Cleaning An Oil Painting Myself?

I just bought a rather nice oil painting from a junk shop, but it’s rather dirty and yellowed with what looks like grease and the dirt that accumulates on that: it looks like it’s been hanging in a kitchen where somebody has been frying chips for twenty years: no damage, as far as I can see, just grime. The question is, should I even attempt to clean it myself - and if so how - or just pay a professional to do it? I haven’t had it appraised, but it wouldn’t be enormously valuable - my guess would be $2000 tops - but it’s more about the preserving the painting itself than enhancing the value; it’s a nice little oil on canvas seascape by a Chilean artist named Carlos Perot: not terrifically rare or valuable, but not unknown either.

I’m not an expert. But from what I’ve heard, this is a job that should only be done by experts. It’s something that’s very difficult to do right and very easy to make irreversible mistakes doing wrong.

Surprisingly it involves a fair amount of saliva, even when done by professionals.

Whatever it is that this lady did, do the exact opposite.

Same goes for this guy.

I agree.
I have bought and a sold a number of paintings and I wouldn’t risk damaging an expensive painting doing this.

if it is something that you bought from an art fair or from a garage sale and it only has sentimental value, you could try it. If you do, proceed slowly and stop if things don’t seem to be going well.

It’s unlikely that this oil painting is valuable and involving an expert or professional will probably cost more than it’s worth. So a DIY cleaning is probably fine.

If it’s at all nice, I’d take it to a pro - but if you want to try it yourself, at least get a few truly worthless ones to practice on first (after researching proper materials, techniques, etc.)

I’ve used a soft cloth dampened with diluted 409 type cleaner on 60+ year old oil on paperboard paintings to remove tobacco stains. Double water damp “rinse” afterward.
Do not allow things to get too wet. Canvas may be more forgiving than paper, but hydration of the substrate is not your friend.
The paintings look much better, and have remained stable over 4 years since cleaning.
Go slow, use soft cloth, avoid overharsh cleaning agents, don’t let things actually get wet, and you should be OK.

It’s not worth it. No matter how hard you scrub you won’t get all the paint off that canvas.

Real oil paint is quite stable, i have in the past cleaned my own works using plain liquid soap (washing up liquid) warmish water and a brush. Older oil paint probably would not like scrubbing though as it loses its elasticity and might drop off…I’ve seen the Spit method (and artificial spit from a bottle) used and it takes ages rolling cotton wool over the surface hundreds of times. Personally id use a drop of soap and warm water and a soft brush, like a paining brush. Make sure you don’t soak it wet though dab and mop it off as you don’t want the canvas wet.


You’d be surprised.
I have seen people selling lithographs that they thought were giclées that were actually signed and valuable. Even if it has no financial value it may have sentimental value and people would hate to ruin it.

There are plenty of oil painting restoration products and how-tos out there- I’d think that doing it yourself with proper cleaners and techniques is the most cost-effective route.