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Heirlooms Preservation

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How to Store and Preserve a Baby Garment

This is a step-by-step guide to safely storing away heirlooms such as christening gowns, baby clothes, quilts and bedding, hats, bonnets and other heirlooms. To wrap and separate fabric heirlooms, use acid free lignin free tissue paper. In this guide the term “tissue” is synonymous of acid free lignin free paper meeting the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and the American Paper and Pulp Association (APPA) codes.
  1. Make sure the item (or other textile, hats, bonnets, booties, sweaters) is absolutely clean before storing it by have it professionally dry-cleaned. Call the attention of the drycleaner of any stain and tell them the stains origin so that they can successfully remove the stain. If the stain is not correctly removed, it may come back later and attract insects. Insects cause staining, damage, deterioration, and other adverse effects. If the garment can be washed, treat each stain and wash thoroughly with a safe cleaner. Dry the item thoroughly before storing.
  1. Use a polypropylene box (such as Rubbermaid® or Sterilite®) large enough to store the items. Polypropylene is a material used for museum collection applications and will not affect the textile. Other materials may be safe as well, including an acid-free cardboard box. Additionally, the storage box should not be completely airtight and should be water resistance or impermeable.
  1. Prevent the acidic oils, naturally present on your hands, from contact with the textile by washing and drying your hands thoroughly, or using cotton gloves, when handling the items.
  1. Remove any metallic buttons and ornaments and store these in plastic bags separately from the items. To prevent stains caused by corrosion of metallic embellishment, remove any metallic embellishments and decorations from the item. Place these embellishments in plastic bags and store in the bottom of the box. If necessary, add a note describing where these decorations go on the items.
  1. Place a clean piece of muslin on a flat surface. Cover the muslin with tissue. Place the items face down on the paper and inspect carefully to be sure that they are absolutely clean.
  1. To reduce creasing and to protect seams, fold the garment to the center while inserting a sheet or two of lightly crumpled tissue on each fold. Fold the item as necessary, padding with the tissue, until ready to fit into the storage box. Use lightly crumpled tissue also inside of a hat or a bonnet to protect the shape of the item.
  1. Line the storage box with a sheet or two of tissue, then turn the item over and place it in the box.
  1. To keep the items fresh and moth-free it is a good practice to add a good quality pillow sachet filled with French lavender. Place the sachet in the storage box but separated with tissue so that the sachet does not touch the item.
  1. Place memorabilia related to the event (such as birth announcement, cards received, photographs, notes) in a tissue sleeve.
  1. To avoid deterioration of the item’s material caused by expansion and contraction, and the danger of mold and mildew growth caused by condensation, the storage box should not be in an environment where temperature and humidity fluctuations are severe. Storage places not recommended are the attic, the garage, the basement, and close to plumbing pipes. The closet in a room with controlled and comfortable temperature and humidity is best.
  1. Examine the items annually. This inspection will allow for early detection of any developing deterioration.  When replacing the items in storage, fold them slightly differently to minimize creasing and stress to the fabrics and seams. For very valuable items and irreplaceable heirlooms consult with the insurance agent for coverage.
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