cleaning oil or acrylic paintings

sue@granite bank

Grumbler in Training
Jun 13, 2004
Quincy, IL
Customer has brought in an old sentimental stretched canvas that needs cleaning and probably a finish. CANNOT tell if it is oil or acrylic. Customer can't offer any help either. Doesn't look like it was gessoed and there is no paint which soaked through the canvas to the back side. Looks like heavy cigarette smoke film has dulled the painting. Can anyone recommend a safe cleaning method?
Resist the temptation to "help" the customer. This road is full of pitfalls and you might just fall into one of them. If she cares about it, she will have a painting conservator clean it. If she doesn't want to spend the money, then let the next generation of her family worry about it. You are a framer. Put it in a frame.
PS: Welcome!
In the 60s & 70s we used to recommend the customer THEMSELVES try gentley with distilled water....... :eek:

Then in the 80s, life and lawyers smacked us in the head (thank gosh, someone did) and we started refering those kinds of jobs to the people who know best. It works better that way. Don't break the chain. Keep framing, keep refering.

And if you look VERY carefully and Ellen's signiture tag, you will see that SHE is an EXPERT at leading the BLIND. Take her advice to heart and you will not go down a blind ally. :D

And Ellen, you have my and my wife's greatest respect. Thank you for all your hard work, and may you find solice for all the heart breaking seperations from your 2 year olds.

Happpy Matting
I'll fourth that advice. I've seen ads in the back of PFM and Decor for cleaning products, but using the wrong one will take the paint off along with the grime and varnish. And if you don't know whether it's oil or acrylic, yet another pitfall. Just buying a scalpel does not make you a surgeon.

Get thee to a conservator.
See my post under oil painting drying times for quick synopsis on cleaning paintings.

I'll chime in with the rest of the folks.
In a previous life (like 25 years ago), I did some cleaning of old paintings. Now I don't touch any (even if I think I might be able to clean one). I always refer folks to a conservator.
I've slept better that way.