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How to Clean an Old Oil Painting with Simple Household Items

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Oil paints are such a vibrant, classic medium for artists to use because of the texture, color and light that come with using them. Oil paintings are generally not framed under glass to leave the beauty of the artist’s brushstrokes and use of light and dark visible to the viewer’s eye. This leaves the painting exposed to the elements and makes the painting require extra love and care to preserve its beauty. Keep your paintings as exquisite as they day they were created by following these simple cleaning tips using everyday household items.

  • Bread- Use the fluffy goodness inside of a loaf of bread. The white part can be used to buff and softly rub the dust and grime away. Use another piece of bread to catch the dirt which may be missed and then use a soft paintbrush to brush off the breadcrumbs. Who knew something as humble as a piece of bread would rescue your oil paintings from a life spent in filth?
  • Toothbrush- Move a toothbrush over the oil painting in a small, circular pattern. Try not to rub too harshly as this can pick at the texture of the paint, but gently move the brush over the grooves of the canvas. You’ll be amazed at the amount of dust which will come out.
  • Cloth- Use a gentle cleaning solution of water with a few drops of dishwashing soap. Dip the cloth in the water and wring it out until the cloth is only slightly damp. Lightly blot the painting to pick up dust and grime. Be sure not to make the cloth excessively wet as this can ruin the oil paint.
  • Cotton Ball- Lightly soak a cotton ball or a cotton swab in alcohol and dab it along the paint. This is a bit of a risky method and should only be used on small areas of the painting and when no other cleaning method seems to work.
  • Wood Oil- Clean up the picture frame with a quick finish of wood oil to make it shine. Round wooden frames and square wooden frames alike need a little love and care, too. Antique oval frames can also get a boost of shine by cleaning them with a cleaning solution of lukewarm water and white vinegar.