By Ron Mulvey
If the painting surface is smooth (no thick build up of paint), here is how to do a safe cleaning.
First, vacuum dust off surface without touching it. Keep the soft brush attachment about 1/4” from the surface. Allow the suction to take up loose dust particles.
Gently brush the surface with a very soft-haired brush. Do not scrub. Hold the picture up vertically and flick the brush in a downward motion starting at the top of the picture. The dirt that is loosely attached to the surface will fall to the bottom. Continue this flicking to the bottom of the painting and then vacuum once again.
Now that you have removed the surface dust, examine the painting closely. Use a magnifying glass if you can and look for insect stains (flies will leave little brown spots), cracks in the finish, chipped paint layers, food stains, anything of an organic nature.
If you find cracks don’t disturb them or apply anything to them. Your job is to clean, not repair. We don’t repair paintings; we restore them. If you wish to restore you need to research. Google ‘oil painting restoration’.
Using a ‘Q-Tip’ or cotton swab, look for little specs. A spot will usually be the size of a small freckle; you may have a few or a lot. Choose one and lets see what the cotton swab can do. If it comes off easily, great! If it doesn’t, don’t panic and start rubbing – once again, never scrub.
Find the spot and gently twist the swab in one direction 3 or 4 times. Take a look at the swab. If there is dirt, you are on your way. That’s the purpose of cleaning: get the dirt.
Now if the spot is still there, get another clean swab (you can not clean with a dirty one). Repeat – Gentle Twirl – Check for Dirt – Repeat. When the swab comes out clean after a twirl, stop. If the spot is still there, leave it.
About the Artist