How to Care for Your Acrylic Painting

Good news. Acrylics are extremely durable and some evidence suggests that their lifespan is greater than almost all other artists’ materials. They retain their brilliance as long as (or longer than) traditional oil paint. However, as with all paints and art materials, certain environmental factors can increase the risk of damage.

The following guidelines are a few things you can do to avoid or reduce some types of damage to your painting – this applies for both varnished and unvarnished acrylic paintings.


  • Touch the painting as little as possible.  The oils and dirt on your hands can make the paint deteriorate. Wash your hands before handling the painting, and wear cotton gloves when you have to touch it. Skin oils are acidic and can damage artwork over time. Abrasion from rubbing or touching the paint surface can damage or alter the appearance of the work significantly.
  • Handle the painting carefully. Take off accessories like rings or bracelets, so you don’t nick or tear the canvas. Carry the painting by holding it on its opposite sides with both hands. Don’t carry it flat on top of your open palms.
  • Avoid bumping your painting against furniture, walls, and corners as you move it. Even minor bumps can scrape the paint or cause marks on the canvas that affect the image.
  • When moving or transporting your painting consider wrapping it in a sheet, soft blanket, or bubble wrap in order to avoid the problems mentioned above.


  • The best type of light for your painting is indirect sunlight, recessed lighting, and halogen lights (not ultraviolet). Try to display your painting in a place where the relative humidity and temperature levels are consistent, not very high (above 60 degrees) or low (below 40 degrees).
  • Avoid placing the painting above a fireplace mantle, either wood-burning or otherwise, as the heat from both types can affect the paint.  Soot and dampness from proximity to a chimney can also affect the painting.
  • Hang and/or store the painting away from sources of heat, ultraviolet light, direct sunlight, dust, dampness, and humidity.  These elements can hasten the natural aging process of the paint and cause yellowing or damage like prematurely faded colors or cracks.
  • If your painting has been pre-fitted with a metal wire for hanging, use the wire for hanging. Adjust the wire’s length if needed.
  • Avoid exposing your painting to temperatures near or below freezing.  Under such conditions, your painting may develop cracks and the paint film can be lifted from the canvas support. This would cause irreversible damage to the painting.
  • Mold growth has been noted on acrylic paintings when humidity and temperature rise, so avoid these conditions. Also, avoid hanging your painting in moist environments, such as a room with a bath or shower.
  • Avoid allowing any rigid object to press against the front or back surface of the stretched canvas, as this could create permanent indentation damage.
  • It is advisable to remove painting off the wall when steam cleaning carpets, plastering, or other DIY project near artwork.


  • If the painting does become dusty, remove the dust by gently blowing across the surface of the work with compressed air in a can.  Remember to blow air across the surface at an angle, rather than directly onto the surface.  Blowing directly could embed dirt particles further into the paint surface.
  • To remove large amounts of dust, some professional conservators have suggested using an artist’s soft sable brush to gently dislodge the particles while holding the nozzle of a small vacuum hose several inches from the surface of the painting.  Remember that nearly any art work can be damaged or scratched by contact with feather dusters, cloths, or hard bristles such as those on household vacuum attachments.
  • Avoid using damp cloths, detergents or household cleaners.  Many cleaners contain ammonia, which can destroy an acrylic painting.
  • Avoid spraying common household cleaners near your painting when cleaning other parts of your home, as the cleaning solution can damage the painting.
  • You can dust the back of the painting with vacuuming or brushing, after it is removed from the frame and placed on a clean surface.
  • The most foolproof way for keeping your painting from accumulating dust is to frame it under glass.
  • Seek professional cleaning services, such as an experienced art conservator, for any cleaning beyond the dusting methods mentioned above.

Acrylic paintings are a great choice. Original art is an investment not only valued monetarily. Your painting will be appreciated by future generations, not just by those who view it today.  Enjoy!

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