How to Remove Water Stains From Canvas Painting


A canvas is basically an artist’s paint board, and in the case of a traditional canvas, it is made up of cotton. It can be stretched over a wooden frame or fixed with the help of staples onto wood bars. Canvas paintings are mostly done on Commercial Grade Canvas which is generally colorless or white.

How to Remove Water Stains From Canvas Painting

It is also important to note that the value and look of your painting largely depend upon the quality, type, and texture of the canvas you select from amongst all other materials used to create this masterpiece using your creativity.

To maintain a good finish, make sure that when you begin working, place your canvas on top of a large table or bench where you have ample space for creating artwork without any trouble whatsoever. In this article, I will discuss how to remove water stains from canvas painting. So let us get started.

How Does Canvas Painting Get Water Stains?

Once the water is spilled on a painting, it can be completely corrected if handled immediately. However, delaying the process of correction will have severe consequences. A water spill can occur; one way is when you’re working with paintbrushes and watercolors (canvas painting), and the other way is through nature or weather conditions like rain, fog, dew, etc.

In both these cases, over saturation of pigments may cause damage to your artwork which cannot be recovered even after professional intervention.

The main reason for this trouble in your canvas paintings is that you have not used an adequate amount of varnishes or fixative to hold down flaking paint pigments such as carbon black or titanium white.

Due to this reason, the paint layer lifts off easily due to environmental elements. In the past, it was common practice not to use varnishes on paintings because it is harmful to artists and their paintings. Nowadays, many artworks are re-sealed with varnish or fixative to avoid situations like this.

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

1.  Check the Water Stain:

To ascertain if there are really water stains on your canvas painting, use a magnifying glass to look for them. If you find any, it would be better to preserve or fix the painting rather than simply remove them with chemicals and cleaning products that can damage your artwork. Also, do not let in moisture from rain into your work area as this may cause even more damage to the painting.

2.  Prepare Your Work Area:

Wear thin cotton gloves when doing these steps so that you don’t get skin oil on the paint layer, and then mix equal parts of denatured alcohol (antique shops usually have this) and distilled water in a plastic container.

Dip a Q-tip in the solution and start dabbing the Q-tip over the water stains. Dab only on top of them or even a little far away in case you accidentally touch some paint while cleaning it. Make sure that your clean Q-tips are always dry as they will otherwise take out more paint than restoring to its original state.

3:  Remove Excess Alcohol From Painting Surface:  

After removing the water stain, it’s better not to leave any traces of alcohol on the painting, which can damage it, so do not rinse it with tap water; instead, just wipe off all traces using a clean cotton cloth. It is also advisable to check back if there are still traces of alcohol after this step by holding back the painting in front of a light.

Remove Excess Alcohol From Painting Surface

4.  Let the Painting Dry Completely:

Do not hang or display your artwork for at least 72 hours, as no moisture must get trapped inside. If you are anxious to check if all traces of denatured alcohol have completely dried off, you can do so by smelling it-it will smell like nothing and not give any moist smells. It’s better to let it dry in a room with good air circulation than indoors in some closed space.

5.  Frame Your Painting:  

  The above steps should be done if only water drops were found on your painting, but if stains are too much, it would be wiser to instead send the painting for repair and restoration rather than spending time trying and risking your work of art.

6.  Canvas Painting Tips:  

  While cleaning the painting, it is better to use cotton swabs or Q-tips so that you can avoid possible fraying of threads if using a wire brush on painting canvas, as this may cause damage over time. Also, keep the work area dust-free and wipe off excess water with clean cloths after that. It is also good to have light-colored clothing while working, as dirt and stains will appear easily, unlike dark colors.

7.  General Cleaning for Paintings: 

If there are water stains on other paintings that have been made out of oil or acrylics, then it may be possible to clean the painting using techniques similar to removing food stains from fabric.

Removing Food Stains From Fabric.

Precautions While Removing Water Stains From canvas Painting

Water can cause blotching and streak on the painting surface. If you try to remove it, then the cotton will absorb the paint along with water. You have to be careful while removing water stains from canvas paintings because if you rub hard, then a lot of paint gets obliterated from that area resulting in white patches.

So try to avoid rubbing very hard and do not use chemicals or solvents to remove water spots as it may result in stain blurring.

A good method for removing water damage is to place clean paper towels over each affected area until the paper towels are damp but not soaked through. Then, put another layer over that, so more moisture does not soak through your canvas art painting. Leave them there overnight and then go to work removing the towels gently. If there are still watermarks, then repeat these steps until they are all gone.

There is also a good technique for drying and protecting your canvas painting from any future damage. While your painting is drying, put a towel or sheet over it and use weights around the edges of your piece to hold down the paper towel or cloth onto the artwork surface. This should help speed up absorption and avoid further damage during recovery time.

A few days after you have removed the blotches from your art piece, you can spray on some glass protector on all sides so that in case of water spills again, then the glass protector will prevent it from spreading everywhere else on your precious magazine cover photo frame wall.


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

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