Whether an investment or a prized possession, antique paintings are best enjoyed mounted and hung and not stored. Thus oil paintings become dirty over time. They tell a story of ownership, memories and are generally archival. However, these masterpieces can retain said memories through years of smoke, dust, humidity and plethora of other environmental factors that can dull, fade, yellow and deteriorate a painting over time.
Maintaining, cleaning and restoration can help retain the value of a pice but knowing when and how to assess and remedy it is best left to the professionals. However, you can do basic cleaning at home without damaging the painting, if you know what you’re doing, depending on the pieces value and provenance etc. If your painting is no longer vibrant, heavily yellowed or browned, or damaged it may be time to speak with a professional oil painting cleaners rather than to attempt cleaning it yourself. If your painting has any warping, cracking, tears, or flaking then it’s considered damaged by professional standards. Any attempt to clean a damaged painting, regardless of how careful could result in further damaging the piece.
So, you’ve figured the piece is not worth more or less restored or repaired, then it may be a safe bet to take the task on yourself.There are plenty of youtube and website resources to help. Here is a good online resource to help you assess and start that journey or task: https://artincontext.org/how-to-clean-an-oil-painting/. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. One way to prevent the accumulation of dust on your painting is to simply dust your painting off regularly.
A small portion of my collection of 19th century oil paintings on the showroom floor have been cleaned or restored. I semi-routinely have this done as to present the art in its best way. Sometimes it’s best to leave it untouched. It’s a personal decision for me while curating my collection. Pieces I import or purchase immediately get assessed whether restoration or cleaning outweighs the value of the piece. I trust professionals and make certain it is done correctly. Feel free to pop into my showroom anytime, I’m all too happy to help you assess your options on your own collection.