Displaying & Protecting Your Canvas Art From Moisture & Humidity
The bathroom can often be overlooked as a space for hanging art.
But hanging the right canvas print in a bathroom can transform it from a functional & sometimes uninviting space, to somewhere you can enjoy & even relax in.
Canvas prints are definitely a very affordable way to spruce up a bathroom, but are they practical?
Can you hang canvas prints in a bathroom? Yes you can, but because canvas isn't as moisture resistant as other print materials, there's precautions you can take that will help you prepare the print for enduring higher humidity & moisture levels inherent in bathrooms.
Perhaps you already have a canvas print that would look great in your ensuite, or maybe you’re still deciding which medium to use.
Are Canvas Prints Waterproof?
In a nutshell ... no.
Canvas isn’t a material in itself, the term actually describes any material that's stretched over a frame.
Canvas can be manufactured for other applications, such as tents & outdoor furniture which is designed & treated to make it water resistant.
To dive into this a bit deeper I'd suggest reading:
Some Canvas Will Fare Better Than Others
But for the purpose of printing there are two materials used, cloth such as linen or cotton & polyester.
Often a cotton/polyester blend is used.
Because inks are absorbed into cloth, cotton prints are longer lasting.
Certain cotton & linen can be used to create an archival print.
But does this translate into being more durable for a bathroom environment?
Polyester on the other hand is cheaper & is a synthetic material.
Because the inks sit on the surface you tend to get more vivid & bold colours.
So which of these two print materials will be more durable for a bathroom?
Being a photographer myself, or if you’re an artist, both these materials have different qualities, you would choose the material that suited your end product.
But for longevity in a high moisture environment like a bathroom, the polyester print would be the better choice.
Polyester is a more stable material.
If you wish to explore print methods & materials in further detail, I've written a Complete Guide To Canvas Prints which goes into more detail.
Without being sealed, a linen or cotton print will expand & contract when humidity levels change.
They are also going to be more susceptible to mould & mildew which with an unsealed print is going to be very difficult to remove.
A poly/cotton blend is a very popular choice with most printers these days, so it’s more than likely this will be the type of canvas print you'll have.
Many print labs now also apply a clear coat, whether it's a linen or cotton/poly blend print.
The next factor that affects how well your canvas print holds up to moisture are the inks used.
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Moisture Resistant Quality Of Inks
As well as two types of canvas material used, there are also two types of inks.
These are dye-based & pigment inks.
A few years ago dye-based inks came at a lower cost but also had a wider colour range.
But a major disadvantage was they faded faster & being water soluble, one drop of water would ruin a print.
Pigmented inks were more expensive, had less colour depth but were more water resistant.
Fast forward to the the present day & improvements to ink formulas mean there's little difference between the two.
Brand name inks used today, like Canon & Epson, can last a lifetime when paired with the right canvas material.
Pigmented inks have a slight edge & most quality printers nowadays use this ink.
Remember we’re talking about large commercial photo printing here, not the home or office printer.
Which ink is best for a canvas print hanging in a bathroom?
Pigmented inks would be the choice as they are more water & UV resistant.
So if you’re having a canvas specially printed for your bathroom, ask which ink the lab uses.
Choosing A Suitable Frame
How you display the print will be a design choice, but it’s also good to know if certain frames & frame materials are better suited for higher humidity & are moisture resistant.
Framing a print doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to look better, it’s just another décor choice you have.
A mounted, unframed print can look really good, clean & uncluttered.
But if you're going to use a frame, apart from the look you want, certain materials & methods will help to keep your print & your bathroom looking great for years to come.
Metal frames would be the better choice.
They’re actually made from aluminium, & apart from being waterproof, they're also lightweight.
They come in a variety of colours & finishes, so it will be a breeze finding the right one to match your décor.
Wooden frames are fine as long as they’re not made with raw timber, as they will eventually swell & warp, although wood is more susceptible to harbouring mould.
But even with a wooden frame, you want to make sure it’s painted or sealed all the way around, not just the visible part.
Whatever material the frame is made from, there’s various styles available.
There’s floater frames, box frames & standard picture frames.
What Is A Box Style Picture Frame?
Something to keep in mind is if the print is in contact with the frame, this becomes a more likely area where mildew can propagate as there’s no air flow.
Mounting behind Perspex or glass can actually be a bad idea, as moisture & steam can accumulate, so even though it may protect the canvas from a direct splash, it’s going to make it harder for the print to air & remain dry.
You can also use a sealed enclosure where the print is completely airtight.
This is usually only reserved for very expensive, rare or collectable items.
It’s pretty costly too, so unless your print is worth a lot of money or of high sentimental value, it probably isn’t worth it.
6 Ways To Protect Your Canvas Print From Water, Moisture & Humidity
So you’ve decided on the print & your framing, so to give it the best chance of a long & happy life, there's a few tips you can try.
Some print labs will use a coating, so check first to avoid any adverse chemical reaction that could damage the print.
1. Outdoor Fabric Spray
Most hardware stores would sell this kind of product or a similar weather proofing application, but you can also find it on Amazon & online.
It’s used for waterproofing shoes & cushions & outdoor fabric & works a treat on canvas prints.
You can varnish either in liquid form or with a spray can.
Whichever you decide to go with, make sure it's a clear coat or it can, when dry, leave a hue or slight tint.
This is a plastic that takes the form of a liquid until it dries.
There’s water based & oil based.
Oil based is more durable but it does leave a tint, so water based polyurethane is the one to go for as it also has lower toxicity & odour.
4. Epoxy Resin
This not only protects your print, it will look absolutely amazing!
I’ve found a really good video showcasing some fantastic examples as well as a concise instructional video if you feel like giving it a go.
Better for smaller canvases, as the weight of the resin can cause the print to sag in the middle before it dries.
But this is probably the ultimate way to waterproof your canvas print.
Video courtesy of bradscottvisuals.com
Laminating a canvas is applying a plastic film over the top then using a heat press to bond it.
Once it’s on it can’t come off & as well as preventing water contacting the print, it also seals it from moisture.
You can also try it yourself with a liquid form of laminate which is applied with a roller or brush.
6. Regular Cleaning
Last but not least, simply keep the print clean by gently wiping it down along with the frame.
This will also help you catch any mould or mildew before it takes hold.
5 Ways To Display Canvas Prints In The Bathroom
Now you’ve done all the preparation to ensure your print is as bathroom proofed as it can be, all that’s left is to get it on the wall.
Bathrooms are places than can be tiled, sometimes all the way to the ceiling, so drilling a hole to get a screw or bracket to hold your print may not be desirable.
There are alternatives ..
1. Adhesive Hooks
If your print has a wire or string hanger on the back, an adhesive hook is a simple & easy choice.
As far as strength is concerned, if you’re unsure how the glue is going hold up in the humidity, you can always apply a stronger adhesive.
I would tend to stay away from the more permanent or construction glues like Liquid Nails though.
I’ve used these products & they certainly do the job they’re intended for, but if you ever want to remove what you’ve glued .. good luck!
You may remove the hook, but you’ll be left with a lump of glue to chisel off!
2. Picture Hanging Strips
Basically works like Velcro.
You stick one half of the strip to the wall & the other to the back of the print.
The way to do it is while the strips are still together, peel the paper from the side that will be stuck to the print to reveal the adhesive.
Then stick as many strips as you need to the back of the print.
Then once you’ve marked where the canvas is going to go, peel the wall side of the paper off the strips & press the print to the wall.
3. Picture Rails
If you have an older house you may be lucky enough to already have them, but you can install them to newer properties.
If it’s a look that you'd like to try, they’re a great option as you can then shift the canvas prints anywhere you like, whenever you like without the bother of hooks, nails & such.
Art doesn’t always need to be displayed on a wall.
You can prop up a canvas print in your bathroom on an old vintage chair, a towel rack or even an easel ... think outside the box & get those creative juices flowing!
Open shelving is often used for storing towels & other bathroom necessities, but if you can empty one out it’s a great spot for smaller canvas pieces.
How To Hang Art With Minimal To No Damage
Other things to consider when displaying your print is to make sure there’s air flow around it.
Whatever method you use for display, try not to have too much of the canvas in constant contact with a surface, like tiles, that can collect steam or moisture.
Keep the bathroom as well ventilated as possible, windows open in the warmer months & make use of extractor fans & ventilation.
Maybe it’s obvious, but try to avoid high splash areas like near the wash basin or bath & too near the shower.
Not only water, but the canvas could get soaps or detergents on it which may leave permanent damage.
It may be one of the smaller rooms in the house & often overlooked as a place to display art.
But apart from the bedroom, it’s also the first place you see in the morning & the last you see before going to bed.
So creating a nice mood & environment can perk you up whilst brushing your teeth or relaxing in the bath.
Better can be a subjective word, but there are more durable alternatives to canvas like metal & acrylic prints.
But canvas prints are so affordable, there’s a massive choice of images & designs to choose from & with the right care they will last an extremely long time.
I hope you enjoyed this article & feel free to pass it along if you think someone else may find value in it.