Would you like to change the look of a piece of leather you own but can’t seem to remove the gold leaf lettering? Have you bought a piece of art but are unsure of how to remove the gold leaf that has encrusted on the edges from being in a painted canvas? Have you got gold leaf all over your hands and want a quick fix?

Want to learn how to remove gold leaf? Then you are in the right place, for today we will be elucidating for you how to remove gold leaf from 3 different surfaces, using methods that you can easily take and apply elsewhere.

Table of Contents

How To Remove Gold Leaf From Different Surfaces

Removing Gold Leaf from Painted Canvas

Before proceeding with this kind of investigation, it is well worth noting that you should really get a qualified art conservator involved before you try to remove gold leaf from a frame or painted canvas. Indeed, if it is a piece of art that has any sentimental and/or financial value, then definitely get such an individual involved as early as possible.

That being said, if this is just a frame that you happen to own that you do not mind experimenting on a little, then you can proceed accordingly. For all their expertise, an art conservator’s abilities are still limited to a degree. While they might be able to remove the gold from the varnish layer, it might also mean that the whole varnish layer has to be removed from the entire piece.

All the usual tools will be of use in this enterprise, such as lacquer thinner and rubbing compound, to remove the clear coat (otherwise known as the protective coat). How long does gold leaf last? A long time apparently!

This clear-coated layer is often the hardest to navigate and occurs as a result of hastiness on the part of an artist. The most common reason for this happening is when a freshly varnished painting is put into the frame before the varnish has properly dried and hardened.

Indeed, a lot of gilded frames have stray bits of leaf under the rabbet, something that a lot of people simply do not check before fitting a canvas into it. This distinct ridge of leaf will, thus, leave an impression on the canvas which, though not noticed immediately, will undoubtedly come to plague the owner.

This can easily be avoided by using a bit of sanding block to smooth this off before placing the canvas into the frame.

Removing Gold Leaf Lettering from Leather

Perhaps you are instead looking to remove some gilded letters from some leather. This is a perfectly reasonable route to go down, especially if the top layer of the surface is no longer in good shape.

  1. Moisten a cotton ball or a Q-tip with some isopropyl alcohol – ensure that it is not too moist (you do not want it to be wet), but equally that it is sodden enough to be useful.
  2. Rub this cotton ball or Q-tip over the gold lettering until it completely dissolves from the leather surface. Using gentle but firm pressure while rubbing vigorously in buffing circles will ensure that you do a nice job of removing the gilding. It is likely that you will need to moisten again the cotton ball or Q-tip, lest the alcohol becomes too spent to rid the leather of all the paint. Additional cotton balls or Q-tips might also be necessary if the lettering is particularly extensive.
  3. Once you have finished rubbing the lettering from the leather, you will want to clean all traces of the isopropyl alcohol from the leather too, lest it dries out the leather and distorts it beyond repair. For this, you can just use a rag damp with cool, clean water, or perhaps another cotton ball, similarly damp with the same kind of water.
  4. Before proceeding with your day, you should use a leather conditioner to condition the leather. This will moisturize it against its present and future escapades. Isopropyl alcohol is particularly unforgiving with regard to moisture and its opposite dryness. Indeed, alcohol of this or any kind (especially in high concentration) will evaporate incredibly quickly, stripping all moisture from the leather as it does so. This is why it is not only essential to remove the alcohol as quickly as possible, but also to ensure that it is not in contact with the leather for much more than 10 seconds at a time.

Use gold leaf for interior or exterior gilding

Removing Gold Leaf from Skin

Anyone who makes a habit of applying gold leaf directly without going to search menu install will know just how difficult it is to remove it from the skin once it spills. The more learned amongst us will no doubt already have been wearing gloves when they do their gold leafing for some time. However, there will no doubt come a time when you need to know how to remove it from your skin.

Some believe that dish soap and the rough side of a kitchen sponge can do the job, though are also skeptical that it is as capable when attempting to remove hold leaf from the point of fingernails. This is corroborated by many others, with further discourse occurring on the fact that some liquid gold leaf has chemicals in it that are known to cause cancer.

In alignment with the removal of gold leaf lettering from leather, you can also try using rubbing alcohol or isopropyl alcohol. The latter would be a little risky. Leather is essentially skin, albeit incredibly hardened and tanned to withstand the elements, so any guidance on using isopropyl alcohol with leather should be shortened if using it with skin.

In the same vein, you can also use acetone for a similar effect, much as you can also use acetone in place of isopropyl alcohol if removing gold leaf lettering from leather. When using chemicals like this, it is best to start off with a little and then proceed from there. You can always use more but the opposite is not necessarily true once you have done it. Start by dabbing it to see how it reacts with your skin, then proceed from there.

Final Words

So, there you have it! Hopefully, you are now feeling ready and able to conquer that gold leaf once and for all!

FAQs How to Remove Gold Leaf

How do you get gold leaf off paint?

To remove gold leaf from the paint on a canvas, you are best advised to seek the help of a professional art conservator as this can be a very delicate job, one that sometimes is either impossible or incredibly difficult to pull off without failing miserably. Very often, such a stain of gold leaf on painted canvas will be the result of an artist hastily wanting to place their art within a gold-gilded frame that has not dried and hardened properly. Thus, the still moist gold leaf will transfer to the canvas where it will harden indefinitely until someone worthy enough has the guts to remove it themselves.

Is gold leaf permanent?

Not completely, no, though the resilience with which it sticks to objects would suggest otherwise. Though gold leaf is impervious to substances like water, there are a number of other chemicals that can be used to weaken it against a good scrub. Isopropyl alcohol is a great example of a chemical that works well against gold leaf, operating in much the same way as acetone might in the same circumstances. Of course, if you do not have either of these substances to hand, then you can just as easily use some dish soap and the rough side of a scourer, though be prepared to be at it for some time. This might be a little hazardous if you have sensitive skin that you have just covered with, say, liquid gold leaf, a known carcinogen.

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