Although the word 'acrylic' 'perspex' or 'plastic glazing' may sound like you are getting cheap materials, acrylic actually costs nearly 3 times the price of standard float glass per square metre and offers higher light transmission properties & better UV protection when compared with standard float glass.
Acrylic glazing is light-weight, therefore for online frame suppliers, it’s cost-effective for shipping, and it’s anti-shatter so it ensures that the frame being shipped to you arrives in one piece. Plus, courier services tend to dislike the big ‘Fragile’ labels, indicated with additional charges for shipping glass products. Some just won’t accept them at all.
For that reason, you’ll find that the vast majority of frames ordered online, and many in the high-street stores as well, do not ship frames with glass. While it is an advantage for the longevity of your art and the photos framed behind Perspex, there are a few things you ought to know…
Acrylic is a dust magnet
Dust is everywhere and not all homes will be effected the same, but just know that no matter where you choose to display your picture frames, if the glazing used is acrylic, it’s going to need dusting frequently to keep it looking good.
This is simply because of static electricity. You’ll have heard the saying “opposites attract”. In terms of static electricity, that’s true. There are two types of charges.
1) Positive charge
2) Negative charge
Either type is attracted to each other. Think of your TV screen or computer screen. You’ll probably find that’s the place in your sitting room to get the dustiest. That’s because of the induction from the charge the screen gives out. Yet the same doesn’t happen to your touchscreen on your smart phone.
Why is that?
Smartphone screens have a protective coating put on them to prevent static build up from happening. If they didn’t, you’d constantly be getting a jolt of static when you touched it resulting in a slight shock. Naturally, that’s not going to be a great user experience, therefore, there’s anti-static properties built into the screens of smart phones.
That’s not the case with acrylic glazing, in most cases, unless you opt for specialist glazing which is quite pricey.
The alternative to expensive anti-static glazing is to understand how to work with and maintain your picture frames, in order to minimise the amount of dust the glazing attracts to it.
Handling Acrylic on a New Photo Frame
When you first get your picture frame, there’s going to be a protective film covering it. What not to do with that is tear it off fast. That’s going to create friction, and friction creates charge.
Think of the static created with a balloon when you rub it. You may or may not have done this before. When you take a balloon, and rub it against a woollen (or many other fabric types) a few times… eventually you can stick it to the wall. That’s the static build up that does that through friction.
The same can happen with your clothes in a tumble dryer. The more they’re in the drying cycle, rubbing against other fabrics, static builds up to the point it can create a discharge of static electricity, so much so that when you remove the clothes from the dryer, you’ll get a slight shock. (Tip: Fabric conditioner reduces static build up so if that’s happening frequently, add softener to your wash cycle.)
The point is when you peel the film off the glazing – do it slowly to avoid overly charging the material, which will produce static and make it attract dust faster.
Anti-Static products can work wonders
In terms of working with acrylic glass, there are a few types of products that can help reduce and often eliminate static electricity. What’s suitable and appropriate will be determined by the amount of times you work with static material.
An anti-static brush is unlikely to be used as much around the home as it will be by a professional picture framer constantly working with acrylic glazing. As is the case with anti-static gloves, otherwise known as Electrostatic Discharge (ESD) gloves, which are better suited to working with electronics to prevent shocks and damage to small electronic parts.
Anti-static cleaners though, those are ideal for around the home. They are chemicals that when introduced to the surface of static material help to balance the positive and negative charges. Some can be expensive however there are products you’ll already have that can do the same thing.
A couple of common anti-static cleaning products are white vinegar and fabric softener, provided that you make the solution with distilled water rather than ordinary tap water, which often have impurities causing residue to be left behind on the surface.
The majority of anti-static cleaning products are just a mixture of distilled water with an alcohol based solution added or something similar to white vinegar – with an expensive price tag attached.
Low humidity is always best for protecting art and anything within a picture frame. Plus, in the case of wooden picture frames, low humidity is essential for the preservation of real wood too.
The thing is though - lower humidity attracts dust.
You’ll likely have heard of microfiber, maybe even have a few of the cloths around your home. On the surface, they look and feel like any other general cotton cloth. But beneath the surface, they’re in a league of their own.
The reason is because of the micro in the fibers. Each single fiber is estimated to be about one-sixteenth of the size of a human hair. What that means for the cleaning material is that because there’s far more fibers used, there’s more of an area to attract and trap the dust particles between those fibers.
Just gently rubbing a microfiber cloth dampened with water will charge and attract the dust particles, then trap them in the cloth until it’s washed out.
Quick tip: When you’re cleaning microfiber cloths, don’t use fabric softener, laundry detergent or wash them with high heat. They’ll last you longer and perform a lot better.
Microfiber cloths only need one thing to work - water. If you must use anti-static cleaners, use cotton cloths because working with microfiber and cleaning agents will cancel out the benefits. If you’re dusting with microfiber, just slightly dampen it with cold water and you’re good to go.
When you get a new picture frame that has acrylic glazing, slowly peel off the protective cover on both sides so as to avoid creating a static charge.
The glazing is going to attract dust. There’s nothing you can do to prevent that as there’s no dust protective coverings you can apply over the top of it to prevent the dust from clinging to it. Well, technically you could, but you’d distort the view of the picture.
All you can do is maintain the glazing.
The easiest way to maintain acrylic is to gently wipe it with a microfiber cloth, dampened with cold water only. The cloth’s properties have the tiniest of fibers, allowing for more space to trap the dust particles.
Anti-static cleaners can be used, but there’s no point using them with a microfiber cloth. If you feel you’d rather use anti-static cleaners, like you would with your TV screen, then work with a cotton cloth.
Don’t be harsh with the glazing because it’s very prone to scratching and possible clouding. For example, if you were to introduce a harsh cleaning chemical agent to the acrylic surface, then scrub with some paper towel (which is rather harsh) you’re more likely to scratch the surface and make the appearance of the glazing cloudy. The cleaning chemicals can discolour the glazing, and the material used to clean it can scratch it.
Always work with non-abrasive cleaning agents and a super soft cloth. The best approach is a microfiber cloth and cold water, dusting them down regularly.
In terms of room humidity, you’ll find that the lower the humidity, the more frequently you’ll need to dust it.
That’s a good thing because high humidity isn’t recommended for art or wooden picture frames.
Don’t be annoyed at all the dusting on your photo frames. If they’re getting dusty frequently the frame’s doing its job at protecting the art or photos behind the acrylic.
Dust on the glazing is a good sign!