Oil paintings are lovely, valuable, and pleasing to the eye. However, they can get dusty and dirty with time. Today, we’ll explore the best ways for how to clean an oil painting without damaging it.

how to clean oil painting

How To Clean an Oil Painting


As time passes, oil paintings have a propensity to darken because of the accumulation of yellowing and grime of the coating. Since 1974, oil painting restoration professionals have used Gainsborough products  to uncover color and detail which has been obscured through the years. Let’s learn how to clean an oil painting safely using these products.

A Word of Caution – Improper cleanup may damage a painting. We suggest that novices engage paintings with great care when attempting to clean. Before cleaning a painting of significance, always practice. You want to be well able to clean your oil painting without damaging it.

how to clean an oil painting

List of Materials Needed to Clean an Oil Painting – Gainsborough Emulsion Cleaner – Gainsborough Varnish Remover – Gainsborough Neutralizer – Gainsborough Varnish – 6 Cotton Swabs – Surgical Cotton – Surgical Gloves – Little Plastic Container – 

Directions – The processes for eliminating household grime, cigarette smoke and yellowed varnish from oil paints are the same. Only the cleaning products are different.

Gainsborough’s oil painting cleansers are based on museum formulations. Avoid using water to permeate the canvas itself, as it could cause the paint to seep through cracks. Before starting, be certain to take a photograph of the front and this back of the painting. Take a photograph upon conclusion for comparison. 

How to Clean an Oil Painting:

Step 1: Lay the oil painting to be washed face up on a piece of paper. Wear gloves to protect your hands, and make sure you have sufficient ventilation. Be careful not to press down on the canvas too much or you’ll stretch the canvas. We suggest utilizing a sheet of linoleum placed under the area of the painting you’re working on to avoid excessive pressure on the canvas. 

Step 2: Apply Gainsborough Neutralizer onto a sheet of cotton wool or white cotton fabric and gently wipe over this face of this oil painting to wash off the surface dirt. Utilize a cotton swab to test a corner of this oil painting with Gainsborough Emulsion Cleaner and Varnish Remover to ascertain which product will best wash the painting.

Emulsion Cleaner will remove grime and smoke, whereas Varnish Remover will remove yellowed varnish, in most cases. Dip a cotton swab in the Gainsborough cleaning product you’ve selected. Utilize a rolling motion as opposed to a scrubbing motion when applying this cleaner.

Watch your swab cautiously to be sure that you’re eliminating just grime or varnish and not the paint. Don’t dip the swab into the cleanup product again once it’s been used. We recommend cleaning a 2 inch square area at a time and after that Neutralizing the region with Gainsborough Neutralizer prior to proceeding to another area.

We propose doing the sky at one time, then this trees, etc. The reason: it’s simpler to watch for any color that could start coming off, and different pigments respond differently to cleanup. Always take before and after photos before you clean the entire painting.

how to clean an oil painting

I hope you have found this information beneficial and feel better prepared to clean an oil painting. Please subscribe to my blog for tips and tutorials on how to clean everything in your home.

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Check out the most popular posts on deemiddleton.com: 

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Also, check out a great post on decluttering over here from becomingminimalist.com. Joshua Becker has some great tips on decluttering and minimalism.

For further reading, check out the fly lady here. She has some great cleaning and decluttering ideas plus excellent organization tips to get you started.