Gloss Photo Cleaning


Sep 18, 2003
United Kingdom
Hi Everyone hope you can help.

A customer has given me a dirty gloss photograph, no not that kind, and they have broken the glass in the frame but have continued to hang it in a room that they smoke in, so it looks pretty grubby.
I'm sure I've read of a process somewhere in a trade magazine, but do you think I can find the article.
So hopefully someone knows of a way way that this can be cleaned off without damaging the finish on the photograph.
Thanks to all who reply.
On RC (Resin-Coated) prints, I have used, with great apprehension, Unseal (now Hunt Unstick), lighter fluid, Kodak Film Cleaner and distilled water, depending on what kind of gunk is on the print.

The trick is do use something very soft, like a cotton ball, with the appropriate solvent to dissolve the gunk without abrading the glossy surface of the print. It's a risky operation.

RC prints can be rewashed in a running water bath, but that will only help with water-soluble gunk. I don't think tobacco smoke qualifies.

I used to advise my photography customers to get glossy prints fro the best colors and detail. After I cleaned and framed a few of them, I starting recommending a matte surface.

Before you put anything at all on that print, you want to make sure it's a photographic print and not some inkjet wannabe.
I've had reasonably good luck with Naptha (Ronsonol lighter fluid) and those cotton "quilted squares" you can buy from the cosmetics aisle in a pharmacy.

As long as you rub gently with the cotton squares so you don't grind in the grit i.e. let the chemical naptha work its magic, you shouldn't have any problems.

Work the cotton squares in small areas in a circular motion and gently blow on the surface under which you're working on so that it doesn't streak.

It even works on Cibachrome (Ilfochrome) if you are EXTREMELY gentle with your rubbing.
There is a product called PEC-12 that is made specifically for cleaning photographs and film. You do need to use a soft, lint-free cloth (the same company makes wipes) so you do not scratch the emulsion. I always do a spot test and have found it to be a pretty decent product.