Cleaning old paintings


Last week I mentioned that I’d tried out natural soap for cleaning a couple of very dirty old paintings that were left stranded in our hayloft.

These were not high quality art, presumably from the 1960’s or thereabouts, and I wasn’t trying to actually save them. I just wanted to see how it went and perhaps play a bit. So if you do this and paint comes off too, don’t blame me!

First I tried turpentine, assuming they would be oil paintings, but nothing happened. The natural soap containing olive oil, beeswax, honey, and coffee however did a great job. The coffee supposedly contains oils that are good at dissolving dirt, anything from plant stains to motor oil.

After one rub, using cotton swabs, one painting still had odd “prints” of brown stain. Another cleaning with the coffee soap took care of that and my swabs were no longer mudcoloured.

It’s best to not try to clean a canvas that has gone slack, as the pressure from your fingers might crack the paint. So tighten it up first and be gentle.


This is the last in a batch of scheduled files, myself and one of the cats are not feeling our best, so I’ll be back when I’m back.



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