Five Steps for the Preservation of Oil Paintings
Avoid Excessive Light or Darkness
Very high light levels can cause the darkening or fading of an oil painting. To avoid damage caused by light, don’t expose paintings to direct sunlight. High light levels also can cause excessive exposure to heat. In addition, commercial lights shouldn’t be positioned too close to the painting. Avoid using lights that are mounted to the frame or too close to the painting. Try to use diffused lights that are positioned at least ten feet from the painting to avoid damages from heat buildup.Note: Oil paintings should not be stored in a the dark for long periods of time. Storing a painting in the dark will cause the oil painting to become darker over time.
Avoid High Temperatures and Humidity
Extreme changes in humidity and temperature can make the canvas and wood stretchers supporting the painting expand or contract. This expansion or contraction can damage the painting. Canvas and wood stretchers can absorb moisture, which may cause them to expand on humid days and shrink on dry days. Oil paint can crack and flake off as a result of the expansion and contraction of the canvas and wood stretchers.
Note: To properly display your oil paintings, try to maintain the following temperature range:
Temperature 65-70 degrees Fahrenheit
Temperature 70-75 degrees Fahrenheit
Handle Your Oil Paintings Carefully
When transporting an oil painting, hold the painting on both sides. Avoid grasping a painting from the top of the frame, and don’t hold it by the hanging wire.Note: Avoid bumping oil paintings on canvas because even the slightest bump can cause future cracking of the paint surface.
Keep Dirt Off Your Oil Paintings
Dirt can attract mold, pollutants and moisture to the surface of a painting. These elements can damage the painting. So, remember to keep paintings away from areas where people smoke. Also, paintings shouldn’t be hung near fireplaces or very close to candles.
Clean Your Oil Paintings Carefully
You can keep your paintings clean by lightly wiping the surface with a soft, clean micro fiber cloth or an anti-static cloth used to clean photographic negatives. Both of these cloths act like magnets that lift loose dust off the painting while avoiding scratches to the painting or varnished surface. Cotton swabs that have been dampened with distilled water can be lightly dabbed on the surface to remove surface dirt that can’t be removed by wiping.
Note: Serious cleaning and varnishing of paintings should handled by a trained conservator.