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Fine Art/How to clean paintings


Hi Daniel,  I have a question for you about cleaning paintings.  I have done some acrylic paintings on my own and have collected quite a few acrylic, oil and wax paintings over the year.  Some of the older paintings need to be cleaned since the colors are not as bright anymore. I did not pay a whole lot for the paintings so they're not like museum quality or anything.  I just want to keep them clean.  Can you suggest a way to clean them without hurting the paint?  I don't think I'll be able to afford professional cleaning.  I heard you can wipeclean an acrylic painting with a damped cloth?  Is that true?  About oil or wax?  I just want your opinion before I go out and damage my art. :)  Thanks again.  Trinh

Dear Trinh, I have never owned or cleaned an acrylic painting. As it is basically a plastic or latex type media I would think you could use warm water with just a couple of drops of dish detergent or a slight amount of TSP(trisodiumphosphate)and wipe with a soft dampened cloth, and then finish wiping with a clear water dampened cloth. As far as oil paintings, it is more complex. Various solvents are used depending upon the surface condition, wether it is varnished or not, etc. I would not advise cleaning these without a conservator. Paintings with a wax medium are even more tricky.

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Daniel A. Hynes


Collecting, buying, selling, identifying, and caring for paintings, drawings,and watercolors (19th and early 20th century American and European). No prints, contemporary art, or works executed after 1940.


35 years as a fine art dealer, including 3 years as a gallery director. Also was art expert for Leslie Hindman's Auctioneers, and for Dunning's Auction.

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