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Instagram Life Hack Experiments Part 3: Cleaning a Painting with Bread

Welcome to the final part of a special three-part series where we're investigating some recent viral life hacks that have been making their way around Instagram. On August 5th, 2017 the Instagram account @Blossom posted a video stating: "Brighten up your day with these 5 surprising hacks". These hacks consisted of repairing and cleaning various objects with household items. The video can be found here.

Obviously as you can see from the post, the conservator in me cringed.... and she cringed HARD. So what's a girl to do when faced with such strange things spreading around the internet? Make a video and tell the world otherwise, of course! My friend Anna and I decided to look into the science behind these "clever" hacks, see if they actually work, and look at them from a conservation viewpoint.

Part 3: Cleaning a Painting with Bread

First Thoughts: Why are we wasting a perfectly good bagel on a dusty painting?! Stop wasting the bread! What about bugs?! Dammit, now I want bread.

The Science behind it: I looked high and low for some logical, scientific explanation as to why someone would use bread to clean dirt off of a painting. I came up shorthanded. But on the other hand, I did find that other people also recommend using potatoes for the same purpose. So the educated guess is that it not only acts as a porous receptacle like a sponge, but maybe the starches in these foods has something to do with it.

The Experiment: After a hunt at a flea market, a very dirty painting was found. We then bought a fresh loaf of bread and cut it into hand-sized pieces to make it easy to use. After a moment of silence for the loss of such a glorious carb, we went at it.

The Result: The bread just crumbled away, though it did take some dirt with it. But there was way too much residue from the bread, adding yet another layer of would-be dirt.

Conservation Viewpoint: While this method is popular online, and some strange galleries actually recommend it, please save your bread for eating! Not only will residue from the bread invite bugs and pests to live on your painting, but you might scrub too hard and cause further damage to the piece of work. Always consult a professional when dealing with a cleaning. Though there are some safer at-home methods such as dry brushing, using spit, etc.

Have any more questions? Shoot me an email:

Looking to Find Out More?

Smithsonian Museum Conservation Institute: DOES MY PAINTING NEED TO BE CLEANED?

AIC Blog: Rachael Perkins Arenstein Spit Cleaning is a Dickens of a Job!


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