Caring for Textiles

Quick Tips for Preserving Textiles

  1. Store textiles in an environment where you are comfortable being. Basements can be damp and lead to mold.
  2. Box or roll and cover textiles to prevent damage from dust and light.  Inspect regularly for insects.
  3. Do not fold if you don’t have to. If you have to, pad the folds with tissue.
  4. Display dyed textiles away from direct light to minimize fading.
  5. Hang historic clothing on well-padded hangers and cover with plain cotton.

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,
  • Ethafoam™
  • Tyvek®
  • 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)

We hope this helps you preserve your valued items—remember your library can also be a valuable source of preservation information.

Further Resources

The Textile Museum
Guidelines for the Care of Textiles including storing oriental carpets, hanging textiles, and care and cleaning.

The Benson Ford Research Center at The Henry Ford Museum
Extensive resources on the preservation and care of antique textiles and costumes

American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works
This guide is one of almost a dozen summary resources on the care of family heirlooms and works of art made available by AIC, a national membership organization for conservation professionals. Basic tips for preventing damage to textiles include environmental recommendations for display and storage, handling suggestions, and advice for dealing with disaster-affected materials.

For more resources see the textiles section of the IMLS Guide to Online Resources.