Monday, January 16, 2012

When Mold and Mildew Strike

Do you hear that?  You're probably an hour or two late, but I thought you might be able to hear the echo of me screaming at the top of my lungs.  Why?  Because my post-college fine artwork that I've meticulously cared for through 9 moves in 12 years is covered in mold and mildew.  When my partner and I bought our top half of a house from the 1800's, it didn't occur to me just how much of our place would be unheated, and thus a breeding ground for mold and mildew when the cold air outside mixes with the warm air inside. 

I stored my artwork in the closet off our living room because it's large and accessible.  Seems like a good place, right?  Turns out that three of its walls, plus the floor are backed by our staircase entrance, which is unheated.  Mold and mildew city.  Here's what it looks like AFTER I spent a few hours scrubbing with bleach:

Did I mention I'm allergic to mold and wake up sniffly much of time here?  Mystery solved.  And my artwork.  My beloved art work. 

My heart literally hurts over this.  Thankfully a friend pointed me to this link:

Here are the instructions for salvaging paintings:

"Paintings - make sure there is no water inside the framing - turn it upside down and all around to drain any sitting water behind the stretcher bars,etc. No need to remove the canvases from their frames. The paintings may become white and heavily discolored looking hopeless, but do NOT discard or give up on them. They're surprisingly resiliant and that white is like the ring on a coffee table - it's moisture trapped between the painting and the varnish and can be removed. Again, they're fragile so treat them gently until they can be stabilized.
To deal with the MOLD growing the on the paintings, lightly spray (do not saturate) the canvas, front and back, with Lysol spray (not the liquid). This will help arrest the mold growth, and you may need to repeat this a few times. When the mold is dry and powdery it is now dormant. You can then take the canvas outside it and the residue can be brush with a clean dry paint brush. Remember to wear a mask so as not to inhale the airborne spores, and be sure to remove all the debris from the back and not to allow it to accumulate under the stretcher bars!
Do not wipe the mold off, do not use anything stronger than Lysol, and above all do not use BLEACH or TILEX or anything with bleach in it, as this will cause more damage than the mold will cause and is not reversible.The paintings may still need professional cleaning and conservation, but this will help stop the mold from getting any worse until that time.Frames - remember that alot of them CAN be restored. Do not discard them until they have been examined by a conservator and let us make the determination. Water is the enemy of gold leaf and the plaster covering the wood, so it's important to allow them to dry as well and remember that it's in a particularly fragile state so don't be rough with it or it can completely fall apart before it's stabilized."

My next move today is to go buy out all the lysol in my local grocery store and then start the anti-mold procedures.  I'll let you know how it turns out.  

1 comment:

  1. How terrible, good luck with the restoration. What a terrible mess.