AxiosOrthodoxal news and traditionsHow to clean icons properly?

How to clean icons properly?

For every Christian, an icon is not only a shrine, through which a person turns with prayer to God, but often holy images are the main family relic.  The old icon is not only a valuable historical artifact, but also a kind of symbol of prayer continuity between generations of Orthodox Christians.  They are inherited and may not have any cultural value, but for the owners they are a real treasure.  Some of these exhibits survived the persecution of the Church and other calamities, and today we see that the destructive effect of time has not the most beneficial effect on them.  And with sadness we see that our favorite icons can fade greatly over the years, or insects destroy the board, and the image can hardly be seen.  Will only a major restoration help, or are there ways to prevent the destruction of holy images?

Proper storage

When we talk about the preservation of icons, these are mostly old hand-painted images that stand in the red corner.  First of all, you need to pay attention to what conditions the holy image is stored in, its safety and integrity depends on this factor.  Icons are badly affected by such factors:
frequent temperature changes;
  • too warm air;
  • cold;
  • drafts;
  • dust, cobweb;
  • high humidity;
  • placing the icon in open sunlight;
  • placing a red corner next to a window or in the kitchen;
  • lack of an icon case;
  • vapors of acids and solvents;
  • soot on oil lamps and candles, smoke and many others;icon lamps at the correct distance from the icon
Our ancestors knew the basic rules for storing icons, so icon coals were often located in a room opposite the stove, where there was less humidity.  The ideal indicator should not exceed 65%, and the temperature should not exceed 15-18 degrees Celsius.
An icon case is also needed - this is a special pencil case or box in which the image is placed; it not only performs the function of protection, but serves as a decoration for the image.  Keyboards are either folded or glazed.  The prototype of modern icon cases is the Ark of the Covenant, in which the main shrines of the Israeli people were kept.  The kiot also requires constant care and cleaning from the owners, it should also allow air to pass through a little, the tightness for the icon is unacceptable.
Also, if the icon is used for its intended purpose, that is, for prayer, candles and lamps must be lit at a distance of at least 15 cm, otherwise soot will form, and the heat from the flame will accelerate the destruction of the icon.
Painted icons that guarantee a high durability rate can be bought in our Axios online store.  In the catalog of goods, you can choose the written images of any saint, created according to all Orthodox canons.  Such an icon will become the main shrine of every family and will be passed on from generation to generation.

Cleaning and minimal restoration

Of course, old iconographic images fade, deteriorate for natural reasons, or simply have not been cleaned for a long time.  Sometimes the damage is serious, the board is cracked or bent, paint has crumbled, etc., and you cannot do without a major restoration to preserve the image.  To carry out such a procedure yourself if there is no such experience or preparation is deliberately to spoil the shrine.  The best option would be to turn to master restorers who have the right conditions and skills for this.  But the owner of the image, in addition to proper storage, needs to take care of the purity and neatness of the holy image.
Cobweb and dust do not seem to be so terrible "enemies" of handwritten images, and many underestimate its harm, and over the years it settles on the icon, accumulates and then this layer of dirt is not so easy to clean.  To prevent this, you need to regularly remove dust from the image and the icon case, this should be done very carefully with a brush, only if the paint does not peel off.
It is undesirable to use soap and other detergents, it will ruin the paint and even the board.  The soap solution is only suitable if the look is made of precious metals.  It is unacceptable to clean the icon with alcohol and other solvents.
Often the board, on which the iconographic image is written, is damaged by grinder beetles, they live in the base of the wooden base for years.  Such a problem can be immediately identified by the characteristic small holes and wood dust that falls off the icon.  What can be done?  It is necessary to cook a mixture of turpentine and wax on the fire, in a ratio of three to one, then brush all the cracks in the icon with this mixture with a brush.  Then wrap the image in oilcloth and store in this position for 15-20 days.
It happens that the paint burns out on the icon, for example, if direct sunlight falls on it.  Vegetable oil will help here, preferably olive oil, it will give the colors a renewed color.  Apply to the image with a cloth slightly moistened with oil.
If the icon has been stored in a damp place, fungus and mold may form on it.  To remove them from the surface of the icon, you need to wipe the affected area with a cotton pad dipped in peroxide, if there is no result for a long time, you must repeat the procedure several times.  At the very least, you can use a solution of soda and vinegar, but this is an emergency method, and you can turn to it if it is not possible to hand over the icon for restoration.
It is undesirable to wash the icon with water, as it will penetrate into the deepest cracks and pores and begin to destroy the board from the inside.  But it is allowed to wipe the surface with a slightly damp cloth, at which it is necessary to maintain a reverent attitude towards the shrine and pour water after cleaning into a place that is not trampled upon.


One of the main conditions for the longevity of icons is proper storage, observing simple rules, you do not need to worry about the safety of family values.  You also need to monitor the purity of the sacred image, if there is a need for cleaning.
Every Christian should treat the icon with reverence, because worship of a shrine ascends to the Creator.  In other words, how we relate to sanctified things, this is our attitude to God.  A beautiful and clean icon corner promotes prayer, which is why all our churches are so cozy.
As the Monk Paisiy Svyatorets said: "Let your room be like a small church with icons that you like, and you will see: you will always find comfort there."


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