Conservation treatment | Painting on canvas | 13.mar.2013

Mould on a painting

I have an oil painting, and some mildew / mould stains have appeared on the back of it. Is it possible to remove this, and is it something I might be able to do myself?

For a painting which is oil on canvas, dry cleaning, such as vacuuming, may be the best idea. Anything involving water is bad for the canvas, as it could shrink and cause flaking of the ground and paint.

With the painting still in its frame, set the painting face down on a table, possibly on a towel, so that the frame does not get scratched.

Vacuum the loose particles, using the little round soft furniture brush, which is part of most vacuum cleaners. Be very gentle and do not press on the back of the canvas, as this may leave marks or cracks in the paint layer. Use the absolute minimum suction setting of the vacuum cleaner, so the canvas does not get damaged.

Make sure that the painting is not exposed to humid conditions again, as mildew or mould can develop when it is too humid (more than 60 to 70% relative humidity). Even after vacuuming, there will be tiny spores in the canvas fibres, which you cannot remove. Therefore, keep the painting in appropriate climactic conditions. Basements or humid outside walls are not good places to store or display paintings.

Since we do not know the extent of the mould damage, or the painting’s general condition, it is difficult to give more precise instructions. If you are not satisfied, we can only recommend that you contact a professional conservator directly. A list of professional conservators in Denmark can be found here: http://nkf-dk.dk/om_foreningen/medlemsliste

Yours faithfully,
Pauline Lehmann Banke
Painting Conservation Technician

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