How To Clean An Acrylic Painting On Canvas

Art cleaning often goes unnoticed because people think it needs no maintenance. That’s not the case. Art doesn’t come cheap, and hence, efforts are required in order to clean and maintain it.

The most common dirt that wall art pieces often face is dust. While it may look simple to clean, the opposite is true. You should be very careful before cleaning any painting because there is a huge risk you might damage it. You should know about the painting material used and what type of cleaning criteria would suit it best.

Miguel Camarena Pueblos Painting

There are many different types of paintings, the most common being acrylic paintings, oil paintings, and giclee prints on canvas. They all have completely different cleaning criteria. What works for one type of painting might damage another.

Alcohol is a very famous cleaning substance in many cases outside of the art world, but here, it may damage your artwork. Instead, you should follow a very careful approach.

Alcohol can damage painting

What Are Acrylic Paintings?

Acrylic paint is a type of paint that’s mixed with a water-soluble resin. It dries quickly and becomes water-resistant afterward. It’s a great painting material because it has superior appearance characteristics and depth, similar to those of watercolors and oil paintings.

What are acrylic paints

However, they are more durable than oil and watercolor paintings and crack less often. On the flip side, they attract more dust than oils and watercolors because they have a softer texture. They need to be cleaned on a periodic basis, and sometimes only a touch-up would be enough.

How To Clean Dirt Off Of A Canvas Painting

Option 1: Cleaning With A Soft Bristled Brush

Sometimes, all a painting needs to stay clean is dusting now and then. Dusting can be done with a dry piece of cloth or with a soft-bristled brush. A soft-bristled brush is a great tool for cleaning the dust off of any painting. The brush should be rubbed gently on the exterior of the painting with long, consistent strokes.

Clean painting with A Soft Bristled Brush

If there is a thicker layer of dust, a mini car vacuum cleaner can assist in removing the dust from the painting. It is important to clean the dust off of the paintings regularly, as this will keep them fresh. On the other hand, if they are not cleaned regularly, after a longer period, a thicker layer of dust can accumulate on the painting, which is harder or sometimes impossible to clean.

Option 2: Cleaning With Soap And Water

Fill a container with clean, lukewarm water and add some drops of non-acidic dish detergent. Mix both until a solution is formed. This solution can then be used to clean dirt and dust spots on the acrylic painting. The detergent works as an emulsification agent that will help the dirt leave the painting surface, and the water will then wash it away.

The best cleaning material would be cotton or a microfiber cloth. Wet the cotton in the solution, press to remove all the excess water, and then apply it to the painting. In the case of a sponge, shake it to the point that it’s only slightly damp and not wet.

Cleaning With Soap And Water

Beware in the case of some water-soluble acrylic paints. If there is a lot of moisture in the cloth, it will dissolve the paint, severely damaging the painting. After making the cloth slightly moist, using long, straight, or diagonal strokes, go over the painting gently. Don’t apply pressure at all, as this, too, might damage the painting.

Option 3: Protecting The Painting

Another great option is to save the painting from dust or grime before it’s accumulated on the surface. One way to do this is by applying varnish to the surface of the painting. However, a specific varnish should be selected that’s suitable for the type of acrylic paint you have.

Protect painting with varnish

Before applying the varnish, the painting should be gently brushed off with a dry material so that no dust accumulates between the painting and the varnish. The varnish can be gently brushed or sprayed onto the painting and then left to dry. Afterward, the painting will be more resistant to dust and will remain cleaner.

Cleaning A Painting Affected From Cigarette Smoke

Cigarette smoke is hugely damaging to any type of painting. Even for acrylic paintings, which are known for their superior durability, cigarette smoke can badly affect their appearance.

However, there are many ways to clean cigarette smoke off of an acrylic painting. Given below are some DIY home techniques that can be used. It should be noted that if these don’t work, you should opt for the help of a professional.

  1. The first technique is to use a slice of bread and rub it gently on the areas of the painting where nicotine is present. The idea here is that nicotine will transfer to the bread and be removed from the painting.
  2. If the first technique isn’t efficient, you can go for a stronger cleaning method. Take one-quarter of white vinegar mixed with three-quarters of distilled water in a bowl. Use a cotton ball, dip it in the vinegar-and-water solution, and gently rub it onto the painting. Afterward, use a cotton ball with just water to neutralize the vinegar.

Some Other Very Important Points To Notice

Cleaning any painting is a very intricate process, especially if you’re doing it yourself at home without any prior experience or knowledge. You should do careful and thorough research about the painting material and the cleaning equipment that will be used. Some important points to note are:

Apply glass frame to protect painting from dust

  1. Apply a glass frame to your painting if it will be hung on a wall. This will make it easier to clean the painting, as only the outer glass and the frame would have to be cleaned.
  2. If you’re an art collector or a painter yourself, it is of vital importance that you store your paintings in a dust-free environment. One technique to do this is to use plastic or bubble wrap to cover the painting. A bubble wrap will not only save the painting from dust, but because it’s a soft and friendly material, its contact with the painting is also safe. However, bubble wrap should not be used to store and wrap oil paintings.
  3. Another very important thing for acrylic paintings or any paintings is the amount of light they receive. UV light can damage any painting if there’s prolonged exposure. If they receive a lot of light and are put in such an environment indefinitely, this will slowly start to damage the painting and affect its vibrance and colors. If a bulb is used to spotlight the painting, its intensity should be low so that it doesn’t damage the painting.
  4. Acrylic paintings should always be kept cool and dry. This will immensely increase their shelf life to the point that they will stay fresh endlessly. More humidity in the painting room will also cause the painting to deteriorate. Hence, it is advised to run a humidifier in the room where there are paintings.

Wrap an art in a plastic bubble wrap


While it’s okay to do your research and clean your paintings yourself, it is always advised to look for the services of a professional. It would not only make the paintings cleaner but would also give you insights into how to get them cleaned the next time.

You can also ask for tips, tricks, and hacks on how your paintings can be stored better. Moreover, you can also ask them to apply framing to the painting so that you can clean the painting yourself. It is unsafe to clean the painting yourself. But if you are confident and have done enough research, you can then go ahead and give it a try.

An expert is cleaning his painting


Can I wash a canvas painting?

Washing a canvas painting at home is not recommended, as it requires caution. There are chances of damage, which you wouldn't want to do, especially if the painting is expensive or old. Washing can also cause the canvas to stretch or shrink, which can affect the painting's overall stability.

Can acrylic paint be washed off a canvas?

Yes, acrylic paint can be washed off a canvas when it is wet. Once it dries, it will need the help of a solvent to be removed.

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