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I am looking for any information about this product. It has been discontinued by Weber and there is very little information provided by the manufacturer. Online searches for data about it and its intended use is also not popping up. Does anyone have information they care to share?
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It was a mixture of pure gum spirits of turpentine, petroleum solvent and alcohol. Still available in this category is W&N Artists' Picture Cleaner, which contains D-Limonene and pine oil. I will defer to the conservation professionals on the topic of the wisdom and safety of using these products.
I am very happy to see the demise of this product and it is
unfortunate that W & N is still offering their “cleaning” solution. Matthew,
it is interesting what you quote about the ingredients in the W & N
product. I remember their Winsor & Newton Artists' Picture Cleaner was an
emulsion of ammonia in copaiba balsam. The following line from an advert of the
product on Amazon suggests that it remains so: “A
natural resin/oil emulsion containing ammonia designed for cleaning varnished
paintings” Perhaps you are thinking of another nostrum sold by them or another
More to the point, one should never
use these “one size fits all” nostrums to clean any painted work that you do
not want to damage. These may work perfectly fine for a few works but be disastrous
for others that appear to be identical in materials and condition. The protocol
used for the cleaning of artworks is, by necessity, specific to the work at hand.
The knowledge and experience required to develop such
protocol is just not possible for the nonprofessional. Many will find this
pretentious, but it is in no way meant to be. We would not expect a layman to
be competent in dentistry or any other highly skilled field, but for some reason
people believe that restoration can be picked up as a hobby. Certainly this is
true, but only to the detriment of the artwork as we so clearly and often see.
There can be no generally accepted cleaning solution or treatment. The artworks
themselves are unique even if the same starting materials had been used due to the
vagaries in technique and the fact that each work lives in a different
environment. I have seen a pair of pendant paintings created by the same artist
using the same paint and executed at the same time. The one hung on an interior
wall was in good condition and was relatively easy to treat, while the work hung
on the outside wall (not the outside of the house) was in poor condition and
required very different techniques to conserve. There are works executed in oil
that cannot be cleaned by any traditional methods due to the paint being
soluble in the solvents that were capable of reducing the varnish. Some oil paintings
are even soluble in water. Even if one is able to successfully remove a
degraded varnish coating, it is very east to desiccate the paint film that will
no longer saturate when a new varnish is applied. The ammonia mentioned as an ingredient in the
W & N product is notorious for this, especially when used by the unskilled.
It is also very easy to leach out components of the oil paint and redeposit
components of the dissolved varnish into these voids leaving a paint film that
will be far more sensitive/soluble the next time it requires cleaning.
Please do not use products like these and please do not
attempt to remove varnish or grime by yourself unless you have substantial
training in conservation. By substantial, I mean a master’s degree in painting
conservation followed by at least three years of internships/fellowships in a
museum/conservation studio supervised by establish conservators. I know
statements like this annoy some but they would be less annoyed if they saw all
of the completely ruined works that we encounter weekly/monthly.
Brian, it may be that this is still ammonia-based, but the SDS lists pine oil and D-Limonene, which I remember were a reason for some artists to avoid them as potential skin and respiratory sensitizers. In fact, that potential is disclosed on the SDS. This is the correct one, yes? http://www.winsornewton.com/assets/HealthandSafetyDataSheets/OIL%20COLOUR/Solvents/Artists%20Picture%20Cleaner/04412238.pdf
Matthew, those are also probably components of the emulsion.
It is funny how MSDS sheets have worked. The ammonia component may be small
enough as to not have to be listed when in actual practice it is providing a
large part of the muscle.
Ah, that makes sense. Thanks for the clarification!