Mildew Odors and Canvas Paintings

Dear Donia,
How do I get rid of mildew odors from framed paintings on canvas?

canvas painting

Q. Dear Donia,

I have two large framed paintings on board canvas that I purchased at a garage sale. I didn’t notice the mildew smell until I got home. They have a pretty strong mildew or mold oder I need to get out. Can you help?  Thanks, Pam

A. Dear Pam,

The mildew odor is one of the most common questions I get and luckily it is one that is easily taken care of with a little time and patience. I will list the things you can do in order of cost from the least expensive (and the one that takes the longest) to the most expensive (but takes the least amount of time).

The first option is using unscented kitty litter or baking soda. You can put kitty litter or soda in a tray at the bottom of a sealable bin large enough to hold the paintings either individually or together. The amount of kitty litter will depend on the actual size of the paintings - the larger the painting, the more kitty litter or soda you will need. DO NOT put the kitty litter or soda directly on the paintings as it can get stuck in all the interstices and cause problems in the future. Leave the paintings in the bin with the lid tightly closed for a month and then check the odor. If it remains, put in new kitty litter or soda and seal the bin back up for a month. Repeat until the odor is diminished to your satisfaction. You will then want to keep the paintings in a dry location to prevent the odor from coming back.

The second option is to get some activated charcoal - most easily available at pet stores. Do not use charcoal for grilling! The process is the same as for kitty litter or soda. The activated charcoal will work a bit more quickly.

Finally, you can wrap each painting in MicroChamber paper ( The paper will absorb the odor relatively quickly. As with the other methods, after a month, remove the paper and if the odor remains, wrap with new paper. Repeat until the odor is diminished to your satisfaction.

I hope this helps.