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I glued a bunch of origami to a paper lantern, like in the photo below. I plan to hang it near the kitchen. But I'm afraid that grease from cooking will ruin it. Is there a product (preferably spray-on) that would protect against grease or, at least, make the lantern cleanable?

I wrote to Krylon, Plasti Dip, and Golden Paints (about their Archival Varnish), but all informed me their products weren't suitable. Plasti Dip said that "the product will soften, and eventually peel away from the surface."

I can live with a slight change in color or semi-gloss look, but don't want it to yellow. I'm using an LED light bulb that gets barely warm to the touch, so I feel pretty safe.

My lantern looks like this

An in-progress photo

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    Have you looked into waterproofing treatments? I don't know that they would work, but that where I would start.
    – magerber
    May 21, 2017 at 19:42
  • I started there, but I don't know if, say, polyacrylic, will do anything against grease.
    – Lee M.
    May 22, 2017 at 1:59
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    Are you worried about grease build up from the air? Is it hanging in a kitchen? I think any material would have such an issue in that form because of all the nooks and crannies. A good coat of anything on that surface might add significant weight as well. May 22, 2017 at 16:44
  • Yes, it's hanging close to the kitchen in an open studio space and I worry about grease in the air. I have a plain paper lantern hanging a few feet from the stove, and that is half-saturated with grease after six months.
    – Lee M.
    May 23, 2017 at 18:21
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    Grease from cooking is usually very hard to get off something like stainless steel -- it takes a lot of elbow grease even with a good degreasing cleaner. I can't imagine what cleaning that stuff off of delicate paper would be like. They do make translucent plastic origami paper which could look very nice for your type of project, but you'd lose the paper-white aesthetic and I don't think it would really be any easier to clean. Another idea with a similar look are those plastic modular puzzle lamps like the "Niki Nu" lights -- with those you could take them apart and scrub the flat pieces.
    – dstinard
    May 23, 2017 at 20:09

2 Answers 2

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I don't know whether you have finished all of your origami work, but I was just introduced to clear gesso. With this movement of Bible journaling, one of the big problems that they were having was either the drawings bleeding through to the next page or the pages were sticking together with decoupage. They discovered that a layer of clear gesso down on the page first prevented the bleeding and staining problems. This would be a solution to use prior to starting your project though.

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Is there a product (preferably spray-on) that would protect against grease or, at least, make the lantern cleanable?

Old question, but this is a recurring issue. There's two parts to the answer.

  1. Yes, it's possible to protect paper against grease and make it cleanable. I've protected inkjet photo prints on regular paper for hanging in a kitchen, and they were cleanable.

    What I used

    The coating needed to be smooth and clear for that purpose. I used various clear, solvent-based spray finishes (clear enamel, polyurethane, etc.). Some were better than others as far as not having any color cast and no bubbles (not a factor for this question), but they all worked as far as being cleanable, and none of them yellowed with age.

    To be cleanable, it should be solvent-based (look for "aromatic hydrocarbons" on the label), rather than a low-odor, water-based finish. The latter can redissolve when you clean it. I gave the pictures many coats so it saturated the paper and then had a thick surface coat. It resembled lamination.

    My situation was a little different, though. The paper wasn't hanging right next to the stove. There's a difference between a regular assault of heavy quantities of hot grease, and cold microscopic droplets that collect over time. The difference in grease quantity also affects how often the paper needs to stand up to cleaning.

    Additional options

    Grease and oil break down many plastics. So even if you can clean the surface, the surface, itself, is being damaged. The clear coat used for automotive finishes may be a good fit for this. That needs to stand up to actual oil and other chemicals that a car finish is exposed to.

    There's an alternative that would probably work for an application like this question, but it wasn't suitable for photographs. I've used it for other purposes, though. It's clear silicone paint. You can make it by diluting clear silicone adhesive or caulk with paint thinner until it's paint consistency. You can apply it with a brush or make it the right viscosity for a paint sprayer (but you need to clean the sprayer as soon as you're done because the silicone residue won't dissolve in anything once it dries and cures).

    Give the paper a good coating. Silicone isn't affected by oil or grease, or grease cleaners, and the coating sticks well to paper. I've only cleaned such surfaces a few times. It cleaned easily and the coating didn't come off. But I don't know how it would hold up to regular cleaning.

    If you're just starting the project, use baking parchment instead of regular paper. That is silicone impregnated paper, so the result shouldn't need any treatment or coating. (But I've never tested it to see how well it would perform.)

    A superhydrophobic coating like NeverWet might be a good solution. In typical use, they may not hold up long, but that's due to things like constant flexing, exposure outdoors to mechanical assaults like the weather and strong UV light, etc. Those things can degrade the surface that the coating is bonded to. A static object indoors isn't exposed to those kinds of things.

    The coating works in a different way. The grease has nothing to attach to. If it doesn't fall off, you can lightly wipe it off; it doesn't need a cleaning process. You could also periodically wipe it clean, then give it another coat.

  2. Your paper isn't flat, which creates challenges both for coating and cleaning it.

    Something like 3D origami projections have paper partially covered by folds, and angled surfaces everywhere. That makes it hard to reliably apply a coating in every nook and cranny. There is a good chance of areas not getting well-treated. They will become visible when grease settles there and changes the paper color (and nothing will fix that).

    Cleaning will be difficult because you can't apply much pressure, and getting at challenging areas with cleaning tools will be even harder than getting at them with a paint sprayer.

    These considerations are different from protecting a flat surface like a picture. The best solution for this situation may be saturating the paper well with a product like NeverWet. That will minimize grease sticking in the first place, and is cleanable with very little pressure.

    As an alternative, I'd be tempted to try a two-step solution since failure to protect the paper would result in needing to discard the project. I would first use one of the clear spray coatings, after verifying that the product is cleanable with paint thinner after it is dry. Once it's dry, I would spray silicone paint, making sure folds and seams are well bridged. The paint thinner in that will help it bond to the previous coating. The two steps would ensure complete coverage, and the silicone top layer is cleanable without needing to apply much pressure.

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