Textile materials need to be properly cared and stored as they are exposed to heat, cold, humidity, fungus and insects. Different parts of the world have different climatic conditions. Hence, it is important to know the basic guidelines of how and where to store the textile materials. Proper packing and storing of the material will elongate its life and protect it from deterioration.
Textile storage means the techniques that take care of the materials by maintaining its original state and preserving it for the future. Many people like to preserve their special dresses for a lifetime but do not know the right technique of storage. It is always advisable to take the help of a trained conservator if one is unsure about the way a material needs to be preserved.
There are some basic guidelines of storage which need to be followed to prevent the textiles from deterioration. Firstly, before storing the garments, make sure they are clean. If a textile is old, it must be cleaned very carefully. If a garment needs to be stored for a long period, avoid using starch or any finishing product as it may invite pests. If the clothes are stored in a cabinet, make sure it is airy enough to stop mold growth.
Most of the time the main cause of textile damage is the environment in which they are stored. Like light, extreme temperature, humidity, chemicals, pests and pollutants are responsible for textile decay. Ultraviolet rays cause much damage to the textiles. Hence, prolonged exposure to direct sunlight or fluorescent lights must be avoided. Also, avoid storing textiles in the basement or loft.
Luminous lights give out large amount of heat which causes damage to the fibers of antique and delicate textiles. The best method for displaying garments is in an area where lights are not placed close to them and can be turned off when not needed. Another major threat for textiles are pests. Some insects can eat anything and majority of the fungus can grow under hot and humid climate.
High temperature and humidity can speed up the decay of textiles and also give way for insects, mold and mildew to thrive. Therefore, temperature and humidity should be kept constant for the well being of the textiles.
It is best to maintain the temperature at 65-70°F and humidity at 50-55%. To maintain this temperature, air conditioning and central heating systems can be used. A slight fluctuation in the temperature is allowed as long as it is gradual. Otherwise the textiles will expand or contract and face undue stress.
The textiles should be examined once in a while to check if there are insects or mold and also refold to avoid creases at the same place. Textiles should never be kept in airtight boxes or plastic bags as unreliable plastic will hold moisture and will be a reason for mold growth. Additionally, wood contains oil and acid which cause textile decay. Therefore, use mylar, acid free tissues, pure muslin or pure white cotton sheets to cover the stored textiles in wooden boxes.
Yellowing or darkening in some areas of fabric happens due to oxidation when kept for a long time. Therefore, an ideal environment for storing textiles is clean, dark, cool and reasonably dry place. There are three basic types of textile storage. They are Flat, Rolled and hanging storage.
Flat storage is an ideal method for delicate, painted and extraordinary textiles as it gives leveled support to the fabrics. Metal or wooden drawer or even acid free boxes can be used to store the textiles flat. Acid free tissue papers should be placed at the bottom and between two items, when the textiles are stored one above the other. There should not be sharp folds on heavy and historic textiles.
In such cases, round folds should be applied and acid free tissue paper should be kept between the folds. It is advised that these textiles are refolded intermittently to avoid weakening of fibres in that area. Rolled storage is the best technique for textiles which are very large like tapestries, long curtains, carpets and quilts.
It also saves space while storing large textiles. One must have seen how textiles are rolled and stored in fabric stores. There are racks that contain long horizontal acid free tubes on which the fabrics are rolled. Embroidered or velvet materials should be rolled with the embroidery on the outer side. This is because while rolling the textile may fold, stretch or crease on the inner side. To protect the rolled textiles from dust and light a muslin cover can be used.
Moreover, it should be noted that painted textiles must not be rolled as rolling can cause cracking, paint loss or even splitting of the fabric. For textiles that are heavier, tubes with wider diameter should be used. After rolling the textiles, it should be stored in a place which is well ventilated but protecting it from light and dust.
For some dresses flat storage will not work because it will bring creases on the clothes. Thus, the best method to store the clothes without forming any creases is hanging them. Dresses which are suitable to be hanged should be hanged on plastic hangers with proper padding on the shoulders. Further, it should be covered with plastic or cloth with the base open to allow air circulation. Wooden hangers have acid content and metal hangers do not provide enough support and so both should not be used.
Furthermore, for garments which are to be displayed and are delicate, mounting will be helpful before storing. Another similar fabric is sewn onto the fabric to support the garment. Hence, this should be done by trained professionals as incorrect mounting will damage the places where it is stitched.
Dummies can also be used to store the garments if ample space is available. In this method the dummies should be fitted with proper undergarments so that it supports the garments in the right way.
Lastly, textiles can be preserved for a long time just by using the basic knowledge of textile and deterioration. The above methods of storage should be used keeping in mind the factors responsible for deterioration. The techniques that protect the textiles from light, heat, dust, pollution, pest and humidity can extend the life of the fabrics.