’t Use Potato or Vinegar

Don't Use Potato or Vinegar

Don’t Use Potato or Vinegar


Many amateurs will tell you that wiping the surface of an oil painting with vinegar or a cut potato is a great way to remove dirt and grime from the surface. This is not a good idea, especially if your painting is valuable or old. Food-based cleaning techniques can leave behind crumbs and residue. If your piece is extremely dirty and you’re willing to risk the possibility of damaging it, consider trying food-based techniques.

3. Avoid Water, Alcohol Or Baby Oil

Avoid Water, Alcohol Or Baby Oil

Avoid Water, Alcohol Or Baby Oil

Using water can change the appearance of the oil paint on the canvas, and rubbing alcohol can remove the paint completely. Some people think that baby oil can return suppleness to the surface of an oil painting and make the colors look brighter, but baby oil actually makes the surface sticky and even more susceptible to attracting dirt.

  • Your painting can be irreversibly damaged by using any of these substances to clean it.
  • If you’re willing to take the risk, lightly dampen a soft cloth with water and brush the surface gently with it to remove dirt and grime.

4. Get Your Varnished Removed From A Professional

The varnish is a clear protective layer on the surface of an oil painting. If the varnish looks dirty but you think the painting is clean underneath it, you may be tempted to remove the dirty varnish yourself and apply a fresh layer. Unless you’ve been trained or have experience with this, don’t attempt it.

  • An oil painting can be permanently damaged if If you do it improperly, affecting both the aesthetic and monetary value of the painting.
  • If you decide to attempt this yourself, use a professional cleaning kit made for removing varnish from an oil painting.

5. Accept The Fact Some Paintings Can’t Be Cleaned

If your painting is valuable, even a professional conservator may decide that the best approach is to leave it the way it is for now. Cleaning techniques are still being researched and developed by art historians, so future development may be able to safely clean your valuable piece.


Well, these are so tips through which you can clean Oil paintings at home. All of these low-cost remedies are effective and have been into practice for many years by even professionals. You should take into account the above-mentioned tips to clean your oil paintings and give them an unbeatable look that would last till eternity.

Have you ever cogitated if you’re taking good care of your oil paintings in the best possible way and cleaning them the way they should be cleaned?




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