BEFORE AN ASH STORM:
Pre-cut pieces of a white, cotton sheet to hang over each of your pieces of artwork separately. With a large permanent marker, write the name of the piece on the front, so that in case of an immediate emergency, the protective sheets can be easily and quickly be recognized.
Pre-cut large flat sheet magnets (you can get these at a craft store) to place on vents that lead to the exterior of a home. Even if all doors and windows are locked, ash can seep in through vents if they are not properly covered.
To avoid recirculating dirty air, air conditioner filters must be changed very frequently during and after an ash storm.
IF SMOKE OR ASH DAMAGE HAS OCCURED:
One of the most important protective methods against smoke damage is the framing of an artwork. If art has come into contact with smoke damage, but is framed, keep it in the frame, bring it to a conservator for an assessment as soon as possible. If an artwork is completely sealed in a frame, the glass or Plexiglas can be cleaned by spraying a solvent on a rag first and then cleaning the surface. Never spray anything directly on or near artwork as it seeps into the frame and migrates back up inot the work.
NEVER CLEAN AN EXPOSED CANVAS YOURSELF. Improper cleaning methods and solvents can activate toxins and oils leftover by smoke damage. This is a job for a professional conservator only!
It is safe to remove minor, visible ash from the canvas, however. To do so, turn a hair dryer on the COOL and LOW settings. Tilt the painting at a 45 degree angle facing down, and with a gentle airflow, blow ash down towards the floor and the bottom of the piece. Only use this method to remove surface level ash residue.
The effects of smoke damage do not appear immediately. If your artwork has come into contact with embers, oils may be left behind that only conservators can properly clean and remove. That's why it is important to take the proper precautions as soon as possible, in order to avoid long term damage.