A chapter-wise instruction on how to take care of an oil painting

This blog is based on the following five chapters to properly take care of an oil painting:

Table of Contents

  • Handling

    In this chapter, you will get a complete step-by-step guide on how to handle an oil painting to make it last for a long time.

  • Displaying

    This chapter contains safe displaying options for your oil paintings.

  • Cleaning

    In cleaning, we are going to remove dust and dirt from the surface as well as the frame of the oil painting.

  • Keeping

    This chapter contains some instructions to keep oil painting away from harmful substances.

  • Storing

    This chapter is based on the storage guide of an oil painting.

You have to take care of an oil painting if you own it. Proper care is very effective to save the oil painting from yellowing, cracking, and any other form of damage. This blog is aimed to provide complete chapter-wise instructions on how to take care of an oil painting. By following these instructions, you can make sure that your oil painting will remain preserved for a long time.

You can take care of an oil painting by the following steps:

  1. Handle your oil painting with care
  2. Display your oil painting properly
  3. Clean your oil painting carefully
  4. Keep your oil painting away from harmful substances
  5. Store your oil painting properly

Chapter 1: Handling

Handling is an important factor that you should never neglect when dealing with paintings, especially transferring them from one place to another. You have seen professional art restorers that always wear gloves when they deal with oil paintings. Here are some tips to help you handle them with great care.

  • Tip 1: Always wash your hands and clean them with a towel so that any oil or paint residue is not transferred to the surface.
  • Tip 2: Wear white gloves
  • Tip 3: Always support the painting from behind the canvas so that the layers don’t get any pressure or damage.
  • Tip 4: Don’t fold your oil painting as it can cause cracks in the paint.
  • Tip 5: Always keep it away from the reach of children and pets.

Chapter 2: Displaying

Usually, when we buy an oil painting, we always want to display it at a place where everyone sees it at first sight but I don’t recommend doing so because oil paintings are sensitive to light and humidity. You should place them in a delicate place where they get safe from sunlight. For attraction, you can use artificial lights to brighten them.

Here are some best places to display oil paintings:

  • Living Room: It is a central tethering place but displays them high enough to keep them out of reach of children.
  • Dining Room: An oil painting above the dining table is just the perfect place.
  • Bedroom: People also display oil paintings in their bedrooms so that they can look at them while they are going to sleep.
  • Entryway: The first impression is the last one and the entryway is the first area of the house that welcomes visitors.

Chapter 3: Cleaning (Routine dusting)

Here, cleaning does not mean varnishing or restoring the art but it does mean removing the dust and dirt from the surface and frame. When comes to cleaning, a question must come to your mind how often do you need to clean the oil painting? Well, you must do dusting at least once a month but if you talk about restoration, then it should happen at least once a year.

Why cleaning is necessary, those oil paintings which are not framed in a glass or a wooden frame, are supposed to expose to the open environment which could make the oil painting look dull and dirtier. In order to paint the original glow of the paintings, dusting or cleaning is important.

For cleaning, you just need a soft brush or a soft cloth to wipe the dust off. Avoid applying too much pressure on the brush tip to prevent any damage to the paint. You can also use dish soap to remove any thin layers of dust. But in order to remove tough stains, you can use a turpentine or a retouch varnish or you can also oil out your painting.

Here is a list of some cleaning methods for an oil painting:

  • Use a soft brush (thin stains)
  • Dish soap and water solution but you must prevent the frame from water

Chapter 4: Keeping

When it comes to keeping an oil painting safe and protected, you must be aware of the things that can be harmful to your oil painting. The most common things that can be harmful to your oil paintings are:

  • Direct sunlight/ UV Rays
  • Humidity in air/ Water on canvas
  • Dust/ Dirt
  • Extreme Temperature/ Heat
  • Cleaning solvents/ Insecticides/ Paint thinners/ Mineral spirits/ Nail polishes/ Glue

Direct sunlight is the most harmful thing for an oil painting and it has more than 50% role in damaging oil paintings before time. It is mandatory to frame the oil painting whether it is expensive or cheap.

Artists work to create the oil paintings but we owners are responsible for their preservation and maintenance, so there must be no compromise in their safety.


Chapter 5: Storing

Oil paintings must be stored in a cool and dry place to ensure the paints do not get ruined. Don’t wash them with water or any other solvents before you get any advice from a professional. Here are some tips to store an oil painting:

  • Store your oil painting in a flat position
  • Use acid-free materials to store the painting
  • Keep it in a cool and dry place
  • Do not place them on top of each other
  • Check the painting after every week

By following all these tips, you can take care of your oil paintings without any damage and I also ensure the results will be good.

Is it ok to touch the oil paintings?

Is it ok to touch the oil paintings - How to take care an oil painting
A picture of museum where you cannot touch the paintiuings

No this is not ok to touch oil paintings because our hands contain some natural oil and sweat that can cause the oil paint to get damaged over time. The most common results of improper touching are discoloration and smudging.

That’s why museums don’t allow us to touch oil paintings with bare hands because those are more precious.

Do oil paintings fade over time?

Yes, the oil paintings get fade or deteriorate over time due to light intensity, humidity, temperature, and the quality of materials used in the oil paintings. You can prolong the age of oil paintings by placing them in certain environments with low temperatures and low humidity.

Light intensity is the major cause of fading in oil paintings because it contains UV rays that directly damage the pigment of the oil paint. This is also a reason that most of the famous and expensive oil paintings are placed indoors by using artificial light sources.

Humdity doesn’t create any impact on the oil paints but it causes an expansion in the canvas which is the base of the paintings. This expansion causes cracks in the oil paint which are really hard to repair. Proper maintenance is required to protect the oil paintings from fading.

What makes oil painting beautiful?

There are many things that get the attraction of buyers but richness in the pigment is the most important factor that makes oil paintings more beautiful. Richness in the pigment means that the artist used the right materials with great expressiveness.

What makes the oil paintings more beautiful - How to take care an oil painting?
What makes these oil paintings more beautiful?

The popularity of artists is also an important factor but that just increases the rate of oil paintings. However, the reputation of the artist makes them more popular. I have seen some artists with hidden talents and their artworks are just incredible but they don’t have a popularity.

Do oil paintings last longer than acrylics?

Oil paintings are generally more durable and long-lasting than acrylics due to the slow drying time of oil paints, greater pigment density, and quality of materials. An average oil painting can take up to 6 months to dry completely but on the other hand, acrylics take just a couple of days.

Both of these paintings can be preserved for centuries if they get the proper care.

Does water ruin oil paintings?

Oil paints are water resistant but water can ruin oil paintings because the canvas is not water resistant, especially wooden canvases that expand over time. As a result, oil paints get cracked and peel away from the surface of the canvas. Water can also penetrate the paint layer if the painting is not properly sealed.

Some common problems in oil painting

Oil painting is the most popular and ancient medium but still, there are some problems with such as cracking, yellowing, fading, blotching, and blooming. Don’t worry, these problems will not be visible until many years, and there are also many ways to get rid of them. There are also art restoration companies that can restore any kind of damage.

These problems can also be seen within a year even if you take proper care due to not using good quality materials in the making process. Cracking is the most common problem that is faced by many owners. If you want to know more about it, check out our recent blog on cracking, its reasons, and solutions.


How long will an oil painting last?

Oil painting can last for 30 years without restoration. If you restore it, it can be preserved for centuries.

Can you touch the paintings in museums?

No, oil paintings are not allowed to touch in museums with bare hands because natural oil and sweat can cause the expansion of the canvas. But that cannot happen just once, you know better, if people will be allowed to touch them, millions of bare hands can damage them.

Why do you think we should give importance to the preservation of art?

Art is the representation of history, in a time when no media and mobile phones were there, art saved the traditions and memories of ancient times. So, this is necessary to preserve them.

Final Words

Good care and maintenance are always necessary to preserve the beauty and longevity of oil paintings. By following all 5 chapters, you can enjoy the art for many years. However, remember that oil paintings can be preserved for decades but they can also get ruined in no time. Always gave some attention to the caring and cleaning of these artworks because they are more precious than you think.

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