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Storing Fabric long term?

shannonmgarvey's picture

Hello all. I'm moving my stuff into a storage locker and was curious if anyone had suggestions on how to store fabric. My locker is pretty clean and nice and indoors, not too worried about ants or weather elements. Would packing it in regular cardboard boxes be ok? I could store it in my dresser drawer unit that will be in the locker as well, but it just makes the dresser heavier and I'd rather not.

Teaf5's picture

(post #28323, reply #1 of 10)

Do a search of this forum for a thread on fabric storage. Many, many options were described, and the posters explained the positive or negative outcomes of each method. Just be aware that although your locker may not be exposed to the weather directly, the humidity and climate of your area may have some impact on your fabric storage.

I store fabric in the cardboard boxes that printer paper comes in; some of my pieces are thirty or forty years old and are fine, but that might not be true in other climates. Check out all the expertise already posted!

How long-term are you thinking? Months, years, or decades?


Edited 6/1/2007 4:27 pm by Teaf5

ctirish's picture

(post #28323, reply #2 of 10)

Hi Shannon, I do know they are recommending fabric be in cardboard boxes instead of the plastic, vinyl containers or bags for long term storage. The plastic was giving off fumes or chemicals and causing the fabric to deteriorate. I don't know how long the fabric was in plastic but I am hoping it took a long time because I have lots of fabric in plastic storage containers. I believe they recommend acid free paper also.

jane

solosmocker's picture

(post #28323, reply #3 of 10)

I saw a Martha Stewart a while back where she addressed this issue. She said to use a certain plastic, long name, and if you do there would be no harm done. I think (?) she may have said it needed to be clear too, not the foggy looking clear. She also said that all the other common plastic containers were not good for the fabric for just the reasons mentioned in the post.

I know for heirloom clothing it is recommended to use archival acid free cardboard boxes with the garment wrapped in washed muslin.

dotty's picture

(post #28323, reply #4 of 10)

As an artist, I recommend Acid free! Cardboard can leave nasty stains If left for long periods untouched. It can get pricey though. This wouldn't apply to your situation, but I just fold my cloth up and stack it on a shelf. I can see it and it gets air.

Crazy K's picture

(post #28323, reply #5 of 10)

I've been reading this thread with interest to see what others had to say.  I store my fabric on shelving near my cutting table.  I moved 33 15 gal. tubs into the house and found that I couldn't see what I had so dear hubby helped me and we set up shelving on two walls.......the cutting table takes up the other wall.  I have had the fabric on shelves for about a total of 7 years and it seems fine.  It has air movement so I don't get musty smells and if it should get dusty, a quick rinse or even a tumble on air-fluff in the dryer takes care of it.  Some of this fabric has been moving around with me since about 1997 or so..........and it is all just fine.  Hope that helps.


I was somewhat hesitant to admit that I have all of that out in the open.......but I see I'm not the only one!!  Every so often after I've been digging, I end up spending a couple of hours pulling down, refolding and re-organizing my stash.  Since I add to it whenever the opportunity arises, I find that my re-doing is necessary to keep some sort of law and order about it.  I try to keep things somewhat together.....i.e. ribbing, flannels, interlock knits, dressy knits, sweatshirt knits, chamois, denim, etc.  It may be a crude system but it works for me!  I am very fortunate to have a large area for fabric, cutting and sewing and ironing. 


Crazy K

seac's picture

(post #28323, reply #7 of 10)

thank you for your story about how you store fabric. I have been considering putting mine all on shelves instead of in boxes. and arranging by color. by typw is another options but I have been making purses and decided to doit all in color like would be good.


seac

Crazy K's picture

(post #28323, reply #8 of 10)

Arranging by color may be a good way for you with your purse materials.  I have such a diverse collection that I'm better of sorting by fabric type....and then I even somewhat categorize by season.  Right now I have some dark fleeces packed away in tubs because I don't have enough shelf space.  I am sure I could open a small fabric shop with the collection I have!!  Right now five shelving units are in one spot and the fabric is stacked in there tight from floor to ceiling and another unit has some of the fabrics that I don't get at too often and I also have about 4 tubs packed full of seasonal prints, etc.  Oh yes, and 8 yard and garden bags are stashed in the rafters of the garage for short term just because I didn't have enough room.  That is all fleece and it will be used for hats, scarves, blankets, etc. for the homeless so that will be used within the next few months. Oh me, oh my............I need to get busy!!  I keep thinking I can stay busy for a while even if ALL fabric stores close!!!!!!LOL


Kay

Pattiann42's picture

(post #28323, reply #6 of 10)

If it is short-term, use the plastic storage containers. 


Have you ever used a storage facility before?  Be sure to use mouse-proof, or other product to keep the vermin out.  Paper and textiles make great nests!

tmorris1's picture

(post #28323, reply #9 of 10)

Shannon

I store all of my fabric wrapped in acid free paper then in bags with all of the air sucked out of it (vaccum cleaner). It is the oxygen that allows the plastics to give off fumes and ruin the fabric. If you keep it in as oxygen-free an environment as possible, your fabrics will survive longer. I also suggest washing your fabrics in an acid free soap like Orvis soap to remove any residues which are already on your fabrics before storing them. I also like to have digital pictures of the fabrics that I put away for long term storage, so that I can remember what I have later.

jacquelinetarl's picture

Storing Fabric (post #28323, reply #10 of 10)

Although an old post, the question remains relevant to today's fabric hoarder - oops - fabric conneseur. Polyethelene does not break down like other plastics. Linen is the one fabric that requires extra special care because it is made of wood pulp. The storage container for linen requires protection from oxygen and acid. The oxygen is in the air so storage containers that completely seal without any holes at all are best. I like using IKEA brand of SAMLA. SAMLA is made of a "bad" plastic called POLYPROPYLENE. Polypropylene produces a gas in the presence of acids found any any items made of wood pulp. Linen is made of wood pulp. Newspaper and tissue paper are made of wood pulp. Linen must be stored where the linen does not touch the cardboard. People use a product found at home improvement stores called TYVEK to protect linen. The linen is first wrapped in washed and dried cotton muslin fabric. Then the wrapped linen can be stored in completely sealed cardboard or Polyethelene containers for long term storage.

I have been using the IKEA SAMLA for almost 5 years now with no harm to my fabrics of all types including linen, silk, cotton, and plastic fabrics like polyester. I do not know why the SAMLA works while other plastics break or leave the fabrics smelling moldy. They were all stored in the same environment.

After throwing away many fabric and wood items in storage and discovering the items stored in SAMLA in perfect condition, I have switched to using only SAMLA for storage shed and garage. Inside the house, I use open shelving. The key to SAMLA is that if the box is not overfilled, and the lid sits completely flat, the SAMLA seems to be airtight due to the laws of chemistry and physics. Without air, bugs cannot survive. Mold cannot survive. Rodents don't smell anything interesting. Because SAMLA is made of "bad" plastic, the system of preserving fabric should not work, but it does. Having used a commercial storage unit for storage, family who used a commercial unit for storage, and storing my own fabrics at home and in a backyard storage shed, the key seems to be clean and dry fabric stored in an airtight container. Cardboard boxes work for a short while but for longer storage, protection from air (oxygen) seems to be the key to long-term fabric storage in a storage unit where humidity is uncontrolled. In the home, I use open storage on shelves for all kinds of fabrics without a problem. I plan to line my shelves with a plastic called TYVEK. TYVEK is used to protect new building and construction wood from weather and waterproof. Regular newspaper and tissue paper are acidic and can stain fabrics in long term storage. For short term storage in a storage unit, my recommendation is protection from creatures and humidity. Your storage unit may be nice and clean but you have no idea of what people are storing in their units. Cheers,