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Can You Clean A Canvas Print?

cleaning a canvas print

A Guide To Cleaning & Maintaining Your Canvas Photo Prints & Paintings

Canvas prints are a wonderful & affordable style of wall art, whether printing your own photos or buying prints or paintings.

Print technology has come a long way too & a quality canvas print, when taken care of, can last a lifetime.

But accidents can happen & prints can also be vulnerable to certain environmental contaminants.

So can you clean a canvas print? Yes, it's possible to clean canvas prints & paintings & the general advice is to use a clean lint free cloth, mild soapy water & avoid harsh chemicals or cleaning products.

Sometimes canvas prints & paintings have been passed down through generations & you wish to be able to do the same.

Maybe you’ve inherited some old artworks & they need bringing back to life.

Perhaps it’s a piece you’ve created & you want it to stay in the best condition possible.

Even if it’s a less expensive print, it’s still worth cleaning & looking after so it looks it’s best in your home.


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The approach to cleaning can depend on the severity, type of staining or dirt & the canvas material itself, as well as the inks or paints used.

How To Clean Different Types Of Canvas

Canvas is a broad term, it’s not a material in itself.

Many people assume that canvas is made from .. well, canvas!

The term actually refers to any material stretched over a frame.


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a stretched canvas print

But in the art & photographic world there are common materials used.

If you have a photographic print it will be either be a cotton canvas, polyester or cotton/polyester blend.

A reproduction will be the same, as an art print is made via a high quality photograph being taken of the original work then printed.

If it’s an original, it will be a linen or cotton canvas.

Linen is more expensive, but for many artists it’s the better quality.

Also different weaves are used, finer weaves for the fine detailed work & rougher weaves for broad brush strokes.

Many artists will also prime the canvas with “gesso”, a mixture of plaster of Paris, glue & chalk or pigment.

It’s interesting to understand the different canvases, but it’s really the paint or ink that’s used to create & print the image that is being cleaned & as many paintings are sealed, you will only be wiping the sealant & not the ink or paint itself.

Of course, this all depends on the condition & age of the sealant.

Abstract art may not completely cover the entire canvas with paint & if a sealer hasn’t been used, then you’re left cleaning the naked canvas.


To learn more about canvas prints, please feel free to check out:


Can Canvas Photo Prints & Paintings Be Cleaned The Same Way?

Fortunately one size fits most requirements.

As mentioned, mild soapy water with a clean white, non-abrasive cloth is the safest method.

Make sure to give the print a dusting & don’t go scrubbing hard or use any circular motions.

Simply lightly wipe in one direction from one side to the other.

If you have a painting, this may need an alternative approach.

Here's a video from a fine art restoration company demonstrating the professional way to clean a fine art painting.

How To Safely Clean Stubborn Dirt & Stains From Your Print Or Painting

We've covered the types of canvas & the best general way to clean your prints, but there can be dirt or stains that are more stubborn & aren’t as straightforward to remove.

Some will require specialist cleaning.

But it’s always a good idea to test on a small inconspicuous area or edge first.


Providing it hasn’t been sitting on the print for years, a simple dusting is all that’s needed.

Use a soft feather duster & simply brush over.

If there's a heavier build-up of dust, use a vacuum cleaner.

But make sure the brush attachment is really soft though, don’t go using something with hard bristles.

Again, take it easy, pressure isn’t needed.

Be Cautious Cleaning Off Mould

Every art owners nightmare & rightly so.

It can be removed, but there's a few factors to take into consideration.

You'll need to know the type of print or painting you're dealing with.

Prints aren’t too bad, you may be able to clean these yourself using a light bleach free disinfectant.

Spraying the print will kill the surface mould without affecting the surface beneath.

You will need to spray first before wiping the print.

Once you’ve sprayed a couple of times, allow the print to dry off, don’t start wiping while it’s wet.

Kill the mould first before cleaning.

As it dries the mould will become crumbly & you can use a soft brush to remove it.

You may need to use some soapy water & a cloth if there's any stubborn patches.

For getting rid of mould on paintings you'll first need to determine if it was created using oils, acrylic or watercolour.

Each of these mediums have different characteristics & need to be treated differently.

  • Oils are extremely durable but can have adverse reactions to certain chemicals.

  • Acrylics are water soluble, so care is needed as they can be damaged if wet.

Some acrylic paintings may have a protective varnish.

  • Watercolours, as the name suggests, are water based, so not a great idea getting them wet.


There's information on the Internet suggesting various means for cleaning mould from paintings, but I’d be very wary.

Some of the information isn’t well researched & just because it worked for one person it may not be the best solution for you.

Rather than regurgitate bad advice, Id suggest contacting a professional art restoration service.

Removing Nicotine From Your Print

Smoke residue from cigarettes can build up on a canvas print, but fortunately it can be removed.

It’s the same process of using soapy water & either a clean white, non-abrasive cloth or a cotton swab.

Gently wipe the print, but have some clean or distilled water to rinse with.

Keep an eye on the rag, when you see it getting yellow it's time to use a clean portion.

How Often Should You Clean A Canvas Print?

So you’ve managed to bring your print back from the dead!

Or you’ve recently acquired a print & you’re wondering if regular cleaning will help prolong it’s longevity.

The less you need to touch the print the better.

There’s no need to clean it at regular intervals, as long as it’s kept dusted so build up doesn’t occur, this should be the only cleaning required.

Exceptions would be if there are smokers in the house, or the print is subject to high humidity & the possibility of it being affected by mould.

In this case, just keep an eye on it & when necessary you may only need to clean small areas as they occur.

How To Take Care Of Your Canvas Print

cleaning lady dusting canvas art print

Apart from regular dusting & the odd spot clean, there are things you can do to minimise the need for any cleaning.

Canvas prints usually fair reasonably well in higher humidity areas, especially polyester or cotton/poly blends.

This is due not only to modern inks, but usually a protective coating is applied & unlike paintings where the paint is applied on top of the canvas, prints can absorb the ink better depending on the type of ink & canvas used.

But make sure there is good airflow around the back of the print.

Next to metal & acrylic, canvas prints can be a decent choice for bathrooms.

But they are still canvas, so making sure they don’t get wet is crucial.


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Kitchen areas are alright providing they’re not subject to steam or grease in the air.

You may have noticed when cleaning your kitchen how grease build up can occur in places that aren’t even that close to the stove.


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Keep the frames clean & keep an eye on the stretcher bars, as mould can occur here first before you notice it on the print.

Using a clear varnish, or an epoxy resin, is the ultimate in protecting the front of the print.

A disclaimer here is important, always seek professional advice before trying this on a painting.

Avoid the print being in direct sunlight, as it can fade over time unless you have it mounted behind a UV protected glass.


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Four Different (But Not Necessarily Recommended) Ways For Cleaning Canvas Prints

Here’s some less usual ways that people have used to clean their prints.

I’m just putting it out there, it’s entirely up to you if you’re willing to give these methods a shot.

Maybe you could try them out on a print that’s already ruined or one you’re not bothered about.

1. Olive Oil Based Soap

Use instead of a mild detergent with a clean cloth.

2. White Bread

I prefer wholemeal myself!

Apparently white bread can be used to remove nicotine staining.

Being slightly acidic, you simply rub the bread over the painting & it absorbs the nicotine.

3. Vinegar

Mix one part vinegar to three parts water.

I really have no idea what type of vinegar as I couldn’t find any further information on this.

If the bread & vinegar doesn’t work, at least you can always make a chip butty!

4. Magic Eraser

There’s a few different manufactures of magic erasers, but the one to get apparently is Mr Clean Magic Eraser.

Again, I didn’t find any case examples of people using or having success with this.

Final Thoughts

In researching for this article, the main take-away for me was really just try soapy water & a clean cloth approach, preferably on an inconspicuous area.

If that doesn’t work & you’re not overly attached to the print, maybe try another cleaning method.

Often art stores will stock products for cleaning canvas, so they’re definitely worth contacting for advice.

Some artworks can be worth a lot of money & can be a valuable heirloom.

If this is the kind of print you’re looking at cleaning, probably the best & safest option is seek professional advice.


I did come across authoritative sites that are professional art cleaners, so here's a handy link worth checking out for more information & advice.


I hope this article was of value & please feel free to share.


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