How to clean, maintain, and protect your art

When purchasing your favourite designs, it’s important to consider how crucial protecting artwork is going to be in advance. Cleaning artwork is essential to preserving designs, and you can prepare yourself for the tasks that will considerably upkeep their appearance. We've written this article to help you understand the required processes and how important they are.

Read on to find out how to clean your artwork and take care of it to ensure longevity for each piece you display across your home.

How to clean artwork

Cleaning art prints in red frame with dusting cloth

Cleaning art prints is important; doing so ensures each piece is kept in the best condition and maintains its overall appearance. It may seem a simple task, but many people who collect art or love decorating their home with prints forget to do it. Artwork can easy be affected by dust, and so the first step towards keeping your art clean and in pristine conditions is to be mindful of where you place it.

Avoid displaying artwork in dust-prone areas 

Certain areas in the home are more likely to attract dust, such as the wall space above your furniture, and areas close to light fixings. Displaying artwork in these particular areas will mean that cleaning art will become a more frequent and timelier task. It’s totally fine to choose these areas to display prints but be sure to keep an eye out for dust collecting.

Protect your artwork with glass framing

Protecting artwork from naturally attracting dust, dirt, and scratches is vital, and it’s best to do this as soon as you introduce it to your home. Framing your art with protective glass instead of plastic sheeting like acrylic/plexiglass is greatly beneficial and minimises cleaning time, as glass is anti-static and is less prone to scratching.

Bear in mind, though, that some paintings cannot have protective glass placed on them. Oil paintings shouldn’t be framed under glass because damage can occur from condensation and dust. Glass framing can also touch the paint itself and put pressure on the piece, so it’s important to do your research beforehand. Acrylic is still a great option, as it protects your artwork well, and one benefit is that it’s much lighter to move around if you intend to rearrange your print(s) regularly.

Cleaning canvases

To remove dust from an original oil canvas without a glass or acrylic cover, use a dry microfibre cloth or light duster in vertical and horizontal motions. Afterwards, vacuum the carpet area to prevent the fallen dust from resurfacing. If you have noticed grime appearing on your canvas prints, you can use a damp microfibre cloth and lightly swipe it across the piece to remove any marks. All that is required is to wet it beforehand and wring out as much water as possible into the sink, to prevent using a soaked cloth.

Preserving paintings

Watercolour, acrylic, and oil paintings should also be preserved carefully, but the risk of damaging these exquisite and original pieces by cleaning them incorrectly often prevents people from attempting it. When dirt begins to build on any of your paintings, it’s important to take the right approach to cleaning this artwork to achieve gleaming results that don’t damage the piece.

Original paintings cannot be cleaned simply by using a feather duster or polishing cloth, so what are the most effective methods?

Brush the dirt away

Collection of dry brushes in pot for protecting art

A guaranteed way of maintaining and protecting art of this kind is using a clean soft-bristle paintbrush. The method is to gently brush away any kind of dirt and dust that appears on your beloved paintings.

You must use the right brush according to the type of painting you are cleaning, and ensure each is completely dry when you use it; this is crucial:

  • Acrylic paintings: Use a brush specifically labelled for acrylic painting.
  • Watercolour paintings: Always use a watercolour brush
  • Pastel and oil paintings: Purchase a brush that is exclusively labelled for oil paintings.

Once you have the right brush, you can begin cleaning your art. Simply cover a dining table chair with an old bed sheet or similar and place your painting on top of it. This will ensure any excess dust and dirt doesn’t transfer onto the carpet.

When cleaning artwork using the following brush technique:

  • Gently stroke your brush vertically from one upper corner to the bottom corner on the same side in vertical motions; this ensures you don’t miss any of the surface area.
  • Do not press down on the brush, as this could potentially damage your painting. Instead, make as many small, soft brush strokes as necessary.
  • Repeat this process for the opposite side, starting at the top corner again, and working in straight lines, similar to how you would use a squeegee tool when cleaning windows – but much gentler!
  • Next, use horizontal movements to clean further towards the middle, going back and forth with your brush.
  • Assess your painting to see if any further cleaning action is required to remove dust, and you’re done!

The saliva approach

Four cotton buds laid on marble surface to clean art

Perhaps surprisingly, many historians and people working in museums keep acrylic paintings clean using their saliva. It may seem odd, but there is a good reason for this. The enzyme in saliva (amylase) breaks down any dust and dirt that comes into contact with oil or acrylic paintings without causing damage to the paint.

It’s important to remember that acrylic paintings are the only ones you should use this approach for, and pastel and watercolour paintings should be cleaned using different methods. Do not use this technique on highly valuable, damaged, or old paintings. If you have one of these, we advise taking your pieces to a professional, specialist service.

Cleaning artwork using the saliva technique involves:

  • Taking a small bowl and transferring as much saliva as possible into it.
  • Performing a practice run first, using a cotton bud to collect your saliva from the bowl and transferring it to a small corner of the painting.
  • Ensuring the paint doesn’t mark or flake, then reviewing whether any dust or debris has been removed.
  • Once you’re sure the method has worked on a small corner, you can continue cleaning, swiping across the painting carefully. Use both ends of the cotton bud until it becomes dirty, and then move onto a new one.
  • Repeat the process continuously with multiple cotton buds until you are satisfied.

An important thing to note is that while this method is effective, it’s typically time consuming, so you’ll need to dedicate a good amount of time to perform this particular cleaning method.

Protect your artwork and discover more

Three of Tall Boy Prints' designs hung in a row above bath

Now you know the importance of protecting your art and how to put these methods into practice, you can use one of these maintenance processes to upkeep your designs for as long as possible.

Meanwhile, why not visit our blog for further insights and peruse a whole host of articles relating to art, lifestyle, and more? You can also buy our prints and display them across your home, and let your cleaning artwork regime commence.
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