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How to Clean Oil Canvas Paintings

Oil paintings can be cleaned at home, saving you several hundred dollars in professional cleaning charges. Depending on what type of dirt and grime has accumulated on the painting there are several different safe methods for cleaning. Several cleaning methods are presented in this article, but not all of the cleaning methods may be necessary to clean your painting.. Once your painting is clean stop the cleaning process

Things You'll Need:

  • Cotton balls
  • Soft sponge
  • Lemon
  • Sodium carbonate
  • Vacuum cleaner with soft brush attachment
  • Shaving brush


Use gentle pressure at all times so you do not stretch the canvas and cause cracking of the paint.


  • If color appears on your cotton balls or sponge, it indicates that paint is coming off, so halt your cleaning immediately. Do not attempt to self-clean a valuable painting; take it to a professional restorer.

Remove the picture frame if possible. If nails are removed keep track of which nail goes into which hole so the frame can be put back together exactly as it was when the cleaning is completed.

Lay the painting on a soft flat surface. Look for cracked or flaking paint. If paint is flaking then cleaning may not be possible without damaging the painting. If paint is not flaking use a vacuum cleaner with a soft brush attachment to clean the surface dust. Rub only the soft bristles of the cleaning attachment over the painting. Check frequently to see that paint flakes are not being vacuumed off the painting; if they are, stop all cleaning and bring the painting to a professional restorer.

Dust the painting with a clean, soft shaving brush. Rub the brush over the painting with only a small amount of force, being careful not to stretch the canvas as this can cause cracking and flaking of the the paint. The soft brush should remove any dust and dirt not cleaned by vacuuming.

Put 5 drops of lemon juice into a teacup of lukewarm water. Dampen a cotton ball in the solution. Squeeze most of the water out of the cotton ball and then dab the damp cotton ball gently onto the painting, being careful not to stretch the canvas and crack the paint. Continue dabbing until an area of the painting is damp, then gently wipe the cotton ball across the painting. Check the cotton ball for flaking paint. If paint is flaking off, stop.

Dampen a soft sponge in plain water and gently wipe off the lemon solution. Allow to dry.

Dissolve half a teaspoon of sodium carbonate crystals in a teacup of warm water. Dampen a cotton ball in the solution and then gently dab and rub the moist (not wet) cotton ball across the painting. Do not stretch the canvas. Dampen a clean soft sponge with plain water and wipe gently to remove the sodium carbonate solution and allow to dry.

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