Opinions Wanted Compressed air risks


CGF II, Certified Grumble Framer Level 2
Jan 20, 2011
Los Angeles
Had a talk with my partner today who was very concerned that using compressed air to clean the dust off art and frames was a bad idea due to the possibility of water or oil in the line spraying on the object. I have always taken the stance that air was the least invasive way to clean art, that's why we have all these fancy filters to prevent that. Although there is always a risk, there is also the risk that we may damage art many other ways as well and taking one's art to be framed was risky no matter what. At least half of what we do can't be brushed or touched anyway. That's why we have insurance right? This got me to thinking though, what are people doing to clean art? Is there something out there that I don't know about? Thoughts?


PFG, Picture Framing God
Forum Donor
Jan 27, 2010
Phoenix, AZ
The concern is justified as far as being aware of possible problems.
I have always had both water and oil filters on the compressor.
Nothing wrong with using compressed air to blow off dirt, just not on pastels...:shutup:

You can take a scrap piece of glass and shoot the air out of the nozzle at it to test.
If you see no oil or water residue or spray on the glass scrap, your system is probably OK.

I have seen oil come out of an air line using a Junn Air compressor in the past.
After installing new air and water filters, everything was fine after that.

Always test to be sure you've got clean air coming out.

Some air systems have problems with condensation in the lines because of air line design issues.
This is another problem that must be addressed to prevent water drops spraying out.

As far as "cleaning art", that's a whole other story.
Less is more. What is the value of the art?
Better to do nothing unless you know that the art has little or no value.
"When in doubt, do NOTHING".


SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God
Jul 16, 2007
The Grand Duchy of Lincolnyshire
I would never use compressed air for this purpose.

As mentioned, you never know what else apart from air is going to come out at massive speed.
Aim it wrong and you can cause damage if the stream gets under to edge of a piece of paper.
There is the risk of dirt actually being pushed into the art.
You are creating a lot more dust in the air and it will settle on something else. Or get inhaled.

I like to keep the air in the workshop (the clean one.:D) as still as possible.

If it's loose surface dust, a soft brush used gently will take it off oil and acrylics. For mucky paper, rubber drafting powder is the best stuff I've found. Further than that is a restorers job.

Bill Henry-

SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God
Aug 17, 2002
Boondock Bowerbank, ME
Retired from the grind
I hate to have to agree with either Neil or Peter, but using compressed air is risky. Even “Canned Air” has been known to spray drops of propellant onto art.

I use a soft, camel hair, draftsman's brush to wipe lint and crud from mats, glass, and sometimes the art itself.

Baer Charlton

SPFG, Supreme Picture Framing God
May 24, 2004
First and formost you should have nothing other than an oil-LESS compressor in a bulding that deals with any art. (Do your research about air dispursement of oil. It's not what comes out of the end of the hose.... it's carrier hydranization -- a form of pollution that is characteristic to indoor only.)

Second there should be a trap at the storage, and at least one inline trap just before the dryer unit.

When you are fitting those 500 posters a day.... go for it. Otherwise, brush.


SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
Oct 21, 2009
Northern Indiana
Because I spray finishes, and oil and water mess up shellac, my compressor is in the basement with piping running to the first floor work area with inline moisture traps, drain valved, and a big moisture and oil trap where the work hoses plug in. The 20 feet from the compressor to the regulator/filter takes care of most of the moisture, so I have pretty clean air, BUT, other than my own art, I do not keep art in the studio, as I seldom do the fitting.

Also, having the compressor and dust collector in the basement makes it relatively quiet. (Unfotunately I can't run the table saw or planer remotely. :D )


True Grumbler
May 29, 2009
Northampton, MA
I moved away from compressed air years ago for two reasons. The first was a part timer who decided to blow clan a float mounted paper cutout and instead blew apart the piece. The second was one humid night the compressor was left on, the following morning the first use was like a mini fire hose. Granted both cases I would chalk up to operator error, that said I have had to incidents of operator error damage using a nice soft brush.