Cleaning Photos, Artwork and Documents Before Framing

Picture frames can serve as effective display cases for photos, artwork and documents. One of the reasons to consider placing items inside frames is to protect them from damage and deterioration. Indeed, picture frames can ward off the effects of harsh lighting, dust, grime, moisture and improper handling. Paper (even quality photo paper and cardstock) is still vulnerable to such damage.

But do you know that you also need to clean photos and documents before you frame them? This gets rid of residual pollutants that may still cling to the surface of the material. After all, the picture frame can only do so much to protect pollutants from coming in – it cannot stop the damage caused by contaminants that come with the photos or documents at the time they are framed.

Here are some tips when cleaning the items to be framed

  • Determine if the material can be cleaned. Some items are best left alone, since the cleaning process may do more harm than good. For instance, documents that use materials (e.g.. chalk, pencil, pastel or charcoal) that just skim the surface of the paper and are not chemically bound to the paper should not be cleaned. Cleaning these kinds of documents may erase the image or text. If the document has leftover glue, tape or some grime and it may be too difficult to remove without doing damage to the document, it is better to leave the paper as it is. If the act of remove the sticky tape residue or grime will cause tearing, this will make the document more vulnerable to further damage.
  • If you need to repair any damages, use archival material. Refrain from doing a patch-up job with torn photos. Ordinary tape or glue can contain acids that will seep into the paper and cause discolorations. Make sure to check that the tape or glue is acid-free and classified as archival material.
  • Do the cleaning gently. Since paper, card stock or canvas can be delicate, some TLC (tender, loving care) is called for. Use a soft brush to wipe away dirt or dust that may be in the surface of the item. When you are cleaning the surface that bears the image or photo, make sure you do not rub or scratch the surface. If the document’s surface is spotted with specks, other paper fragments or rust, use the corner of a cutter or razor blade to gently pry the specks off the paper.
  • Use the right cleaning products. To remove minor stains and fingerprint oils, use document cleaning powder. You simply need to brush this onto the paper’s surface, leave it for a while so that it absorbs the oils and surface stains and then tap the cleaning powder out. If the document has some smudges, you can try using an erase to gently remove the smudge. Again, be extra careful. Use a granulated vinyl eraser or vinyl block eraser. If you think it is too risky to try erasing the grime, it is better to leave the document as is.
  • Protect the document. After the effort you have made cleaning the document, make sure that you have it protected. Choose glazing and framing materials that provide the level of protection you desire – which can be UV protection from the sun, acid free matting and backing or sturdy acrylic glass.

After you have cleaned up the photo or document, it is best that you choose a frame that fits the item. For instance, you can recreate a vintage look by framing an old photo in an inline oval frame. Old graduation certificates can also be placed in an antique picture frame.

14th Oct 2014 Eric Morgan

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