Skip to Main Content
Sign In
Toggle Navigation

Open the Navigation Management window, which can be used to view the full current branch of the menu tree, and edit it.

  • Instagram
  • Facebook

MITRA Forum Question Details

Image Picker for Section 0


  • Clove Oil for slowing drying rate of oil paintsApproveRejectUn-ApproveSubscribeUn-Unsubscribe
    Question asked 2017-04-25 14:20:23 ... Most recent comment 2019-06-11 02:53:53
    Paint Additives Oil Paint Paint Mediums Scientific Analysis Art Conservation Topics

    I have a query regarding the section in the MITRA documentation on Solvents about Clove Oil for Oil painting:

    "Essential Oil of Cloves or Clove Oil has been used as a preservative in emulsions and as an additive to mediums to substantially slow down their drying rate. There are far better preservatives available today. The use of clove oil as a drying retarder is greatly discouraged as its addition tends to substantially weaken the dried paint film.

    Other Essential Oils and Extracts are also periodically used in art making. Oil of rosemary sometimes served as a substitute for clove oil and as a component in the creation of complex oil-hard resin mediums. Like clove oil, artists should forgo the use of these materials as their dangers far outweigh and perceived benefits."

    I and many other painters I know use Clove Oil to extend the drying time and I have never read anything negative about using it before.

    Please can you tell me what evidence led to the conclusion that clove oil weakened dried paint film.

    What were the numbers for the control, clove and rosemary in the studies that were done?

Answers and Comments

  • EditDeleteModerator Answer

    ​Actually we would LOVE it if someone in the conservation field were to conduct a study to look into concrete numbers regarding paint I will just leave this statement here for my conservation science colleagues to read (and hopefully someone will become inspired!). The information in our document is based on actual experience with cleaning works of art...both from our own experience and anecdotal evidence provided by other conservators. Every so often we will encounter a painting by an artist who is known to have used clove oil or a painting that lists clove oil on the reverse as an ingredient in the paint. Many of these paintings have proven impossible to safely clean, meaning the yellowed, degraded varnishes used to coat the surface cannot be removed without causing irreversible damage to the paint layer. Clove oil is an attractive additive BECAUSE it hinders drying...but adding too much can create a film that remains sticky and does not form a cohesive, healthy paint film, one that will remain sensitive to even the mildest of solvents. Most likely adding a drop or two to a substantial amount of medium is not the end of the world, but artists often add far more than is necessary in order to combat the drying processes. As with anything that is potentially problematic we simply request that you record your use of any materials/additives on the reverse of your painting so that your work of art can be properly cared for later on down the road. It may be possible in some cases to remove a degraded surface coating from your painting using aqueous methods, for example (should your painting require such a treatment...remember just because you might use a stable varnish does not mean that someone else will refrain from re-varnishing your painting later on down the road), something that a conservator would know to look into if they know that an artist used something like clove oil as a paint additive. 

    Kristin deGhetaldi
    2017-04-25 15:09:18
  • ApproveRejectUn-ApproveUser Comment

    ​Thank you Kristen for your reply.

    I (and many others) are using Geneva paints made by Mark Carder which are a very highly pigmented and fluid consistency made with linsead oil and with added clove oil. They are so fluid they don't need to be thinned with solvents and I believe there are no stabilisers or other fillers added.

    The paint (and other commercial beands with a slow-dry clove oil based medium) have been used by many artists on Mark's forum ( for many years and there doesn't seem to have been any problems with a sticky undrying layer or varnish issues. So not sure why we haven't seen these issues?

    Mark's website for Geneva paints is here if it helps:

    2017-04-25 21:38:20
  • EditDeleteModerator Answer

    I would not expect you (or others) to have ​experienced any issues with varnish least I certainly hope not at this stage! It is far too early in the lifetime of a painting to attempt to remove a varnish unless absolutely necessary. What may be problematic is varnish removal further down the road as I stated above. I suspect that Geneva does not add driers to their paints and probably adds just enough clove oil to create the desired effect (and therefore avoids the creation of unwanted "sticky" fillms)...but without additional testing it is hard to know what kinds of problems may occur during future varnish removal. Again I emphasize that the field of conservation would be well served to look further into such can find similar claims made by artists who are wetted to Maroger mediums...that they are stable and will withstand the test of time. However we know full well that such paint films remain soluble for many, many years and are sometimes impossible to safely clean (again, the problem of varnish removal comes up). I suspect it is much less of an issue with clove oil but I would still recommend recording the brand and/or material you use on the reverse so that future conservators will know to tread lightly (even though trained conservators ALWAYS read lightly ;) ). 

    Kristin deGhetaldi
    2017-04-25 21:59:42
  • ApproveRejectUn-ApproveUser Comment

    ​Thank you Kristen!

    2017-04-29 02:56:57
  • ApproveRejectUn-ApproveUser Comment

    Here is a comment from a "Painting Best Practices" member.
    It sounds reasonable to a non-chemist, but his hypothesis relies on the truth of the first sentence.
    Anyone here able to comment on this?

    "There is no evidence that gaseous vapors, in this case eugenol vapors, have the ability to penetrate viscous solids such as oil paint. Rather, a mono layer of eugenol molecules adhere to the outer surface of the paint piles, effectively creating a barrier to the normal process of oxidation by oxygen molecules. This minute quantity of eugenol is insufficient to have any deleterious effect on the polymeric adhesion properties of the mass of paint in the pile in a closed palette. So, logic and science indicates it is safe to use to extend paint life. This, all of course, referring to a few drops of oil in the closed palette, NOT mixed into the paint.​"

    2017-11-15 16:06:14
  • EditDeleteModerator Answer

    ​We recently heard back from one of our scientists (Dr. Chris Petersen, a retired organic chemist who formerly worked at Dupont). Here is his comment:
    "There would be minimal penetration of the vapor if the paint is simply exposed overnight; clove oil is a phenolic type antioxidant with a boiling point >250 deg. Surface penetration is actually what you want if you are tyring to prevent the drying effect that is propogated by oxygen promoted free radicals. The stuff does have a strong odor so even a small amount in the air is overwhelming. As an interesting aside, phenolic antioxidants are used to stabilize acrylic monomers like methyl methacrylate so they can be shipped and stored in bottles. When you add an initiator to make a polymer, the inhibitor is consumed and the free radical reaction occurs."

    So in summary there would in fact be some penetration, albeit minimal. Dr. Petersen therefore also believes that this would not drastically impact the "health" of the paints in the immediate future. 

    Kristin deGhetaldi
    2017-11-18 12:30:08
  • ApproveRejectUn-ApproveUser Comment

    I would like to add a little to this discussion.
    Virgill Elliott posted an anectotal e​xperience with clove oil that I will paste here.

    "Virgil Elliott I would like to add a firsthand report. For a short time I used a Masterson palette with a cotton makeup application pad, placed in the center, to which four or five drops of clove oil had been applied. Due to illness the Masterson palette stayed unopened, with the clove oil films building up, for about three weeks at one point. After that, I laid in a background with a large proportion of flake white and a little black Roman earth added. The background passages stayed tacky for at least two months. I threw the painting out, not trusting the soundness of the paint film. Bottom line, I have firsthand experience of how exposure to clove oil fumes can backfire, even if no clove oil itself ever touches the paint."

    I understand this is only one person's experience, but it seems the eugenol does penetrate rather than forming a barrier.

    2019-06-11 02:53:53

Page Settings and MetaData:
(Not Shown on the Page)
Page Settings
MetaData for Search Engine Optimization
MITRA Forum Question Details
This page cannot be accessed until you accept the Terms of Use, which can be found here.
Please note that this Terms of Use system uses cookies. If you have cookies disabled you will not be able to accept the agreement. If you delete our cookies you will need to re-accept the Terms of Use.
  • The Department of Art Conservation
  • 303 Old College
  • University of Delaware
  • Newark, DE 19716, USA
  • Phone: 302-831-3489