Cleaning & Maintaining All Kinds of Artwork

Cleaning & Maintaining All Kinds of Artwork

Molly Anderson
May 17, 2010

We love artwork. You love artwork. Yet, when tackling your spring cleaning list it can be easily overlooked. Here is a quick guide to help you keep your pieces dust free and fabulous.

This advice is intended for light cleaning. If your art is super valuable or damaged (cracked or peeling) you should consider having it professionally cleaned. If you are unsure of how cleaning will affect something remember to test a small hidden area before diving in. Okay, all warnings aside, cleaning most artwork is a cinch!

Oil Paintings and Watercolors: Last year we posted about How-to: Clean a Painting ...with a Loaf of Bread? A proven technique that is a little unexpected. Check out the link to see a video of the process and step by step instructions

Framed Artwork:
Spray some glass cleaner onto a cotton cloth and then use that to clean your glassed artwork. Lambs wool is excellent for dusting really nice frames.

Ceramic and Glass: Clean these items by hand as you would washing fancy dishware using a 1% soap solution. Toothbrushes help to get into tiny spaces. If you need to get any major gunk, a razor blade held perpendicular to the object can be pushed across it to clean the surface.

Paper, Fabric and Silk:
VERY CAREFULLY use an automotive cleaning cloth that is damp but almost dry to remove surface dirt.

Steel, Iron and Aluminum: A soft brush (toothbrush) and a 1% soap solution can be used in most cases. Mild chemicals can be used to remove light rusting.

Bronze: Dust it to keep it clean and you can occasionally apply wax. Don't try to remove the patina, it is part of its charm!

Marble is a very sturdy stone so it can be cleaned with various mild cleaners.

Wood and Leather: A slightly damp cloth should take care of most light cleaning. Using a fine paintbrush you can work butcher's wax (in a can) into wood and leather. Polish it up with a soft cloth. (avoid spray waxes because they contain lots of other ingredients.

Ancient and Valuable Art: Dust it with a fine bristle paint brush and leave it alone.

(Images: Angus Fergusson)

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