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Dealing With Mold on Paintings

Mold on paintings:
Mold will thrive as long as the Relative Humidity is over 55%. Wet canvasses, of course, have high humidity. Mold spores are everywhere, just waiting for the right amount of moisture.  Dehumidifiers will help a lot, even a fan that keeps the air moving constantly is a help.  Below are supplies and suggestions for treatment of mold on paintings.  Any treatment should only be done after careful testing.
ABSORENE SPONGES FOR SOOT OR DIRT
For cleaning the reverse of paintings (DO NOT USE ON THE FACE OF PAINTINGS)
I have only been able to get these from the supplier.  They used to be at Bed Bath and Beyond…
These open cell sponges can be used dry to clean surfaces. They are advertised to “wipe away any kind of particulate matter: dust, pet hair, soot, mold, and other stubborn dirt.” Made of vulcanized natural rubber, they are non-greasy and leave no residue.
PAPER TOWELS
While at Home Depot get lots of paper towels.  Preferably white with no pattern.  Use them to gently blot moisture away from the back of the canvas.
A HEPA VACUUM CLEANER WIT H A FURNITURE BRUSH
The HEPA units are the best because they do not spew everything they suck up (eg mold)out of the exhaust.  If you use a regular vacuum cleaner keep the exhausting part away from you.  Try to figure out a clever, safe way to filter or keep the exhaust in a separate area.  Discard and replace the bags often. If the suction is too strong, it can cause damage so use a rubber band or tape to mount a paper or cloth over the nozzle. Use enough towels so the suction is not too strong.  Change and discard often.
SPONGE BRUSHES
This can gently be used on the face of low texture paintings if there is no flaking. TEST FIRST.
Available everywhere, Home Depot, etc.
LOW DENSITY MAKE UP SPONGES, NON LATEX
The LOW density sponges can gently be used on the face of low texture paintings if there is no flaking. TEST FIRST.

 

Sometimes drug stores have these.  Only use the soft, low density sponges.  The high density sponges could be abrasive.

 
ETHANOL
Spot treatment for mold can be done on the reverse of a painting with a Qtip lightly dampened with Ethanol. TEST FIRST.
For Ethanol:
http://talasonline.com/ The company that sells the ethanol is in Brooklyn, they also stock other conservation and archival storage supplies.
Talas
330 Morgan Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11211
Phone: 212-219-0770
MASKS AND GLOVES:
If you have mold it is important to have an N95 mask and Gloves! 
gloves and masks usually available at Home Depot
WEBSITES:
Amien.org: A great site for artists re materials is Amien.org. For the future, you might ask there what varieties of acrylic and oil paint resist mold the best. (I believe Mold retardants are part of what is included in arcylic paints...)
http://www.conservation-us.org/: The American Institute for Conservation of Artistic and Historic works has lots of information, including recommendations for finding a selecting a conservator.

 

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