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Old 10-04-2010, 10:24 PM
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Will anything clean nicotine from painting?

Does anyone know what I can use to clean nicotine from an acrylic painting? The painting is about 3 years old, but has yellowed from hanging in a smokers house. I have searched, but can't seem to find anything.
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Old 10-05-2010, 03:00 AM
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First off, is the painting varnished?

Tar staining can actually be removed partly or completely with a simple dishwashing solution in warm water, but if the painting is valuable I would recommend you get it done by a reputable conservator or restorer (ideally it's done very meticulously, working one small square at a time).

A couple of the paintmaking companies make cleaning solutions for paintings also, with basic instructions given on the label.

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Old 10-06-2010, 01:04 PM
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Re: Will anything clean nicotine from painting?

Like Einion said, a mild detergent will often clean tar and nicotine deposits. I usually use Fels Naptha soap and a soft tooth brush. Just shave off some flakes from a bar and use with tepid water blotting with paper towels as you go. The only problem with using dishwater detergent is it may have other chemicals in the mix. Fels Naptha is what conservators usually recommend.

I would work with the painting upright so water wouldn't pool. Blot often as you clean and work on small areas at a time.

Again, this is normally a job for a conservator but if it is your painting and you desire to go at it then you should be relatively safe handling it this way. Do not allow the water to pool and avoid soaking the painting.

If the painting was older and the problem happened a long time ago it would be much more difficult to remove, but since the painting is only three years old this treatment should work as the pollutants haven't had as much time to permeate the paint layer.

Last edited by DaveMak : 10-06-2010 at 01:08 PM.
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Old 10-07-2010, 08:09 AM
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Re: Will anything clean nicotine from painting?

Thank you both for answering. Yes, it was varnished with a water based acrylic (can't remember the name, will have locate it). It is one of my paintings so I will attempt to clean it. It was commissioned to fit in a space over a fireplace so it may also have residue from gas fire.

Where do you get Fels Naptha? I had some years ago, but don't remember seeing it anywhere in a long time.
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Old 10-07-2010, 08:17 AM
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Re: Will anything clean nicotine from painting?

I should have googled Fels Naptha before asking where to get it. Looks like it will be easy to find. I guess I just haven't been looking for it, so haven't seen it lately.
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Old 10-07-2010, 10:10 AM
Steve Orin Steve Orin is offline
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Re: Will anything clean nicotine from painting?

Try a weak solution of Dawn dish soap - the original, with no hand gunk in it. Dawn leaves no residue if rinsed well.
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Old 10-18-2010, 04:12 PM
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Re: Will anything clean nicotine from painting?

Conservators often use human spit (their own), and I've tried it on a nicotine stained (well, more like 'encrusted') painting, worked like a charm. A conservator at a museum told me it doesn't have to be wiped after, but I did it anyway, with a lightly damp (water) rag.

Moisten one of those cotton tipped pins in your mouth, and rub gently at painting. Or a wad of fabric.
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Old 10-18-2010, 04:51 PM
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Re: Will anything clean nicotine from painting?

Fels Naptha is usually available in the laundry section of any supermarket. It is usually with those strange little spot removers, bluing, and things modern people don't know what the heck to do with. It is usually in a bar form. You shave a little off, and dissolve it in water if you want liquid soap.
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Old 10-19-2010, 12:41 PM
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Re: Will anything clean nicotine from painting?

Like Charlie said, human saliva is often used by conservators for cleaning. It contains enzymes which will remove many things that other chemicals or detergents won't.

If you ever accidentally bleed on something you can often use your own saliva to remove the stain. If it is your blood then use your saliva... if it is someone else's blood your saliva will not work anywhere nearly as well.
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Old 10-20-2010, 01:18 PM
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Re: Will anything clean nicotine from painting?

DaveMak, cool to know about own saliva and own blood, does it work on dried and coagulated blood too?
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Old 10-20-2010, 04:52 PM
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Re: Will anything clean nicotine from painting?

I believe so Charlie... I used it to clean dried blood off of a mat just prior to receiving a Framer's Purple Heart for Stupid Maneuvers during the line of framing. Small stains you can often get away with on some surfaces. Doesn't
always work but occasionally does so it is worth trying.

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Old 11-12-2010, 09:56 PM
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Re: Will anything clean nicotine from painting?

Still have not had the time to attempt to clean my painting... but I will as soon as things slow down a bit. If anything works I will post it here.
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Old 01-21-2012, 11:51 PM
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Re: Will anything clean nicotine from painting?

You can clean oil paintings with a loaf of good fresh Italian white bread. Blot or wipe the painting with wads of bread (no crust). I've used this technique with oils on canvas and board, several from around 1900, and including two from around 1950 in which the artist incorporated pine needles, twigs and pebbles in a textural gesso base.

The bread has a bit of moisture, and lifts layers of grime while not affecting a sound painting. I wouldn't use this technique on a painting that had structural problems with the paint layer.

Jim
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Old 01-27-2012, 03:09 AM
jderek jderek is offline
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Re: Will anything clean nicotine from painting?

I'd try a weak solution of a citrus-based cleaner. If I was going with a mild detergent then I'd water it down and use the weakest solution I could get away with.

A couple of alternatives you could consider are: Hydrogen Peroxide and Baking Soda. Make sure you dilute the Hydrogen Peroxide before using it (out of the bottle it should be about a 3% to 8% strength).
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