How to Remove Stains From Canvas Painting


A canvas is a cotton cloth that you can paint on. It has been used for centuries by artists to create masterpieces. The Canvas cloth was first photographed and then reproduced in the United States in 1858 by John Rogers. The technology later spread to Europe, where it became widely adopted.

How to Remove Stains From Canvas Painting

Today, Canvas paintings are popularly produced from fine-quality linen or cotton fabrics. They have become ubiquitous nowadays, with many creative people buying them as part of their furniture or decorations, especially in homes, offices, and restaurants where they serve as backdrops and room decorations. In this article, I will discuss how to remove stains from canvas painting.

What Causes Stains on Canvas?

Any of these issues can damage the canvas:

  • If the painting was not dried well
  • exposure to sun light or
  • It may have been kept in storage for a long time with dampness or humidity.

If you slowly shake/wiggle the edges of the paint while it’s drying, this will prevent cracking and make sure there were no bubbles under the paint when it dried, leaving air pockets. The most common problem I’ve come across is that people return their paintings to us stained months after we shipped them out. People also use wood cuttings to prop up their paintings in a front hall after we ship them out.

Types of Stains on Canvas Painting

Many types of stains can ruin your canvas painting.

1) Dried paint stain:

Canvas is one of the most suitable materials for oil & acrylic paintings and almost all artists use canvas as their favorite painting medium. But, it’s not so durable that it handles every paint stroke or spot accurately.

Sometimes even a small touch of dried paint can spoil the whole canvas painting forever. So, be careful when using/mixing paints, and always clean your brush after finishing any work. Controlling the amount of water while mixing colors & brushes will keep your canvas remain healthy for a longer time:)

2) Linseed oil stain:

It is beneficial for creating smooth texture on your canvas paintings, but they are not so easy to clean up. If you drop linseed oil over your painting while creating smooth textures, it will definitely spoil your whole artwork forever, and no solution can fix the issue. Even if you try hard to remove stains of this type, it will make the spot even bigger & visible than earlier. So be careful with linseed oil when working on new pieces as well as old ones!

3) Water stain:

You can get water stain in many ways, like spilling a glass of cold or hot water over your painting, etc. Unfortunately, our body sweats contain much more salt content than sweat usually contains (and some people even salty sweaters than others).. Therefore, salt is one of the effective ways to spoil your painting surface. When water and salt mix together, salt starts crystallizing on the painting surface, which results in white spots over the canvas.

4) Tea/coffee stains:

Tea & coffee drinkers should be very careful because tea & coffee contains much more acid content than other drinks (is that a good way to analyze?) if you drop these types of drinks over your paintings, then its better to avoid it completely!.

Tea Stain on Canvas Fabric 1

5) Felt Stain: 

Felt is a kind of fabric that everybody uses as their clothing sometimes, but some forget to consider their harmfulness when using them over paintings. Some people even put dust or dirt from the felt cloth on their canvas painting by accident, and it’s not so easy to remove stains like this one because it will result in smudges/fingerprints while cleaning the paint off.

You can check it to Get Mud Stains Out of Football Shirts

Step-wise Guide on How to Remove Stains From Canvas Painting

1. Applying Petroleum Jelly

This is the most widely used and recommended technique for retrieving stains from canvas paintings. The method involves applying petroleum jelly to the stained area and then wiping it off with a clean cloth. This removes any oil or grease-based food stains. If you are not able to locate petroleum jelly, you can also use Vaseline as an alternative.

2. Rubbing Alcohol Method

Rubbing alcohol is another good option for removing stains from canvas paintings. After applying this directly onto the stained area, leave it soak in for about 10-15 minutes. On soaking in, wipe off using a cotton ball or soft cloth piece so that no traces of this chemical remain behind on your painting surface. You will be amazed by the results.

Use Rubbing Alcohol To Remove Stain

3. Using Vinegar on Stained Canvas Painting:

The most common way to remove stains from canvas paintings is using vinegar. This process involves pouring a cup of white vinegar

and a minimal amount of water onto your painting and letting it rest for about 15-20 minutes. Once it is done, wipe off using a clean cloth piece without rubbing too hard, as this will cause more damage to your canvas surface in the long run. The same method can be used for removing any kind of food/liquid-based stains or even candle wax staining from the surface of your beautiful canvas painting.

4. Water Cleaning:

This is also an effective technique to retrieve small spots and stains present on your canvas painting. Use a clean cloth piece and dip it into some water. Then, dab the stained area with this dampened cloth piece to wipe off the stain without causing any damage to the actual surface. This technique can be used for removing any food or otherwise oily based stains from the surface of your precious canvas painting.

5. Varnish Preserving Method:

This method is more suitable if you have recently finished your masterpiece on canvas but want to preserve its finish simultaneously. The trick involves using a varnish/polyurethane as an alternative for oil-based varnishes, which normally tend to yellow after application over dry paintings (Varnishes are usually clear in color and do not yellow over time)

6. Dual Varnish Method:

The dual varnish method is suitable for cleaning new as well as old canvas paintings. This can be done by first applying a clear coat of varnish to the entire surface using one brush while another second layer of thinned out paint or oil-based varnishing solution is applied on top with a second brush that sits next to it.

Both these layers are then dried in between so that both layers completely dry up before you proceed further. You will never have to worry about your canvas getting water damaged or stained ever again with this easy technique.


I hope this article has been beneficial for learning how to remove stains from canvas painting. Thank you and have a nice day!

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