Wednesday, February 5, 2014

How to remove yellow stains on paper

While checking some past works for personal recollection, it's disheartening to see what I found. 
As I opened some illustrations on paper, I saw lots of yellow spots sprinkled all over. The photo above shows my freckled watercolor illustration on cream Berkeley pad. 

The spots are signs of "foxing," or the browning and aging process of paper, according to a wiki entry.
The causes of foxing are still unknown, but based on studies some theories include discoloration-causing spores and oxidation. I found many suggestions on the web in removing the yellow spots, one site thoroughly describes the processes and techniques, but I can't seem to find anything that actually shows how. 

So I risked trying out some of their techniques and apply them to some of my works. 

I applied the bleaching method using household hydrogen peroxide 20% volume diluted in at least 10% water. The peroxide was then brushed (soft sable paintbrush for water-based media) directly on the spots, repeating on several layers after the first layer has dried. I kept on carefully brushing peroxide only on the spots area until they're almost unseen.  

Diluted hydrogen peroxide with water

Warning though, using this method will loosen the paper's fibers if you're not that careful in applying. The photo above shows my excitement, fibers are splitting away. Also, take note that you can't completely eliminate the spots but you can significantly reduce them.

Also, I tried not to brush over the colored part because I don't want it to fade. This method is applicable only to blank areas of the paper, or to black and white artworks. In the photo above, I tried removing spots on the colored areas by brushing it very lightly.

Some before and after photos of minimizing foxing on paper

Another illustration applied with the bleaching method

I also applied the peroxide method to my other illustrations and books. The results were satisfying, at least for now.

Peroxide bleaching is just one of the methods in restoring works on paper. There are many methods of preserving and restoring works you can browse the web. But try it at your own risk, I suggest leaving the restoration of very precious works to professional conservators. 

In spite of preservation measures, my non-acidic papers and "non-yellowing" fixatives didn't even survive foxing and other forms of aging. This only proves that nothing really lasts forever. 

Besides, sometimes the stains and flaws add charm and character.


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