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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!