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Art Pro: How To Clean a Picture Frame and Make Your Framed Pictures Look Their Best

A 'less is more' approach is key!

Framed pictures can instantly bring life into a room, making it feel more personalized and homey than ever before. Whether you have framed prints hanging on your walls or framed family snapshots sitting on the mantle, these pictures serve as conversation pieces and capture precious memories.

Given their emotional value and the unique look they bring to your home, it’s important for framed pictures to look good, but like any pieces of decor, they can get dusty over time. However, when it comes to cleaning your space, it’s easy to overlook your art. You don’t necessarily have to clean it often, but it’s helpful to know the best practices. We got the scoop on cleaning pictures from an art pro.

1. Check if your picture frame is glazed

The first thing you need to do is determine whether or not your frame is glazed (turns out glaze isn’t just for donuts!). A glazed frame has a protective layer of glass or acrylic over the picture, while one without glazing leaves the surface of the picture exposed. Photos are typically put in glazed frames while paintings are less likely to have this covering.

2. Be gentle when cleaning pictures

The glass surfaces of glazed frames are prone to scratching, so you want to be as gentle as possible when cleaning them, says Lisa Kurzner, Principal at Kurzner Arts and Partner at Abattoir Gallery in Cleveland, Ohio. “The only thing you ever want to do is use a small amount of plexiglass cleaner,” she says. She recommends Sprayway (Buy from Home Depot, $3.68), a cheap and accessible glass cleaning solution that’s ammonia-free and doesn’t leave streaks. Sprayway will get the job done better and be gentler than Windex or plain water.

If you’re trying to clean your pictures quickly, you may be tempted to spray your cleaner right on the glass and wipe it off with a paper towel, but Kurzner cautions against this. Paper towels can cause smudging and even scratching if rubbed too aggressively. She prefers using “a very soft microfiber cloth,” which can gently remove any grime and be used multiple times (Try Unger General Surface Microfiber Cloth, Buy from Home Depot, $5.97 for a 4-pack). “Spray a little cleaner on the microfiber cloth and wipe very gently up and down and across the picture,” she says, and the glass will be crystal clear in no time, allowing your picture to look its best.

How to clean the picture frame

When it comes to cleaning pictures, you don’t want to forget the perimeter of the frame, which, like the glass, can collect unsightly dust over time. There are many different kinds of frames, from old-fashioned wood ones covered in gilt to plastic and silver ones. Kurzner recommends simply wiping the frame with a dry microfiber cloth. “I wouldn’t use any chemicals on a plastic frame because that would probably cloud the plastic,” she says.

But what if you have a fancy frame? “If you have a silver frame that tarnishes you can clean it with silver polish but I would take it apart first to be safe,” says Kurzner. Just make sure it’s really dry before you put it back together again, because you don’t want to risk getting the picture wet.

Kurzner says to look out for the “lip” found on some frames, where the outside of the frame meets the glass inset. “It can get dusty in there, so just take a microfiber cloth and run it around the inside to keep the dust off.” Fortunately, Kurzner notes that “Frames are usually pretty durable,” and sticking to “dry removal of surface dust” with a cloth or feather duster is a good way to keep it spiffy with minimal fuss. A lambswool duster (Buy from Amazon, $24.99) can also be particularly good for more intricate frames, and she says it also works well for dusting off old photos in photo albums, since it’s extra soft.

Woman using feather duster on edge of picture frame
Make sure to dust off the outside edges of your frame!Mark de Leeuw/Getty Images

Avoid over cleaning pictures

Once you’ve started noticing dust on your pictures, you may think you need to start cleaning them regularly, but thankfully this isn’t quite the case. Kurzner says in the gallery world there can be a tendency to “Over-clean art,” but “You’re really not supposed to do too much.” She recommends cleaning pictures once every three months, depending on how dusty things look.

If you happen to have a painting that’s looking dusty, you’ll want to do even less! “All you want to do is dust it with a dry cloth or a feather duster,” she says. “I don’t think you want to touch the surface of a painting beyond that.”

No matter what kind of pictures you have to clean, remember to use a mild glass cleaner on the glazing and a non-abrasive duster to pick up any dust on the frame’s edges. And rest assured, “The less you touch a picture the better,” says Kurzner — and that’s just as true in the art world as it is at home.

Find more smart cleaning tips here:

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