Can You Hang an Oil Painting in a Bathroom?

Choosing suitable artwork can make your home feel even more beautiful and welcoming. Placing it in all the right rooms can brighten the atmosphere, but does this mean that you should place an oil painting in the bathroom?

You can hang an oil painting in the bathroom, but it’s a bad idea due to the high humidity levels. When the relative humidity increases, it can lead to the growth of mold on the painting, cracks in the paint, or water damage in the artwork. 

This article will explain the effects of high humidity on an oil painting and provide workarounds if you still want to hang your painting in the bathroom. Read on to confirm Can You Hang an Oil Painting in a Bathroom?

What High Humidity Does to an Oil Painting

While you may be looking for a way to brighten your bathroom, there are better options than the beautiful oil painting in your collection. High humidity from daily showers can wreak havoc on your painting, destroying the beautiful layers of paint. 

From mold to cracks to water damage, many things can happen to your artwork when it’s on display in the bathroom.

Mold Can Develop on the Painting

One of the primary concerns for hanging an oil painting in the bathroom is the potential for mold growth. Due to the shower and baths in the bathroom, the relative humidity (RH) often increases to the point where it becomes the ideal level for mold growth.

Mold loves an environment where the RH is 55% or higher, which can frequently happen when the ventilation in the bathroom is not adequate to remove the steam generated from bathing. These activities can also increase the temperature of the space. 

With temperatures reaching higher than 77°F (25°C), mold growth can happen quickly. There are specific requirementsOpens in a new tab. for mold to grow, including the following:

  • Nutrients: Mold requires a food source and will grow on organic substances. In the case of your oil painting, the physical paint feeds it.
  • Moisture: Mold requires an environment with elevated humidity. The moisture from this environment is absorbed into the organic materials it will feed on.
  • The ideal temperature: Mold is hardy enough to withstand short periods at temperatures higher and lower than its preferred range. Its optimal temperature range is between 77°F (25°C) and 86°F (30°C).
  • Poor air circulation: When there is no ventilation in the room, the RH and temperature can reach optimal levels for mold growth. These levels will remain at their peak with no air circulation, allowing mold to proliferate unchecked.
  • Low light: It’s currently unclear precisely what level of light mold prefers to grow under. However, it’s commonly accepted that conditions with lower levels of light are preferred and support higher levels of growth.

As you can see, your bathroom can quickly meet all these criteria, such as the following:

  • You provide nutrients if you place an oil painting in the bathroom. 
  • One shower can give moisture and temperature. 
  • Not opening the window or using the exhaust vent can result in poor air circulation.
  • Turning the light off when you’re done creates the low light setting.

The bathroom can be the ideal place for mold to grow, putting your oil painting at risk.

Cracks Can Form in the Paint

Increases in RH cause an expansion in the wood and canvas, while decreases cause them to contract. These fluctuations can become a regular occurrence, with showers frequently happening in the bathroom. 

While the wood and canvas expand and contract naturally, the paint is not so resilient. It’s highly susceptible to cracking and flaking, causing severe damage to the artwork. 

The Painting Can Have Water Damage

You’ve most likely noticed steam on the bathroom window or mirror when you shower or take a bath. When the RH is exceptionally high, you can also see beads of moisture on the walls.

If you hang an oil painting in the bathroom, it will be no exception to this rule, as moisture will collect on its surface. However, the difference is that it will be absorbed into the painting, and over time, this can lead to water damage.

Considering that with every shower you take, moisture is absorbed into the painting, it’s not surprising that, eventually, you could end up seeing water spots on your artwork. 

The signs of water damageOpens in a new tab. to your painting include:

  • Shrinking
  • Swelling
  • Wrapping
  • Distortion

Not only will the paint be damaged, but the canvas can suffer, too. 

When To Hang an Oil Painting in the Bathroom

If you’re still convinced that you want to hang an oil painting in the bathroom, there are some things to consider. You can take steps to preserve your painting, but it’s not guaranteed to prevent all the previously mentioned problems.

  • Add a protective coating: Have a professional add a protective coating to your oil painting. This coating protects the artwork from the dangers of moisture and humidity, potentially making it safer to hang in the bathroom.
  • It’s for the powder room. If you’re adorning a half bath or powder room, your painting may fare much better than a full bath. Most of the steam and humidity in a full bathroom comes from the shower, which means a half bath won’t have this problem. 
  • You use your exhaust vent regularly. Using your exhaust fan will decrease the overall humidity of the bathroom, maintaining the proper RH to prevent mold growth. Additionally, it will help avoid the constant fluctuations in humidity that lead to the cracking and flaking of paintings. 

Final Words

The bathroom is a common place in the home to want to brighten with an elegant piece of art. However, an oil painting is not the best selection for the task, as the high humidity levels can damage the artwork. Mold, water damage, and cracking paint can all be caused by the high RH in a bathroom, making other rooms in the home a better choice for your oil painting.

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Caraca's self-taught artist based in the UK, Ines explores unconventional materials and sustainability.

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