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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.