How to Clean Metal and Wood Picture Frames

Written by Mark Rogers

Although they are rarely in the spotlight, picture frames play a critical role in making your photo and art displays a gorgeous part of your home or office décor. A good frame, especially when combined with the right matting, finishes the look of a photo or piece of art. It also helps attract the eye to appreciate it, setting it apart from the surrounding space.

When people look at your artwork, they also see your frames, even though the frames are not what they are focusing on – and that means if your picture frames are dirty or dusty, they’re going to see that, too. A dirty, dusty frame won’t do any favors for your home décor or the piece that’s framed, and it can easily distract from the pictures you actually want to be on display. Picture frames need regular care and cleaning to look their best and show off your photos and artwork at their finest.

Basic Cleaning for All Frames

You can keep frames in great shape for a long time with simple, regular dusting. Just like the rest of your furniture and home accessories, dust will collect on your frames and start to distract from your pictures. Giving your frames a light regular dusting every other day with a feather duster, lamb’s wool duster or a similar synthetic product is a quick way to keep dust in check. Just be careful not to knock hung artwork off the wall if you don’t take pictures down for this fast dusting!

If you dust less frequently, you may need to take more serious dusting measures for your frames. Take down hung pictures and wipe them very gently with a slightly damp cloth to remove larger amounts of dust. Do not spray water, wood polish, glass cleaner, or any other cleaning agent onto a frame with a mounted picture to make sure that none of the moisture gets inside the mounting and damages the picture.

Deeper Cleaning for Frames

If you need to take a hung picture down to dust it, you may as well take the time to give it a deeper cleaning and get rid of deeper accumulations of dust and dirt.

  • Take it apart: To start, you should remove the photo or artwork so you can clean the frame without damaging what’s inside it. Start by laying a towel or soft blanket on a flat surface. Carefully lay the frame face down and disassemble the back to remove the photo and any mounting. Put these aside in a safe place, away from where you will clean the frame.
  • Clean the glazing: Take the glazing out and give it a good cleaning to remove any dust, fingerprints, or other smudges. Glass can be cleaned with your preferred kind of glass cleaner. Acrylic glazing should only be cleaned with a gentle soap and water, or a cleaner specifically designed for plastics like our Brillianize® Acrylic Cleaner and Polish. Use a soft, lint-free towel to wash and dry the glazing to avoid scratching the glazing or leaving behind lint particles. Paper towels can scratch acrylic so avoid using them when you clean acrylic glazing. When the glazing is clean, lay it aside in a safe place, too.

Cleaning Wood vs. Cleaning Metal

Picture frames need different kinds of care depending on what materials they are made from and what kind of finish they have. When in doubt, clean frames with the gentlest cleaning solutions and techniques to make sure you don’t damage either the frames or finish.

  • Wood frames: Wood picture frames that are finished can be cleaned with a damp cloth or with a wood furniture polish. When using this type of product, spray a small amount onto a cloth and use that to wipe the frame. This way you can avoid spraying too much polish directly onto the frame. If your wood frame is unfinished, use a towel dampened with water to clean the frame. Cleaning products may absorb into the unfinished wood and discolor it. If your frame is ornately carved or has other surface texture, use a soft toothbrush to help get dirt out of the nooks and crannies.
  • Metal frames: Metal picture frames can be cleaned with a damp towel. Use a tiny bit of soap to clean the frame if it is especially dirty. If your frame is made of unlacquered pewter, sterling silver, or is silver plated, use a high-quality silver polish. If you are unsure about cleaning your frame, test it by first cleaning a small, unnoticeable part of the frame.

Once your frame is clean, make sure both the frame and glazing are completely dry before remounting your picture. Carefully replace the picture in the frame, seal it back in and rehang the frame. Now your frame is clean, and your photo can take center stage again with no dusty, dirty distractions!

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2 thoughts on “How to Clean Metal and Wood Picture Frames”

  • Joe Hudson

    Though there is a tremendous amount of information out there on how to produce a great print of your digital image. However I was very surprised when I started my research that there was very little on the topic of properly preserving and maintaining these frames. Thanks for sharing this valuable content. Keep up the good work.

  • […] cloth, paying attention to corners where the dust often collects. Experts advise against using any chemicals to clean the glass or frames as it can get inside the frame or artwork and spoil the […]

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