Caking – Definition, Examples, History & More – Art Conservation and Restoration Glossary

What is Caking?

Caking refers to the formation of a hard, crusty layer on the surface of an artwork or object. This layer can be caused by a variety of factors, such as exposure to moisture, improper storage conditions, or the use of certain materials in the creation of the artwork.

Caking can occur on a wide range of materials, including paintings, sculptures, ceramics, and textiles. It can have a negative impact on the appearance and structural integrity of the artwork, making it important to address caking issues promptly.

Types of Caking

There are several different types of caking that can occur on artworks. Some common types include efflorescence, which is the formation of white, powdery deposits on the surface of a material; blooming, which is the appearance of a cloudy or hazy film on the surface of a material; and spalling, which is the flaking or peeling away of layers of material.

Each type of caking requires a different approach to removal and prevention, so it is important to accurately identify the type of caking present before taking any action.

Causes of Caking

Caking can be caused by a variety of factors, including exposure to high levels of humidity or moisture, improper storage conditions, the use of certain adhesives or materials in the creation of the artwork, and the presence of contaminants on the surface of the material.

In some cases, caking can also be caused by the natural aging process of certain materials, such as oils or resins, which can harden and become brittle over time.

Effects of Caking on Artwork

The presence of caking on artwork can have a number of negative effects. In addition to affecting the appearance of the artwork, caking can also weaken the structural integrity of the material, leading to potential damage or deterioration over time.

Caking can also make it more difficult to properly clean or restore the artwork, as the hardened layer can be resistant to traditional cleaning methods and may require specialized techniques to remove.

Techniques for Removing Caking

There are several techniques that can be used to remove caking from artwork, depending on the type and severity of the caking present. Some common techniques include using soft brushes or sponges to gently brush away the caked material, using solvents or cleaning agents to dissolve the caking, and using specialized tools such as scalpels or microspatulas to carefully scrape away the caked material.

It is important to exercise caution when removing caking from artwork, as aggressive or improper techniques can cause further damage to the material. It is recommended to consult with a professional conservator or restorer before attempting to remove caking from valuable or delicate artworks.

Preventing Caking in Art Conservation and Restoration

Preventing caking in art conservation and restoration involves taking proactive measures to protect artwork from the factors that can cause caking. Some common prevention techniques include storing artwork in a controlled environment with stable humidity levels, avoiding the use of adhesives or materials that are known to cause caking, and regularly inspecting artwork for signs of caking or other deterioration.

In addition, proper handling and care of artwork can help prevent caking by minimizing the risk of exposure to contaminants or damaging conditions. By taking these preventative measures, conservators and restorers can help ensure the long-term preservation of valuable artworks for future generations to enjoy.