The Care and Feeding of Acrylic Paintings Part IV – Cleaning
Over time everything accumulates dust, and paintings are not exempt. Fortunately, acrylic paintings are pretty durable and easy to clean.
If you want to completely avoid all problems of dust and dirt on your art, you have to frame everything under glass. The problem is that this isn’t always possible, or even desirable. Framing under glass is very expensive for larger pieces, and makes them very heavy and hard to hang. And some contemporary art looks better left unframed. (I typically display my larger pieces unframed.)
The best you can do for your art is to keep its environment as clean as possible. If you use your fireplace regularly, the space right over the fireplace is not a good place to hang a painting. Soot will slowly accumulate on the painting’s surface over time. Similarly, a painting hung in a room where people smoke will accumulate smoke particles. It’s best to hang the art in a room that doesn’t regularly get smoke.
If your painting gets a little dusty, feel free to dust it lightly. A lint-free cloth, microfiber dusting cloth, or slightly damp washcloth should work fine. Test a small area first to make sure you’re removing more dust than you’re depositing! Acrylic paint is very durable and waterproof, so a little dusting now and then won’t hurt it.
If something gets spilled onto the painting, it can be gently washed. First try using a damp sponge or washcloth to gently remove the spill. If that doesn’t do the trick, use some mild soap. Hand soap is good; I’d stay away from dishwashing detergent. Try not to scrub the surface too hard. No Brillo! It’s better to let the soap and water soften the stain rather than using elbow grease to scrape the stuff off.
Very harsh scrubbing can potentially lift some color from the painting, unless the painting has a protective topcoat or is varnished. Check the washcloth to see if any paint color has come off (don’t panic if it has, just use less pressure). Most of my paintings do have protective topcoats.
With reasonable care, including cleaning, acrylic paintings should survive for a very long time.