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A Cleaner World Blog

Avoiding Clothing Storage Mistakes

Many folks store their out-of-season clothing, but they also fail to take proper precautions which puts next year’s wardrobe in jeopardy.  An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, especially because many of the distinct types of damages that can occur to fabrics while in storage are preventable and irreversible.

Light Exposure

Color on fabric can fade during prolonged exposure to sunlight or artificial light.  The amount of fading depends on the amount of exposure, the type of fabric, and the type of dye.  For instance, dyes on silk tend to be more susceptible to damage from light exposure.  In addition, extremely strong light or dyes that are not resistant to light will lead to fading in a short amount of time.  In most cases, the fading is limited to the exposed area of the garment. This damage is easily preventable by simply storing clothing away from sunlight.

Insect Damage

Insects are attracted to fabrics stained with food, beverages, perspiration, and oils from skin and hair.  While an insect is feeding on a stain, it cuts or weakens surface fibers.  When the item is cleaned, the fibers are flushed away, and the damage becomes apparent.

To prevent moth and insect damage, clean all garments before placing them in storage.  Once clean, store them in a cool, dry place.  Storing items in the attic, basement, or barn is not recommended because of heat and humidity fluctuations.  Placing clean garments in cedar chests with lavender sachets is also helpful.

Fume Fading

Fume fading is caused by a reaction of atmospheric oxides of nitrogen with certain dyes, resulting in a permanent color change that is usually of a pinkish or reddish hue. These gasses are air contaminants that are produced by the combustion of heating gas or heating oil like those used in furnaces, heaters, gas or electric cooking ranges, or car exhaust and industrial exhausts.

To avoid fume fading, store clothing in a well-ventilated area free from contact with exhaust gasses or heating fumes.

Dye Sublimation

Some fabric dyes can change to vapor and transfer onto articles nearby, creating stains usually in the form of streaks. This type of staining usually develops when dye sublimation occurs from a dark-colored acetate fabric. The discoloration slowly develops over an extended period of contact with another article, and it can develop when items are not in direct contact with each other. Heat can cause this process to occur more quickly if a garment is stored in a warm place.

The solution to this problem is to store dark items separately and to store all garments in a cool, dry, well-ventilated location.

Mysterious Yellow Stains

Spills from juices, beer, soft drinks, tea, coffee or other foods and beverages that contain tannin or sugars can cause stains to develop during storage through oxidation, meaning these stains were invisible when garments were put away. Once the stain has been left on the fabric, it oxidizes and becomes apparent as time passes. These stains may be exceedingly difficult to remove, especially from wool, silk, and nylon, and the longer the stain is allowed to age, the more difficult it is to remove.

Here is another reason it is so important to wash or dry clean all garments before placing them in storage.

Mildew

Mildew is a fungus that can develop on garments that are put away slightly damp or on garments that are stored in damp or humid locations.  It appears as irregular purple, gray, black, or yellow-speckled stains and is typically accompanied by a musty odor.

Only store clean, dry garments in a well-ventilated, temperature-controlled location.   

Some of these problems, like mildew and mystery stains, might be reversible; however, weakened fabrics thanks to insect munching and dye sublimation are not.  If you pull your clothing out of storage and find issues, you can always stop by your nearest A Cleaner World location for help.  And to avoid these issues altogether, store your out-of-season garments at A Cleaner World.  Storage is free.  All you pay for is cleaning.

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