How Do You Clean Old Oil Paintings?

How Do You Clean Old Oil Paintings?

To clean an old oil painting, photograph it, choose a cleanser, clean the painting, and apply new varnish. The supplies you need for this one-day procedure are a camera, cotton gloves, cotton cloths, a linoleum tile, a table, cotton swabs, varnish remover, emulsion cleaner, neutralizer, varnish and a paintbrush.

  1. Photograph and position the painting

    Photograph both sides of the painting, and lay it on a flat surface. Place a linoleum tile underneath the canvas to support it.

  2. Choose a cleanser

    Put on white cotton gloves, and moisten a cotton cloth with neutralizer. Lightly wipe the painting with the cloth. Dampen a cotton swab with emulsion cleanser, and test it on one corner of the painting. Dip another swab in varnish remover, and dab it in another corner. Examine the results to determine which chemical is more effective, and then dab both test areas with neutralizer.

  3. Clean the painting

    Use cotton swabs to clean the painting with the appropriate chemical. Work in 2-inch sections, rolling the swab over the painting. Use a fresh swab each time you apply additional cleanser. Apply neutralizer to each cleaned section before you proceed to the next. When half of the painting is clean, photograph it, and then finish cleaning it.

  4. Apply new varnish

    Apply one coat of clear varnish according to the manufacturer's instructions. Do not move the painting until the varnish is dry.