How to Clean Watercolour Paintings

You’ve been staring at that beautiful watercolour painting in your den. It was your child’s masterpiece, and you remember very well that she said she dedicated her work for you. Now, after several years, the painting has lost its splendour. It is now dirt-caked, and the supposedly vibrant colours are now dull. The frame is now covered with a thick layer of dust.

Since that watercolour painting holds special meaning to you, you would definitely want to have it restored to its heyday. But watercolour is fragile and sensitive. How then should you clean the painting without damaging the painstakingly created image? Read on for some easy, practical steps.

1. Take the painting down from the wall and lay it down on a table or workman’s bench.

2. Start getting rid of surface dust by brushing it away. Use a soft-bristled brush to avoid damaging the material. A camel’s hair brush (usually sold in camera supply shops) or a basting brush (sold in cooking supply stores) is perfect. After brushing away large areas, focus on corners and kinks.

3. Because they have something to latch on to, dust particles on the frame require more vigorous cleaning. Use an old toothbrush to scrub away caked dust that has accumulated on the frame.

4. Take a loaf of bread tear it to chunks. Take one of the chunks and gently dab or rub the artwork. The bread chunk acts as a sponge, picking up dust, dirt, and debris without damaging the watercolour. When the bread chunk becomes dirty, throw it away and use another fresh piece. Continue rubbing the art piece with bread until it is completely cleaned.

5. Take a soft-bristled brush and brush the painting to remove the bread crumbs.

6. To protect the art piece, place it in a frame with a glass cover. The glass protects the canvas from dust and dirt. Also, to preserve the vibrancy of the colours, hang the piece away from direct sunlight. Heat and UV rays from sunlight make the colours dull.

One other thing I almost forgot to mention: never use water to clean the painting. Even if the painting is protected by a transparent overcoat, the water can still seep through the canvas. Water dissolves the watercolour and ruins the art work.

This technique is only useful for removing surface dirt. If the grime and dirt has thoroughly penetrated the canvas, then you should opt for a professional restorer or conserver to clean your watercolour art piece.