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Preserving Holiday Decorations: Proper Storage is the Key

by Special to WorthPoint (12/14/09).

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A vintage Christmas decoration undergoing restoration. Storage is the key to keeping your vintage and antique decorations looking new.

Many of us have antique Christmas ornaments and decorations that were passed down by mothers and grandmothers. Hopefully, yours are in good condition, considering their age, but if you have some that have suffered damage from handling and storage, there are ways to return them to their original lustrous look. But you can take steps now to prevent future damage to these important keepsakes of holidays past.

Holiday decorations are typically made of fragile materials that are easily damaged by accidents, mishandling, heat, light, moisture or improper packing and storage. The damage is often not discovered until decorations are unpacked from the previous year.

Boxes of special ornaments and family keepsakes are often stored in places that can do them the most harm. Basements, attics and storage sheds are unfortunately the places where many of these fragile objects are kept from year to year, exposing them to extreme environmental conditions that can cause them to crack, fade, melt, mold and deteriorate beyond repair. When disaster strikes, some damage can be professionally restored.

It is important to consider the potential for damage when displaying holiday decorations. Some items can be damaged if placed too close to fireplaces, burning candles and Christmas lights. Keep fragile decorations out of the reach of small children and pets.

Proper storage after the Holidays

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Vintage Christmas ornaments in an after-market box with foam cushioning. Try to keep the boxes your decorations come in because they are designed to protect the contents.

For most, our family decorations represent fond memories of a holiday past. They hold great sentimental value and deserve proper handling, care and storage to preserve them for future generations to treasure and enjoy. A small investment of time, quality packing materials and proper storage space will help to prevent the unnecessary loss of important family traditions.

Fragile holiday decorations should be individually wrapped in acid free tissue and placed in shallow divided plastic boxes with lids for storage. Adequate soft packing materials should be used to cushion breakable objects. Heavy ornaments and decorations should be placed on the bottom of the storage box. Hooks and hangers should be removed and stored separately.

Decorations that contain photographs and/or natural materials may attract insects or mice and should be sealed in strong plastic bags and placed in hard plastic containers for storage.

Items made of wax, thin plastic or cookie dough should never be stored where they are exposed to high temperatures. Never store holiday decorations in an attic or outside storage shed. If off-site “self-storage” is used, inside temperature-controlled facilities are preferred over small outdoor storage bins. These units are usually constructed of un-insulated metal and offer little protection from extreme temperatures and fluctuating humidity levels.

Storage boxes should be labeled and placed on sturdy storage shelves in a closet or a cool, dry basement where temperature and relative humidity (RH) are controlled. Boxes should not be stored near sources of heat and moisture. If these items must be stored in a basement they should not be placed near a furnace, water heater, floor drains, electrical panels or under HVAC ducts and water lines.

• Large items should also be wrapped in acid free tissue and placed in sealed plastic storage containers to prevent damage.
• When you purchase or receive new decorations, save the original fitted packing materials for reuse and storage.
• Place small packets of silica gel in sealed storage containers to prevent mildew.
• Lights, tree stands and heavy outdoor decorations should be not be stored in the same container as fragile indoor keepsakes.

Remember when stacking packed storage containers to place the larger, heavier boxes on the bottom. Select storage containers that have strong lids that will support weight and use stackable, interlocking containers whenever possible.

— by Douglas Eisele
Old World Restorations

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