How to clean surface of acrylic painting?


SGF, Supreme Grumble Framer
Jun 13, 2002
Fingerlakes Region of NYS
Have an acrylic painting that the customer has asked if I can "clean" the surface... I am reluctant for fear of harming it!!

Any suggestions...


The surface of that painting, if seen under a
microscope will look like a sponge. When the water
left the paint, it left a multitude of small holes
and keep them clean is a daunting problem, even
for painting conservators. Do not attempt to clean
this surface, since much of the dirt is inside
the paint. The best option is glazing the painting
to ensure that more dirt does not get inside.


Thank you so for your quick and insightful response.

I appreciate it.

we offer full restoation services. send the dimensions via email and our restoration department will figure a rough quote for you then if you'd like we can discuss shipping it back and forth
Hi Hugh

Hey Rozmataz
Just curious is it a raw acrylic/not varnished or has it been varnished?
Hugh, I think, has assumed the painting has probably not been varnished at all. Most acrylic painters neglect to varnish their works. (Hugh Is NEVER Wrong About This Stuff he is really really so intuitive and Extremely Knowledgable) Thus the sponge effect and the perplexing cleaning problem.

I like the Glazing solution.

However, if it has been varnished the cleaning could be possible. The cleaning method would depend on the varnish used. Some varnishes used on acrylics are a solvent base, while other varnishes are acrylic base.
The cleaning method would depend on these factors.

( Mona Lisa! Mona Lisa!
I hear she has become one warped babe in her old age
Hugh what do you think happened? They turn the heat up to high or not hydrate her enough?
I am reluctant for fear of harming it!!
Sorry! Forgot to tell you. If you fear it don't do it! Until you have picked up an old acrylic painting at a garage sale and experimented.

I try to never experiment or learn on a customer piece. The only thing you learn if it goes wrong is you should have not experimented on the customers piece. :mad:
Oh Gosh, Hugh, James - and all those who say don't do it - are so right! There are so many variables in cleaning paintings, acrylic or otherwise, that the risk is absolutely not worth it unless your are really really sure of yourself.

Even experienced paintings conservators don't start a cleaning project lightly.

A good rule of thumb is, the less valuable the piece, the harder it will be to clean!

Have an acrylic painting that the customer has asked if I can "clean" the surface... I am reluctant for fear of harming it!!

Any suggestions...

If i dont know I ask someone with greater knowledge than I. And from the response, they say consult a conservator. Ajax wont work on this one.
As Gumby has noted, some acrylic paintings are
varnished with solvent based materials and thus,
will not have the holes problem that affects the acrylic paint layer. One must ask whether the varnish is also an acrylic polymer; if so, it is likely to be soluable in the same things that would affect the painting, itself. As Rebecca noted, these cases are very complicated and are best left to conservators. Oil painting has been around for hundreds of years and we are still learning more about how to care for them. What
is up with the Mona Lisa is an important question.
Panel paintings are very responsive to changes in
climate and they are often placed in sealed packages, before they go out on loan from a museum. The AP articles did not make it clear
whether there was anything going on, beyond deformation of the panel. We can only hope that
those in charge will share more about any problems
affecting that panel and what they do to solve them.