They should contact a conservator, but barring that, 1) get them to sign a waiver. 2) a solution of 1/2 tsp of thymol dissolved in 6oz. of isopropyl alcohol in an atomizer works fairly well. you spray this lightly on the back of the artwork, sandwich it between two pieces of rag board, and put into your cold press for about an hour. It won't bleach out the mildew stains, but will kill the mildew itself.
In his book, Collector Prints, Old and New, Carl F. Luckey states, “When a work of art is in need of repair or restoration, first consideration must be given to cost. Is it worth the expense? If it is a very rare or valuable print, of course. If it has no intrinsic value but is of great sentimental value, then it would be a personal judgment. In every case, if it is decided to do so, be certain it is given to a competent conservator, not to a framer (!) unless he can demonstrate beyond a doubt that he is qualified.” Well. I’ll buy that.
Though a bit more intrepid, Paul Frederick is also cautious in his advice from The Framer’s Answer Book. Although some of the advice is a tad dated, this particular passage should still, er, “hold water”. The following is his advice in cleaning a print affected by “foxing”, which is “the manifestation of a form of mold. It is characterized by brown spots on paper which resemble rust stains, with a tiny black or brown spot at the center.”
“There are several methods of removing fox marks from paper, but most of them are beyond the realm of the picture framer. The only method simple enough to be used by a framer is the immersion of the print into a solution of 15-20% sodium hypochlorite, or 1 part Clorox to 5 parts water.
The bleaching action should be watched carefully and stopped by immersing the print into clean or distilled water as soon as the desired result is obtained.
Again, you should remember that paper becomes very fragile when immersed into a liquid for any length of time. So, during this operation, the print should be placed over a sheet of glass to prevent tearing the wet paper when you remove it from the bath.
Delicate prints that cannot be immersed because of color solubility can be handled in another way. Lay the paper over a sheet of glass; dampen the back of the stain by laying wet blotting paper or paper towels over it for a few minutes. Use a sable or camel-hair brush to apply the bleaching solution. Observe through the glass the bleaching action and stop it by washing the back of the print with clear water.”
I’m sure that there are those who would say to substitute “distilled water” for “clear water” in the second example as well. I would have to say that I wouldn’t do either of these methods with a customer’s art. I think that is only asking for trouble, but I would be happy to share the information with the customer and let them try it on their own. My real recommendation would be to send them to a qualified paper conservator for restoration.
[This message has been edited by LTownsend (edited June 01, 2000).]
As usual, y'all have been of great help, not only with info, but with confirmation of my original thinking, which is-----no way do I do that. Actually, it's of only sentimental value so I doubt seriously whether she'd go to a conservator. I can remat for her with something appropriately old-looking, and she'll most likely live with it. Thanx to all!
P.S. Do you have a picture of ANY framer immersing something in a bleach solution?? What nerves of titanium that would take.