Cleaning Black Mats


Grumbler in Training
Jun 16, 2004
Newnan, Ga
this is my first visit to this forum. I'm looking for some help.
I'm a photographer, and I frame a lot of collages using black and white images and black mats.

I have the hardest time getting all the dust off the glass, mats and images. Using black mats, every speck shows up!
Would some of you experts give me some advice on cleaning glass and black mats?

thanks so much.
Make sure your work area is as clean as possible.
Use an anti-static brush or cloth and have lots of patience!
Hold the glass at an angle that shows every little speck of lint, then you can brush it off gently with an antistatic brush.

The Lite-Grip thingy has been a tremendous help to us. It holds the glass or matted art off the table while cleaning so that the debris falls away and won't be picked up again. You could also benefit by placing the Lite Grip on a black sheet of paper or mat so the specks show up better through the glass.

I also wipe the rabbet with a damp towel to remove any sawdust or metal shavings that accumulate during cutting.

Sometimes I pull out a piece of paper that comes between glass to lay on the table when working on a difficult project (black suede).
Welcome to the Grumble

As a framer black mats are the curse of framing. There is no easy way to keep a black mat clean short of using another color.

As was suggested a clean fitting table will help as well as using metal frames. Some wood frames tend to shed as they are fitted.
If you have stubborn bits or marks on a black mat, you can lift them off by dabbing at them with a piece of framing tape. (gently!)

Once you have the package together, fish out those pieces that appear from nowhere with a thin strip of blackcore matboard.
Jo's suggestion is closest to what I do. For a slightly more economical version, get a couple of inexpensive ($2 - $3) metal yardsticks and stick black bumbons every few inches. These work similar to the "Lite Grip" and can be completed for less than $10 instead of about $100. I cover my table with foam core and use black on 1/3. This is where I place my homemade "glass grips" so I can see all the specks.
Welcome to The Grumble Linda.

Black mats are my absolute favorites! I'd mat everything in black if customers would let me.

You'd think with all that experience I'd have some magic tip to offer, wouldn't you?

Sorry. It's wipe-check for specks-wipe-check for specks.

But the dramatic look of using black mats is worth the extra trouble.

(Or you could use a mat that doesn't show specks - like Bainbridge's black denim.)

Once you get that package really clean, and you're ABSOLUTELY sure of it, you might consider sealing the package with something like framer's tape. (Don't use masking tape!)

This involves taping the glass, mat, art and backing (filler optional) around the edges so that no additional boogers can get into the package when you place it in the frame. It also makes any boogers you missed very difficult to remove.

You want only a little tape on the glass, so it's covered by the lip of the frame. I'm not that skilled, so I use a wide tape and trim the excess on the glass with the same tool I use to trim paper dust covers. Use a fresh blade.

Some framers do this with everything. I do it only after I've had to open the package 2-3 times to remove stuff that creeped in behind the glass when I wasn't looking.
Just before sending the black mat off to the fitting station my "set up" folks wipe off the black mat with a damp sponge. It removes much of the lint before it enters the fitting environment and also has the added bonus of removing any scuff marks. They dry quickly, even if it's assembled right away it'll dry before the glass is cut and cleaned.
Welcome to the Grumble, Linda.

You must keep your work area as clean as possible when cleaning glass and I recommend handling all glass with glass handling gloves when removing it from the carton or cutting it. You will save yourself alot of cleaning and inspecting if you keep all body oils and finger smudges to a minimum.

I use LJ's glass cleaner and plain old cotton diapers or, lately, white cotton terrycloth wash cloths. I don't worry about anything shedding off of these cotton items as my cleaning procedure will get all those specks in due time with very little misses. It just works well for me. I have been doing this for about 10 or more years and would have changed my procedure if it wasn't working better than anything else I tried. I am my own worst critic, from what others tell me. So, if it doesn't work, I change it until it DOES work.

I clean glass on a board that I built out of a couple of sheets of double thickness shipping cardboard and some black kraft paper. It works very well with the black kraft paper showing up all the little specks and also smudges and fingermarks (if you don't wear glass handling gloves).


I glued the cardboard sheets together and simply ATG the black kraft onto the boards as shown below.


Just fold over the kraft paper to the back of the boards and ATG the edges down. When the paper becomes dirty or torn, you can pull it off the boards and replace it with clean kraft. when I'm not using it, I slip it into one of the slots under the work table that holds my matboards. (See top photo)

Regarding cleaning the images and the mats, it is my technique to always keep the image, mats, and glass vertical from the time it is cleaned until the cleaned image, mats, and glass go together. Here is what I do:

1. I use an anti-static brush sold by many framing suppliers and I first brush the image to remove all visible dust. Then I stand the image up against my roll of dustcover paper on the end of my bench.

2. I brush down the mats both front and back and stand them up against the image.

3. Lastly, I clean and brush the glass in a vertical position and I hold it there with one hand as I reach over and move the mats and image up against the glass.

After each part of the frame package is cleaned and brushed, I never lay it down until the glass is on the front of the package, then I lay the entire package down on the glass cleaning board and lay the frame over it. This seems to keep any airborne dust from floating down and landing on any of the package parts. It becomes sort of a routine once you follow the general steps and put together your own method of assembling the frame package.

Very few times do I have to take the package apart to remove something and, usually, that is because I got in a hurry and missed a little dust nib or speck. Sometimes you will have the frame "shed" something as you place it over the frame package but that just has to be dealt with as it happens. No amount of careful cleaning will stop a little wood sliver or other kind of "critter" from sneaking in under the glass occasionally.

One other thing, when you start to shoot the framer's points in, place a point at each of the four corners of the frame and then lift up the package and do a final look-see to make sure you haven't missed anything. It is a real bummer when you sink in about 20 framer's points and THEN notice that there is something sitting there on that pretty black mat that wasn't part of the original plan!

Hope this helps.

I always use the black dust for jobs like that.

BTW FG Thats the tidiest workshop I have ever seen.Mine is an utter disgrace compared to that.

Thank you for the compliment but I purposely framed the shot (oops, looks like a pun!) in the one clean portion of the shop!! By coincidence, the fitting table, the one place that I strive to keep clean and free of junk.

I have learned through the last 16 years that it pays to buy a small hand held powerful vacuum and keep that table clean at all times. All of these problems with glass, mats, and art images can be minimized by diligent cleaning prior to doing any fitting. It pays in the long run and is simply another routine to practice, like cutting the longest leg of a frame first or underpinning each frame with the same sequence of legs. You don't have as many "accidents" and the work seems to flow much smoother.

I dont need a vacuum cleaner.I have my mother to tidy up after me.She comes in and shouts at me twice a week and I ignore her completely.

Try sanding down a gesso frame tidily...

I always drop the glass onto the piece being framed and that tends to remove dust.I have relatively few dust related problems when fitting.Its just something I have always done and it works for me.

Obviously not for pastels or delicates but it works for most things.

Its like when you let a sheet of glass drop down onto your worktop and all te dust blows away.

Try it and then criticise me.
Alternately, if you drop the glass on the floor you don't have to clean it at all - just sweep up the shards.

thanks for the nice welcome, and all your helpful tips.
I need to get an antistatic brush for sure.