Can I use tissue paper to preserve fabric and photos?
Q. Dear Donia,
I've heard that pale blue tissue paper is a good way to preserve fabrics. Does the same go for photos? Thanks, Jennifer
A. Dear Jennifer,
To be safe, use non-colored tissue. The color doesn’t usually tell you anything about the characteristics of the tissue. Blue may be the "code" one company uses for buffered or unbuffered tissue, but may not be the same with other companies. Color from tissue may transfer to your items, especially if they are exposed to moisture.
In general, know what you want for your specific type of photograph (or fabric or textile) and get information from the package or the company about these characteristics for any specific tissue you consider using.
General advice for storing photographs and fabrics or textiles
You can use acid free or buffered envelopes, sleeves, photo corners, boxes (preservation storage enclosures), albums, backings, and mats to prevent edge damage, creases, and tears.
Acid free (also known as unbuffered or neutral) has a pH 6-7). Buffered paper has a pH 7-9.5. These types of materials are also free of sulfur, acids, peroxides, and other reactive materials. Buffered enclosures are best for photo prints on deteriorated paper backing, but not for blueprints (cyanotypes).
If you use plastic, do not use PVC. Use uncoated polyester, cellulose triacetate, polyethylene or polypropylene.
If you can’t keep relative humidity below 80%, don’t use plastic enclosures—photos may stick to them. Look for storage materials marked PAT (passed a photographic activity test).
For more detailed information see www.imls.gov/collections/index.htm. You can find one list of suppliers at www.nhhistory.org/archival_products_suppliers.html.
Preservation-quality boxes protect textiles from dirt, fading, and unnecessary handling. Other good storage or barrier materials for textiles include:
- Neutral or buffered tissue
- washed undyed cotton muslin
- archival grayboard or rag board,
- preservation-quality polyester film or paper
When using tissue, your choice depends on the fiber content of the textile:
- for wool, silk, fur, and other protein fibers or when fiber content is mixed or unknown, use acid free (unbuffered or neutral, pH 6-7)
- for cotton, linen, jute, flax, bast and other cellulose fibers, use buffered (pH 7-9.5)
For more information, visit www.thehenryford.org/research/caring/textiles.aspx.
We hope this helps you preserve your valued items—remember your library can also be a valuable source of preservation information.