You Asked: How to Clean and Care for Fine Art Paintings

Good news – basic cleaning and care of fine art paintings is simple! Taking preventive measures to care for your fine art paintings will protect your initial investment and potentially save you money on professional cleaning and restoration costs in the future. Proper care of your favorite artwork today ensures it can be enjoyed for generations to come.  

Keep these things in mind when caring for your fine art paintings:

All fine art should be expertly framed, using conservation-quality materials. Professional framing will help prevent your paintings from yellowing, fading and sustaining damage. Art galleries often display unframed stretched canvases; however, once a piece is purchased it should be professionally framed to prevent the eventual warping of the stretcher bars. Stretched canvas can be framed in a variety of styles, with thin, clean-line floater frames offering the most low-profile, minimal presentation.  

Floater frame

Floater frame

Traditional frame

Traditional frame

Unframed artwork, notice the warped stretcher bars not laying flat on the wall

Unframed artwork, notice the warped stretcher bars not laying flat on the wall

Minimize physical contact with your paintings. When you do handle a painting, make sure your hands are clean and free of lotion or natural oils. You may consider wearing soft cotton gloves when handling artwork, especially when it is unframed.

Once paintings are framed, make sure to hang them in a spot where they are unlikely to be leaned against or bumped, as canvas will easily dent and could possibly tear with too much physical contact.

Regularly dust paintings with a clean and dry artists’ brush made with soft, natural hairs. Do not apply cleaning products or water, which can degrade the paint and cause permanent damage to the artwork.

Do not hang your artwork in direct sunlight, or in places with extreme temperatures or humidity. Avoid hanging paintings near a heating or cooling vent. Excessive temperature fluctuations may cause paint to crack, fade, or soften, making it more susceptible to collecting dust and grime.

Keep paintings away from smoke of all kinds, including cigarette smoke, fireplaces and candles.

Make sure your paintings are properly packaged during a move. Use protective frame corners when moving artwork, and make sure paintings are properly wrapped and cushioned from damage on all sides.

If your painting is framed under glass or acrylic:

Acrylic should be cleaned with a soft, non-abrasive cloth and special acrylic cleaner or mild soap and warm water. Do not use standard glass cleaner with ammonia as it will scratch or cloud acrylic.

Regular glass can be cleaned with a soft, lint-free cloth and glass cleaner. Avoid directly spraying the glass to prevent moisture from seeping into the edges of the frame; spray your cleaning cloth instead.

These basic tips will help prevent damage and degradation of the artwork you love. Should your paintings require more than basic preventive cleaning and care, it’s a good idea to contact a professional conservator or restorer.

Written by Nicoletta Niosi-Ortiz