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Sunday, November 28, 2010

From 'Gilligan' at about 2 gram desiccants and regenerating.

Q. Been ordering from you for a few years now. I travel to the Philippines and use these packets in my underwater camera housing. Should they be kept in the refrigerator when not in use? The last batch started to turn pinkish while stored in the bag they came in after about 3 months. It is a very humid climate there.

(in response to many requests, packets are available at The Preservation Station)
A. Good Afternoon, Gilligan!
You should not keep the packets in a fridge. Conditions fluctuate in there with every opening and it can be very humid or very dry. Extremes are best avoided for desiccant storage.
If stored in a cool, dark place (like an fully interior closet or cabinet) the shelf life should be at least one year. Of course, that's in temperate conditions with stable humidity.

If this is not possible, then I recommend keeping the desiccant in a glass jar with as little airspace as is possible. It would still be best to store as temperately as is possible, even in the glass. When you take out a working amount keep the jar open for as short a time as is possible.

If you use small glass jars, you could divide the desiccant packs amongst 3 or 4 of them to further minimize exposure time. Baby food jars and little jars that caviar and pimentos come in come to mind. The lids of baby food jars are generally not meant to be opened and closed many times, so the others might be better. One can go along with you in your gear and the others will be undisturbed until needed.

Another idea you can try - I'll include some small barrier sleeves in this order that you can use them to double-bag your working quantity.

Thank you for the feedback.  As soon as I get a moment, I'll do a blog posting so the information is out there for other photographers.  I'm sure others have run into the same problem. Come to think of it, a dive site is pretty much by definition a hostile environment for desiccant!

Thanks for your fast reply. I did keep the unused ones in a glass jar with a seal type lid. I filled any empty space with paper towel but several small jars with as little empty space as possible may be better as you suggested. No baby food jars where I go in the Philippines :-)

Even though they are not the rechargeable type I have used a hairdryer on some of them to try to rejuvenate them. Any chance you would ever put the rechargeable desiccant in those little packets? I know a toaster oven or microwave is too hot for the wrapper but the hairdryer didn't seem to harm the wrapper? Maybe the hairdryer is not hot enough to recharge the desiccant?

I use a Canon G10 camera in a Canon housing. Many people use the Canon cameras as they are about the only company that makes a wide variety of cameras along with the housings. Their housings are very compact and leave little room for the desiccant packets but I manage to get three in mine. Fogging is a problem in these small housings so the desiccant is a must. I also hold my housing up to the A/C unit for about 10 seconds before I seal it up. One of the Filipino dive instructors who does not have A/C puts his in the fridge for about a minute or so then seals it up. It seems to help to get the humid air out of the housing before sealing it. It is also IMPERATIVE to keep these housings out of the sun or they will fog up after they get put in the water.

Nevertheless it still is a great product at a great price. I plug it on where a lot of underwater photographers hang out. My nick there is "Gilligan".

I was out of the shop yesterday - at home making oodles of mini fruitcakes for the holidays. They take 4 or more weeks to cure (with twice-weekly brushings of booze!) and so they have to be laid in right after Thanksgiving at the latest. Come to think of it, I don't think I have ever succeeded in getting them done earlier!

Thanks so much for all of the constructive information.  Will definitely do a post. Here's what we have found regarding recharging:

The gel is not recommended for recharging by the manufacturer.  The micro-perforated film is, however,  polypropylene, which has a fairly high melt point. With that in mind, I experimented with microwaving and found that it is possible to get the gel back to blue.  You can even use high power! The gel does not seem to be as efficient as when new and the packet gets a bit brittle. Still, it is possible to use them.  The gel does fracture at temps over 235° and that can allow very small bits to escape the substrate.  I need to work on a way to convey the possibility of regenerating (for at least one cycle) while cautioning about the possible dusting. Perhaps I can suggest that the regen packets be use only for other purposes.  Purposes where the possibility of micro-grains floating about could cause no harm? The gel could also be emptied, microwaved and then twisted in paper or Tyvek?
The Preservation Station

Friday, August 20, 2010

Storing Model Kits for a Year or 2 from Martin K.

Q. Thanks for your quick reply Debra.
 Perhaps you might be able to assist me with some general information regarding long term storage / collecting.
The reason for my purchase is the following:

I am a collector of model kits (Example:

Here is my plan of collecting:

I currently live in a smoking home and plan to store these model kit boxes in the closet of my bedroom (in which I don't smoke). In about a year or two I plan to buy my own place in which these kits will be displayed in the open, however, until that time, I need to keep these in mint condition along with some books I collect and prevent cigarrete smoke from damaging the items.

I was planning to wrap each box in your archival tissue and place the wrapped box inside a large size ZipLoc bag, sealed and placed inside a large, airtight Rubbermaid tote to prevent damage from cigarette smoke. I have read your FAQ and noticed that you do not recommend contemporary Ziploc bags. Would you be able to recommend a alternative solution to Ziploc bags?

A. Since we are not talking about long-term storage here, I think you can go ahead and use them.  The PE film that Ziploc bags are made of does deteriorate and crumble over time.  If, however, you store the Rubbermaid boxes as you propose to - in a closet in a climate-controlled area for a relatively short time, you'll be fine.  The archival tissue will act as a buffer for environmental contaminants (including the smoke) and will reduce the possibility of moisture damage.

Cigarette smoke is insidious - and PE film is not the greatest gaseous barrier, so you might want to use the freezer variety or double-bag the regular type.  When your order ships, I will see if I can scare up some PP film or Mylar bags for you - the PP sleeves we carry now are probably not large enough - but we used to carry larger sizes and there may be a few I can locate.

Many collectors use silica gel packets to guard against odor - and we do carry those.  If you use them. Use just one or 2 per model, as it's never a good idea to dry paper products out too much.  Activated charcoal in a closed container (find online or in aquaria sections of pet stores) works quite well as an after-measure - in case you already have a few that are aromatic.

Let me know if you have any further questions.

Protective Storage of Native American Dolls and Artifacts from Anne C.

Q. Do you have any advice for what products I should buy to preserve my collection?  I have a  large collection of handmade dolls and other Native Alaskan items purchased over the last 20 years when I lived in Alaska.  Most are made of or dressed in leathers, furs, feathers and other "natural" materials.  When I lived in Alaska I displayed them in a glass case that did fine.  It wasn't airtight, but the humidity up there is very low.  Now I live in Florida.  The collection is beginning to look a little "ratty" and today (horrors) I found a live bug in the case.  I'm sure he was loving all the fur and stuff in there.  My new case is not airtight - it's more of a wooden and glass furniture piece with glass shelving. What can I do so that I can keep my collection on display but not lose it to the critters?

A.There are a few places on the site where you can get information - and then, of course I am happy to answer any specific questions.

Guidelines for good conditions are here:

Florida is notorious for bugs.  Our Simply Scentsational Sweater Blend is a combination of just about every herb and spice known to repel insects.  The price is the same as for our Pure Lavender Sachet.  If you want to try it just order Lavender and let me know in the closing dialog box that you want to sub - it's not separate on the site yet.

Our tissue is safe for all materials.  It's acid and lignin-free but not buffered.  Buffering agents can react adversely with natural materials, disrupting their naturally protective acid mantle.  It can also cause colors to shift.

Sounds like a wonderful collection.  Be especially sure to use UV filtered lighting and keep away from bright ambient light and sunlight!

Please let me know if I can be of further help.
and follow-up...
Q.Thanks so much, Debra.  I have just put in an order for the sweater blend.  I will use it in both of my doll collection cabinets.  I also ordered the desiccant packs - hopefully they will help keep the humidity stable. I'm sure I will be back with more questions! 

A. Questions are wonderful, Anne:

Don't hesitate as they arise!

We anticipate getting this out for you today.

Take it easy at first with the desiccant.  The sachets of SSSB will act as a bit of a buffer in that regard - just due their bulk.

You do not ever want to go too dry with organic materials.  Aim for eliminating the growth of any mold or mildew.  Your collections sounds quite precious, so I recommend purchasing a small hygrometer that you can put in the case.  Organic material collections can tolerate up to 60% relative humidity without danger of molds.

Storing Leather Baby Shoes from Gillian M.

Q. I recently ordered the Sweater Care Kit and the Preservation Pack for Babies (clothes) and they are amazing!  I love your products and won't hesitate to recommend them to anyone. It was so much fun getting things ready for future generations. I do have some questions about preserving and storing baby shoes that I hope you can help me with. I have several pairs of Robeez brand baby booties.  They are all leather with a suede sole.  I washed them in gentle detergent and air dried, as per their web site's directions but I'm concerned about the leather becoming too dry in storage.  I wonder if I should use a leather conditioner on them before stuffing and storing them.  I also thought I would put them in the breathable sweater bag and place it on top of the other tissue wrapped items in the Sterilite box.   Do you have any thoughts or suggestions on this?

A. You are right to be concerned about the leather over–drying.

It's best when cleaning leather to use leather cleaner.  That can be tricky when you have pieces, such as your booties, that have both leather and suede.

Before storing them, brush the suede gently, then mask it with paper or painter's tape to protect it while you condition the leather uppers.

Depending on the type conditioner you use, you might be able to skip the masking.

I recently bought a passport cover at Wilson's Leather and the sales clerk cleaned it for me with a new cleaner/conditioner they market.

She assured me it was safe for both the outer leather and the inner suede, but I asked her not to use it on the suede - just not certain it would not leave an oily staining!

After letting them breathe a bit, give them a final buffing, stuff them gently with archival tissue and wrap.  The sweater bag will shield the other contents of your box while protecting the booties.  Do not recommend using desiccant packs with leather.  You'll be storing in a temperature controlled area, and so will not need it.  Check on everything periodically.

Storing Newspapers (again!) from Jane S.

Q. (too many to post) I just answered 12 e-mailed questions from a reader, spread over a week, regarding storing newspapers and newspaper inserts. This is not a customer of The Preservation Station, but a reader who had already purchased her supplies from 2 other companies and could not get help from customer service at either establishment. Was happy to help, but really! I'm posting a portion of my 12th response here to save future time:

A. To better illustrate my recommendations for safe, inexpensive storage of newspapers (and similar media) I will tell you how my own things are stored:

In a Sterilite underbed box; in general with our archival tissue under the bottom-most paper and a sheet or 2 between each item being stored (not each page). Pages with color have a single sheet interleaved.  Very significant (to me) newspapers have every page interleaved to prevent newsprint (which is not very stable) from touching and possibly smudging or blurring the opposite page.  The entire works is then covered with a few layers of tissue. The box is stored on a shelf of a dark closet (on an interior wall) in a room of our home that is lived in and thus has relatively stable temperature and humidity.  I have lavender in a corner of the box to guard against pests and mustiness. I take it down and check on it when I straighten the closet. That's it.

If I had loads of money, the only thing I would change is that I would interleave each and every page and place each paper in an archival sleeve with a sheet of Archival Intercept. The fact that I do not do that, even though I can purchase the products wholesale, gives some indication of the fact that, in my opinion, this would really be over-kill for contemporary newspapers.

Wishing you the best,  Debra

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Plastic Storage Boxes vs. Archival from Mary P.

Q. Dear Debra,

Just left Fabric Link's web site and they do not recommend plastic storage boxes for long term storage. Why do you recommend them. I'm confused.

A. Everything depends upon the material the box is made of and where it will be stored.  Look for a '5' in the recycle code triangle or 'PP'.  Rubbermaid and Sterilite make boxes of this inert polypropylene resin. The boxes are widely used in museums.

The key is to store at room temp, away from exterior walls and do not tape or otherwise seal the boxes.  Fuller instructions can be read here and here.

Check on contents periodically to catch anything needing attention early, when corrective measures are easiest.  You should also do this when using archival board boxes.

The polypropylene boxes are also terrific because they offer more protection in case of roof or pipe leak and against pest infiltration.  They are also easily found (home improvement and department stores nationwide) and stack well.

There are even some underbed ones with a separate little compartment for lavender or cedar! Under bed in a climate-controlled bedroom is a great storage spot.  Shelves on interior walls of closets are also good.

Though I have a letter on file from Rubbermaid confirming the safety of all of their boxes for storage, I do recommend the white boxes.  Coloring agents make me nervous.

Difference Between Buffered and Un(or non)buffered Tissues

Q. Is your acid free tissue paper non-buffered safe for silk and wool?  Does your "liginin-free" paper change pH over time and become acidic?  If so, can you say how often it would be prudent to change it (fabric storage, mostly linen and cotton)?  20x30 seems small for table linens, do you carry, or plan to carry larger sheets?  Thank you, Jacqueline

A. We have carried larger sizes in the past, but they are unweildy for most uses.  After surveying our customers, we settled on the present size as the most versatile.

The paper is nonbuffered.  We do carry buffered for customers who prefer it, but removed it from the site as differences were confusing customers.  We were spending quite a lot of time answering questions that we thought were well-addressed on the site.

Unbuffered tissue (the type on our site) is safe for all materials.  

The chemical buffering agent in buffered tissue can cause color shift in prints made with older photographic methods (and even today's color photos).  It can also interact with some vegetable dyes, especially those used in older textiles, threads and yarns (even some buttons).  In addition, the alkalinity neutralizes the natural protective acid mantle of organic materials (silk, wool, leather, fur and feathers).

All archival papers will become acidic over time.  The manufacturer suggests changing every 1-3 years for nonbuffered and every 3-5 years for buffered. Much depends upon ambient storage conditions and the material being stored.

That said, we have test samples here, stored under various conditions, that we pH test regularly.  We actually have some 10 year old samples that are still active.  If you want to get best and longest use, I suggest getting a pH test pen at a craft or scrapbooking store and testing a small scrap every year or so. Just tear off a small bit of the paper using gloves or a plastic baggie over your hand (so that your skin pH does not interfere). Pens use differing test media, so consult provided information to read your results.

March Was Crazy!

Due to unexpected press from several quarter simultaneously, we were absolutely swamped through March and April.  The blog took a backseat, but we're back now!

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Preserving Newspapers from Mavis W.

Q. I like to save newspapers which feature special events or people of interest.  Do you know what would be the best kind of container to preserve these for as long as possible and whether such a container might be the size of a newspaper?  Do you know whether Rubbermaid containers are made of a material which would not harm newspapers if used for long term storage?

A. Newspaper pulp is very acidic and so ages rather rapidly.  Light accelerates this process.  As far as storage goes, there's a wide range of what is possible, depending upon how special the paper is to you.
I recommend Rubbermaid® or Sterilite® (or similar containers with the recycling code '5' or 'PP').  The material is polypropylene and is completely inert and thus ideally suited for safely storing all manner of things.  We have a letter on file from Rubbermaid™ attesting to the absolute safety of all of their products for storage. Do not make the boxes airtight and store them in a dark, temperate area of your home. Check periodically to be sure all is well. A shelf on an interior closet is an ideal location (to avoid temperature and humidity swings) or under a bed in an unused (but climate-controlled) bedroom, with a dust skirt to block light.

Polypropylene boxes are used extensively for conservation.  They are in my opinion, superior to expensive archival board boxes, as they offer greater protection from water damage (burst pipe, leaking roof, weather disaster) and greater resistance to pests.  They also stack easily.

The underbed boxes serve very well for newspapers, as they have enough room for either 2 stacks of folded papers or 1 of unfolded. 

What further methods you use should be determined by how precious the papers are to you.  You may store whole papers still folded (not the most valuable to you) and wrapped in nonbuffered archival tissue. The tissue acts both as protection against environmental acids and as a moisture buffer.  It also further shields the papers from light.  Do not use buffered tissue, as most colored inks used by newspapers today are soy-based.  The chemical buffering agent can interact with some of these dyes and alter the colors.

If the articles are very special to you, then you should store them flat or as individual sheets or articles.  Line the box with tissue and then place a sheet of tissue between each as they go in, finishing with a final layer of tissue.

Newspaper is going to yellow and become brittle eventually, so if the articles are historically or personally very significant, you'll want to go a bit further.  First, copy the article onto white ink-jet paper.  Almost all are acid-free, but look for 'archival' on the label to be sure there are also no lignins present or finishes of any kind.  Store the copies separately and you will have a record if the originals decay too much or are in some other way damaged or lost. If you have a scanner, also save a scan of the original(s).

For items that are already significantly decayed or very fragile when you copy them, you can try this trick to stabilize the original (after copying and/or scanning):

Stir 2 TBSP of Milk of Magnesia into a bottle of seltzer, club soda or distilled water, seltzer or club soda. Allow to sit until thoroghly blended. Pour some of the solution in a glass baking pan. Place the article on a sheet of plain white paper (see above) and gently lower into the solution.  After a few minutes, use the underlying paper to gently lift the newsprint out of the solution.  Allow to air dry and when thoroughly dry, sandwich between 2 fresh sheets of paper and press under a heavy volume for a few hours. You can also dry the item by placing it carefully between 2 thick layers of white paper towels and weighting. The alkaline solution will neutralize the acids in the paper.  This method may also be used to stabilize new articles, which is especially useful when scrapbooking.  Be sure to have a back-up copy of the article, especially if it has any color, as the alkalinity may change the colors as noted above.
Archival sleeves of the type used in scrapbooks may also be used for individual articles.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Preventing 'bleeding' of signed baseballs from David J.

Q. Try this one!

I have a unique collection.  I have autographed baseballs...not of sports
heroes, but of MY heroes.  My grandfather, my dad, an uncle, and some others.  The signatures on a couple of balls is NOT fading so much as"bleeding."  The ink from the pens is sort of bleeding into itself.  Is there a spray or anything that I could use to retard this process? A spray lacquer?  Any ideas?
Thanks for any help you can give me!

A. This was a tough one and I think your collection is terrific - what a great idea for young families!

After researching this for a bit, I have settled on an answer found at Sweet Spot Online Charles Kaufman writes on the site:

"There is a way to protect your collection from UV light. Krylon. Crystal Clear Krylon (Product 1305) is no invitation to take your collection to the beach, but its chemistry is touted to protect autographs from fading as well as anything else. This product is used by graphic artists and photographers who want to protect grahite and other artwork. Experts recommend a light spray to protect the ball and to preserve the natural appearance of the autographed surface. Place the item on the cap of the can and hold the can about 14 inches away; spray lightly, maybe two seconds. Just a quick shot is all that's needed. Consider two more coats, but users should use their own judgment. Warning, some people challenge the use of Krylon on signed baseballs, arguing that any coating will act the same as lacquer of old."

The Krylon would also stop the bleeding by sealing as you suggested in your question.  So you'll be stopping the bleeding and protecting from fading at the same time.

When I contacted him for permission to publish he added:
"Collectors should NOT attempt to "repair" a signed item by writing over the signature. It's a slightly different, but similar, issue."

Good to know!

Hope this helps, David
and thank you for the unique question, Debra

Preserving 19th Century Leather Bound Books from Dan W.

Q. I have several 19th century leather bound books which I would like to preserve as best as possible, what would you suggest?

A.You may want to consult with a local conservator, AIC has a finder.

In general, it is important that the books be kept free of dust, insects and mold spores and that they be kept in a temperate area with relatively stable humidity in the mid-range.  Aim for temperatures comfortable for you and humidity in the 40 to 60% range.  Humidity above that encourages mold. Try to shelve on an interior wall, if possible. This avoids temperature swings possible along outside walls, which both stresses the leather, boards and paper and can cause condensation.

Periodic gentle vacuuming (cover the end of the tube with nylon) will accomplish the first.  (If you  know you are sensitive to mold, you of course will use a vac with HEPA filtration or seek the services of a professional conservator.) Soft-bristle brushes also work well. After vacuuming, dust regularly.  Use Renaissance Wax or a natural vulcanized rubber sponge for cleaning.  The sponge is wonderful for pages edges and inner boards. Do not be alarmed if the color lightens appreciably as years are cleaned away!  Use a conditioner to feed the leather.  When cleaning and treating be especially careful of gold leaf and other ornamentation.  Cover pages with waxed paper or foil to protect them when working with the leather care materials.

Wooden bookshelves should either be sealed with an inert sealant or there should be a buffer layer of glass or other inert material beneath and behind the books.  This will protect the books from the oils naturally present in the wood and and from polishes and wood treatments. Large and moderate-sized books should always be stored vertically with books of similar height for support and just a bit of ease for air circulation.  Very small or thin books or pamplets may be shelved horizontally.

When storing or moving, use only nonbuffered packing materials.  Buffered materials can interact with some leather dyes, causing a reaction that could alter color in some areas.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

From Dan G. on storing smelly game jerseys

Q. I have a collection of smelly Game Worn Flannels with the original dirt, sweat, tobacco, blood etc.
 They don't get washed ever.  I have them in Sterilite storage containers lined with your tissue and (since I am getting married soon) am wondering if I should put some of your lavender in with them.

Thanks for all the previous replies. I guess my final question (hopefully for your sanity) is do you
think in this particular game worn smelly scenario the lavender is good and would definitely
dissipate when aired or should I go the baking soda route (although I would hate for
an open box to fall over in the storage container)?  Don't want lavender scent to diminish their value.

A. Does this mean you have the DNA of famous athletes? Wow.  I do think I remember noticing that Joe Theisman's final game jersey was displayed (Smithsonian?) as-'yucky.'-is.  Wonder if the curators went a few rounds on that one!?

To answer the question, lavender is a very volatile oil and so dissipates fairly quickly into the air.  In your boxes, it cannot go anywhere (or only do so slowly.)  Once in the open it will start to fade.

A few days airing should be enough to accomplish this to a reasonable degree. You could speed it up, if needed, by placing a uniform in a clean pillow case and putting it in the dryer on 'air only', no heat.  That might disturb the trophy stains, though. A bit of time hung to air would accomplish the same thing.

Since you are storing these in your house, and you are getting married, yes, I do definitely think the lavender is a good idea. Your getting married, is not, however, the main reason.

With all of those organic substances on the fabric, you need to discourage pests.  Lavender very effectively repels clothes moths and carpet beetles, which the baking soda alone would not accomplish.  I understand why they need to remain 'as is', but generally, storing dirty clothing is the opposite of a Martha 'good thing.'  The rigid polypropylene of the containers will at least discourage pests of the four-footed kind, but do check on the contents often.  Be sure not to make the containers airtight and to store them in climate-controlled areas.

Monday, February 22, 2010

How to store crepe and satin shoes with rhinestones from Kim P.

Q. I have found a pair of shoes that I would like to purchase for my wedding in 2 years.
How would I store them to prevent changes in the color and material.  They are white crepe and satin with a rhinestone embellishment.
Your help would be most valuable.

A. They sound gorgeous!

Stuff and wrap them with our archival wrapping tissue to help prevent the metal settings for the rhinestones from tarnishing and staining the satin.  If it is possible to remove the metal and rhinestone pieces and replace them later that would be best, but if you cannot then try to isolate them with strips of the tissue.  Use a shoe box made of polypropylene (Rubbermaid®-type in white). It's an inert material, not airtight and will protect well.

Be absolutely certain to store at room temperature and away from outside walls.  This will lessen the likelihood of condensation causing moisture damage or corrosion.  Use desiccant packs if you live in a very humid area.

Please let me know if I can answer any further questions.

Best Regards - and Best Wishes, too!

Question about storing an antique wedding gown from Jan H.

Q. I have my Mom's wedding gown which has been stored in her cedar chest for years.  It is made of lace with a satin petticoat, and has about ten small white pearl type buttons down the back.  It's floor length. It has yellowed with age.  She died recently, but my parent's wedding anniversary would've been 64 years this month, so that is the age of the gown. Now that I have it--I would like to preserve it--though I realize that damage has already been done.

It needs to be cleaned (and although the (reputable) dry cleaner cannot guarantee its condition, I have decided to go ahead with the cleaning.  My question is--what next?  Should I purchase your preservation pack or individual items?  (Do not have any wedding invitations or newspaper announcements.)

I have printed out the instructions from your website--and can easily pick up a Rubbermaid container--so that won't be a problem.

Thanks for your help with this--your website is a great source of information--you must love what you do--helping to preserve a bit of history!

A.Thanks, Jan - I do love what I do - so much that I actually enjoy researching and answering questions.

First let me note that cedar chests should always be lined with triple washed and rinsed muslin or acid free tissue paper.  The aromatic oils in cedar are highly acidic and will cause yellowing and staining when they contact textiles directly.  A buffering layer is essential.

If you are storing just the gown - the tissue alone will suffice. The extras in the kit are nice (I especially like the very fragrant lavender and the Eucalan Lavender Wash!) but the tissue alone offers tremendous benefits in terms of neutralizing environmental acids and acting as a humidity and temperature buffer.

One package of 5 folds of 10 sheets should be enough - and will allow you enough for lightly stuffing the sleeves and bodice.

Please let me know if you have any further questions at all.

Storing hand-smocked clothing for grandchildren from Barbara S.

Q. I have a large number of hand-smocked clothing from 9 grandchildren.  I am interested in packing a box for each one, in hopes their own children may someday wear them.  Will the Rubbermaid or Sterite boxes with tissue paper between be all I need, or should the entire contents of each one be covered in muslin?  I live in Texas, but plan to keep them in the house.

A.You'll be fine with just tissue and Baby Clothes Preservation posted on my site might be useful. You can use muslin as a cover, but be sure to triple-wash and rinse first to be sure all fabric finishes are removed. You should check periodically just to be sure everything is ok and storing in your home is exactly the right thing to do.  Please let me know if you have any further questions at all.
Good for you, by the way - those are lucky grandchildren!

Removing Label Residue from Antique Table Linens from Julie W.

Q.You were kind enough to give me guidance on storage of a 100% linen
tablecloth I inherited from my grandfather. I still need to purchase the
archival tissue paper and plan to do so from your website. However, I
just examined the tablecloth and napkins and have another question. The
napkins were in their original packaging, including a cardboard insert
(yikes). On each napkin is a stuck on label proclaiming the content and
retailer. These labels do not easily peel off so I was wondering what
your advice might be concerning their removal. I was going to try
soaking them in Woolite but thought I'd check with you first in case
there is a better method or product to use.
Thank you for your advice. Once I hear from you I'll know if I need to
add to my order.

A. From the Links page of my site you will see that the antique linens expert
I refer my clients to for laundering questions is Cynthia and her very informative website.
I do know that you should always remove adhesive residue before laundering. Wetting
generally worsens things.  Commercial products such as Goo Gone seem to work better than anything else, but do visit Cynthia's website first.  She has lovely things for sale, too!

Storing Patricia Breen ornaments from Gail H.

Q. I have several hundred Patricia Breen ornaments.  They are glass ornaments covered in a fine glitter.  What do you recommend for a storage solution?  Your small bags with tissue? Many of them are over $100.00 each so I am concerned with keeping them nice.  Some of the garlands that use small siver and gold balls are tarnishing and I am worried.  Many thanks for your time.

 A.Our tissue will prevent tarnishing (it passes the TAPPI T444 Silver Tarnish Test and the P.A.T.) and you can use it in conjunction with the sleeves. Remove tarnish first with whatever gentle method you prefer. Would perhaps be easier to use the tissue in ornament storage boxes, or Rubbermaid or Sterilite boxes. If humidity is high where you live - you might also want to consider desiccant. The single most important storage variable is location; it's always best to keep precious items in climate-controlled areas of the home.

Buffered vs. Nonbuffered: Storing vintage beaded purses with silk linings from Denease A.

Q. I am interested in purchasing acid free tissue.  I collect vintage beaded purses with silk linings and other vintage items.  I looked on your web site and noticed that acid free tissue comes buffered and nonbuffered.  Which one should I use?

A. For most vintage items, and particularly where silk, wool, fur, leather or feathers is a component, you should use only nonbuffered tissue.  This will keep the natural protective acid mantle of the organic materials intact, and will not cause any color shift if sensitive organic dyes are present. 

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

From Lisa W. Concerning Moths and Cashmere

This after ordering our Triple Sweater and Woolens Care Kit:
Do you think when I get home from work tonight it would help to shake the rest of my cashmere collection and then put lavender on the shelf while I wait for your emergency kit to arrive?



Lavender is closely related to Lavendin - which has been shown to be more repellent than moth balls to moths.

What you should do right away, since it's the larva the moths lay that cause damage, is seal your sweaters in freezer bags and place in the freezer - the colder the better.  If any larva are present the cold will kill them.

Check the internet for how long to leave them - recommendations vary - but leave them at least until the kits arrive - then you can take your time treating each to the Eucalan.

Go ahead and place some lavender in your storage container or so it can start permeating to keep the little beasties away!

Question From Hena S. about Storing Fine Jewelry

Since space is limited in a safety-deposit box, I need your advice on how to store fine jewelry. I don't have space for all the soft jewel boxes that pieces were purchased in, so have stored some in small plastic zip bags, some mixed together in a paper box lined at the bottom with cotton. Should I be wrapping each piece in tissue paper? What do you recommend?

and parts of my reply:

The problem with commercial zipper bags is that they contain Saran, which can sometimes interact with precious metals, pearls, opals and other 'soft' stones.

We have 3X5 and 4X6 inch zip bags made of archival film and also 5X7 and 9X12 archival envelopes (clear) with a reusable zip strip.  If you can give me an idea of how many you might need, I can quote you a price.  If you would like an assortment of all 4 sizes, perhaps 10 each, I can do that for $15.

The tissue is good because it acts not only as an acid barrier, it also inhibits tarnish and is a moisture buffer.

What I recommend is wrapping in tissue and then placing in the zip bag or envelope with a desiccant pack.  Alternatively, you could use just one of the 50 gram regenerable packs in the safety-deposit box to cover all of the items stored.  We have both items on the website:

If you wrap in tissue, put a small note in the bag/envelope citing what the contents are so that you can find what you need without unwrapping each.

If would like the assortment of archival bags, just tell us so in the dialog box at checkout and we'll add $15 to the order and send you a new confirmation.  The shipping will remain the same.

Will be happy to answer any further questions you might have.

Oh! Donate the jewelry boxes to a charity that you support - I imagine girls will love to have them! Some of them are so pretty.

Question From Carol E. About Storing Collectibles

Was very impressed with the info on your website and with customer reviews.  Most likely I will order very soon when I decide what I will need for storage of my collectibles.  My most important question re:  storage is what type of box should I store "unboxed as well as boxed collectibles?"  Most of my collectibles are holiday items from the 20's through the early 60's.  I am somewhat perplexed as to the type of storage box I should use.  If plastic...what type of plastic is acid free or acceptable to us. Or can I use cardboard?  Can you help me with this?  Thank you so much.

And the main points of my reply:

Good Morning, Carol:

Your question is a good one and there is a lot of misinformation out there.  Some say never use plastic and some say all cardboard is acidic.  Neither is true.

There are harmful plastics and there are safe plastics and some cardboard is treated with buffering agents and so is acid-free.

Archival board is very expensive and I have never felt it offers the protection an inert plastic does.  Plastic offers much better protection against water damage (say in the event of a burst pipe or leaking roof) and better resistance to pests.

Conservators and curators widely use polypropylene boxes for storage.  The material is completely inert and so is safe for all materials.  As long as the box is not made airtight there is enough breathability when stored in climate-controlled areas of the home.  Look for the recycling code '5' or the letter 'PP'.  Rubbermaid and Sterilite's white translucent boxes are commercial examples that are readily available.

Quite often ornaments and collectibles come in their own boxes.  Since these offer a custom fit and protection, I think it's fine to leave them in the boxes they came in and wrap those in archival tissue and then store them all in the aforementioned outer boxes.

Some owners of very collectible and/or precious items like to store the boxes and the ornaments separately lest the box material affect the contents.  Flocked lining, for example, might deteriorate and the small bits get stuck to glitter or snow or metalwork.  You can use your discretion there.

The tissue acts as an environmental buffer, protecting the contents from environmental acids and helping maintaining stable humidity levels.  It is also non-tarnishing.  If you have any baked ornaments - whether clay or bread or cookie dough, those should be in an archival sleeve or small glass or polypropylene box (some kitchen storage containers will work - look on the bottom for the code) with a desiccant pack so that they stay dry.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Question from Corey M. about Regenerating 2 gram Silica Gel Packs

Q. I have purchased from you folks twice now and I am extremely happy with the product. I use these packets with my underwater camera, after about 3 dives I change the bags and save them.Now that I am home, can I do anything to 'recharge'  them or should I just purchase more of them from you? Thanks for your great service and product, Corey M.

A.  Hello, Corey:

The manufacturer does not market these 2 gram packets as regenerable.  The older ones we carried (white Tyvek) were definitely not because Tyvek melts at relatively low temps.

That said - we have experimented and found that these clear packets can be microwaved without melting.  They do not seem to work quite as well - so you might want to use them in camera and lens cases, etc. rather than for diving - but I think they might work well for dives where you have not too much of a temperature change.

We have successfully regenerated the gel up to 3 times - with it each time losing a degree of effectiveness.

My supposition is that the mfrg. does not tout regeneration because the encasing film becomes brittle.

You might want to add a bit of nylon (as in stockings) twisted around each nuked sachet to prevent any possible dusting due to  cracking of the film - just to be sure.

Of course - you could also just snip open the packets, microwave the gel until blue again (will not be *as* blue) and use cloth or paper squares to repackage - maybe with a twistie or a small rubber band?

I abhor waste - so go for it and see if it works for you.

Let me know - your feedback will increase my knowledge base for sharing with others!  Please also feel free to post any of my remarks online.  We have a really small advertising budget - to keep costs and prices down...

Historic Flag Care Question from John S. of Seattle

Q. I was just recently bequeathed with a rather large, WWII era flag and want to do my absolute best to preserve it for posterity.
However, I'm not certain which paper is best for said flag. What would you recommend?
I'm incontrovertibly ready to purchase your best!

In terms of storage beyond the paper, I was thinking of putting the flag, folded nicely throughout with the a.f. tissue paper, in a new large plastic bin - to keep out moisture, etc., but then I read online that over time certain gases can leak from the bin as the plastic decays and this could yellow the textile material. I also read that a sealed plastic bin promotes mold! Yikes!
I want to treat this flag with the utmost care and need your help!

What do you think the best method of storage? It's very, very big! I believe 8 by 10 feet!


A. When dealing with textiles of indeterminate content and dyes, it is always best to use nonbuffered acid and lignin free tissue.  It is, in fact, all that we carry now.

It's safe for contact with any and all materials.

Wrapping the flag in tissue with interleaving is absolutely the best way to go.  The tissue will cushion the folds and is a buffer against both environmental acids and temperature and humidity swings.

Here is some information from the Wedding Gown section of the site regarding Rubbermaid, etc.:
"For best and most economic storage, purchase a Rubbermaid® or Sterilite® box (underbed or otherwise) large enough to hold the garment. These storage boxes are made of polypropylene - which is an inert material used for archival application. It is widely used by Museum Specialists. Other brands may be safe as well - look for the #5 within the recycling code triangle or the letters "PP".  In fact, archival polypropylene is in some ways superior to archival board. The polypropylene boxes are not entirely airtight, which is good, while offering an extra degree of protection against water damage or pest invasion."

Be very certain to store in a climate-controlled area of the home and away from light and exterior walls.

If you have very high humidity where you are - you might want to include a desiccant bag (the 50 mg. regenerable one) in the box.

Check on the flag a few times a year and refold along lines that are a bit different each time - to minimize creasing and seam stress.  Wash your hands prior ti handling to remove acidic skin oils and lotions or wear cotton gloves.

Your flag is a treasure and good for you for caring for it so well!

Some Questions about the Wedding Gown Storage Kit from Shannon B.

Interspersed is easier for this!

Q. Hi Debra,
It was really interesting reading your instructions on wedding gown preservation. I was unaware that #5 polypropylene 'breaths'.  
A. Actually, the material itself does not breathe, but the boxes not airtight and therefore allow enough air exchange for storage in temperate areas.  The material is 100% inert and is widely used by curators.

Q. I have a few questions.  Are the rubbermaid containers (when closed) sufficient enough to allow air into the container (when it is placed in a cedar chest).  
A. Many older cedar chests are airtight and designed to be that way.  As long as the chest is in a climate-controlled area of the home and not on an exterior wall or in direct sunlight you should be fine.  The material will provide an excellent buffer against the oils in the wood.  Do check periodically to be certain and refold to ease stress on fibers and seams.

Q. Additionally, is lavender the most common way to keep pests (i.e. moths) away? 
A. It's a very effective repellent.  Even mothballs do not kill larva, and the larva do the harm, not the adults.  As long as no moths are present at storage the lavender will do it's job well.  Some tests have shown it's close relative Lavendin to be superior to mothballs.

Q. Another question that I have is how many sheets of paper come in your packs of acid/lignin free tissue paper.  
A. There are 10 sheets per fold - so the kit has 30 full-size sheets and 10 half-size sheets for stuffing bodices, sleeves and caps.

Q. Finally, I noted that you say in the garment kit instructions that one can include invitations and other papers stored away with the dress.  Wouldn't the acid from these items effect the storage of the fabric? 
A. The archival sleeves are included for your use to isolate these items.  You can store them in the box, if there is room - or separately if not.  The large sleeves (8 X 4 X 15") will usually handle your shoes and/or lingerie and your veil or bouquet, as well as paper ephemera.  There are 5 of them in the kit, with satin ribbon ties. The Provenance Sheet has it's own transparent archival envelope for storage, and at 9 X 12" has some extra room if needed for more paper items.

Q. Thanks so much for answering these questions.  I'm excited to get the information to preserve the dress myself.  The bridal store charges a fortune to preserve the dress.
A. The sad thing is that the materials and methods they use are sometimes not archivally correct for garment storage. The stories I have heard are heart-breaking.  Opening sealed boxes to find yellowing and actually rotting fabric, rust stains from buttons and ornaments, heavy tarnish on silver elements and even finding the veil missing or that the dress is someone else's!

Please do not hesitate to ask if you have any further questions at all.  It's what I do and I love it!

Storage of Christmas (and other Holiday) Ornaments from Ann W.

 Q. While I have generally stored my old and new glass tree ornaments in regular white tissue paper inside boxes and have had relatively little problem...except perhaps for a few less expensive ornaments on which the paint may peel...more and more is being written about improved storage methods.  My ornaments are kept in a storage area on the second floor of our house...not in the attic or basement.  The only drawback of this storage area is that it is under the lower slope of the roof since the house is a slightly modified saltbox...however, I tend to keep the entrance door to this storage area cracked several inches in extreme summer heat so I feel this prevents damaging weather extremes and humidity....we seldom run central air as we are on a hill in a rural area.

Some say to put the ornaments in plastic bags in plastic containers...this seems to be a good transport method but for many years of storage?????  It would seem that plastic is more toxic than cardboard but I am only a collector...not a chemist.

As I begin to repack ornaments...will acid free tissue around each ornament in a cardboard container suffice or at least be a huge improvement?  I am talking about more than 2000 ornaments so repacking in special containers would be costly and probably more bulky since a significant number of my ornaments are large - 6" to 10" in length.  I currently keep most of the large ornaments in the individual gift box they were packed in at the store.

A. We have a great many customers who use our tissue for ornament protection and we are recommended on several large collector message boards.  Apparently our tissue is the perfect weight and pH for storage of glass and precious metal ornaments, and for those made of other materials as well.  The new smaller size may be even better suited, as the pieces are smaller and lighter-weight.

The original storage box is always a good thing to have.  A small bit of tissue inside will add more protection and guard against tarnishing.

I do have some collectors who use our archival sleeves in combination with tissue, but I have always thought that overdoing it a bit and I certainly could not suggest it for your storage area.  Tissue will be wonderful in your area, as it will act both as a buffer against environmental acid and as a buffer for changing temperature and humidity levels.

Rubbermaid and Sterilite are wonderful as they are made of 100% inert polypropylene and offer good protection against wetness (leaks, etc.) and pests and are more rigid than cardboard.  Since they are not airtight they allow some breathing.  Museums use them extensively. A balanced approach might be to wrap all in the tissue and then store the most precious ones in Rubbermaid or similar (look for the code 5 or PP in the recycle triangle) - and continue to use the sturdiest cardboard boxes for the rest.

Friday, January 15, 2010

From Sara H. on storing baby clothes.

 Q. My childrens' baby clothes are stored in Rubbermaid and Sterilite boxes without any acid free tissue.  Do I need to wrap each piece of clothing in tissue paper and put in the box or do I just line the container with tissue paper?
Also, I've been told to wash their clothes in ivory snow and not to iron them before storage?  Is this correct?
I live in South Carolina and have their items stored in temperature controlled closets. 

A. OxyClean works very well and is safe for almost all fabrics.  Ivory Snow is fine if you rinse 2 or 3 times.  It is a soap rather than a detergent and does not rinse easily.  Our Eucalan is, of course, wonderful because you do not have to rinse at all and it actually leaves fiber conditioners and natural pest repellents in the garments.

You can iron the items if you like - but do not use starch.  It can attract pests.  Be sure the iron plate is very clean.

It is good to lightly stuff the items to supprt seams and prevent permenent creasing and to line the box.  The tissue offers a light barrier and is instrumental in regulating humidity levels when there are temperature shifts.

Check the links page at my site to visit Cynthia's site - she is an expert!

I am inqiring about purchasing blue acid free tissue paper for storing historical garments and need enough for 2 garments. Carol O-G

And parts of my answer:

The whole blue tissue thing has intrigued me for years.  It is mentioned primarily in books over 50 years old.  I've asked lots of elderly women and they remember using it - but did not know anything about what made it especially suited for storage.

The acid free tissue we use now is white.  My best guess is that the older tissue was saturated with a solution of bluing - with the idea that it might prevent 'foxing' or yellowing during storage.

Since bluing is just an optical brightness enhancer, this would not have worked very well.

Guidelines to follow are on our website in the Wedding Garment section. You might be interested in the kit - it contains 30 sheets of tissue and 10 sheets of support tissue and several other products you will find useful.

Original FAQ from

very old FAQ from The Preservation Station
Q. Are food storage zipper bags safe for storage?
A. No, and for a number of reasons:
Soft plastic baggies are not recommended by their manufacturers for the storage of heirlooms and collectibles.
  • Plastic baggies seal in condensation leading to possible mold and mildew damage.
  • Plastic baggies can contain acids which lead to further deterioration. Serious collectors and photographers do not rely on Low or High Density PE zipper baggies for anything but short term protection.
  • Food-safe does not mean collectible-safe! For instance, Saran, which is used in most food baggies and wraps contains PVCd, a form of PVC which will leach, causing the bags to become brittle and deteriorate.
  • Low Density Polyethylene (the material most zipper baggies are made of) offers very poor protection against odor. LDPE has a very high (for poly films) gaseous transmission rate.
Q. How about open display shelves?
A. If items are inspected and gently dusted on a regular basis, this may,depending upon the items, of course, be just fine. Be aware, however, that airborne oils and acids can cause damage and they increase the 'holding' power of dust. Dust, over time, will actually shred the fibers of fabrics in your collection. Doll clothes and teddy bear fabric (any fabric or paper collectible) will eventually show deterioration. Be certain wooden shelves are sealed with an inert sealant, as all woods are acidic and contain lignin. You may also line shelves with archival mat board or glass. Avoid displaying near kitchens (airborne oils and chemicals) and in direct or bright sunlight.
Q. Are cedar chests safe?
A. Cedar wood is highly aromatic. The aroma we find so pleasing is very offensive to the clothes moth and to carpet beetle and silverfish, which is good. The problem is that the scent is carried by acidic oils in the wood. For that reason, items placed in a cedar chest for storage should always be first wrapped in acid free tissue or triple-washed cotton muslin. The tissue provides a buffer, protecting the wrapped item from direct contact with the wood and possible harmful effects of acid migration and from staining and discoloration. Items should be aired periodically and refolded to reduce stress on seams.
Q. My childrens' baby clothes and assorted small mementos from their infant days are in storage boxes in our attic.  How can I better store them?
A. First of all, remove them from the attic! The attic, the basement and the garage are the most undesirable areas of your home for storage of keepsakes and other valuables. Not only are these areas much more likely to have insects or rodents in residence (even if just 'passing through') - they are also generally not climate-controlled as are the main areas of your home. Temperature swings easily cause condensation within storage containers. Bring your boxes into the main area of your home and keep them on a shelf in a closet with no exterior walls (temp swings again) or under a bed in a bedroom. The box itself may or may not be okay, depending on it's composition. Archival board boxes are, of course, fine. They tend to be extremely expensive and shipping cost prohibitive. Storage boxes made by Sterilite® and Rubbermaid® are made of polypropylene, which is completely inert and thus safe for storage. Conservators and archivists use them extensively. Wrap the items (and lightly stuff little sleeves, etc.) with nonbuffered acid and lignin free tissue. Depending on where you live, you might want to include silica gel desiccant and/or an herbal insect repellent. It is important to inspect the items visually at least once a year and gently refold in the tissue. The inspection gives early warning of any developing problems and the refolding along different lines equalizes stress on seams and prevents crease lines. 

Q. How much acid free tissue do I need to store my wedding gown?
A. You will need 3 to 4 packages depending upon the fullness of your skirt and the length of train. Follow the guidelines which will be included with your order for how to store away and how to determine where to best store in your home. Our Wedding Gown Preservation Pack  has very clear instructions and some nice extras.

Q. How can I safely store large textiles?
A. Either fold to center, using acid free tissue to interleave, or roll onto a tissue-wrapped tube. You may be able to get a tube at your local fabric store (used for drapery and upholstery fabric). Any composition is fine, just  wrap a bit of tissue on first and then interleave with the tissue as you roll. Store folded textiles in a large Sterilite® or Rubbermaid® box (look for '5' or 'PP' in the recycling code to assure proper material). Lay tubes on a tissue-lined shelf in a well-ventilated area.  Follow inspection and refolding (or rolling) guidelines above.

Hello and Welcome!

In the course of my work I am asked some very interesting questions regarding the care and storage of all kinds of materials and family treasures.  Sometimes these questions require that I research before I answer.  Posting the questions and my answers here, and allowing for the imput of others, I hope to create a community of help and shared knowledge.  I'll begin by just posting a few of the more common questions—these from the FAQ page of my website, and then will look back through years of e-mail consults to augment and finally, post interesting questions as they arise, as well as interesting material I come across whilst reading and researching.  Enjoy and share.