In an ideal situation you will keep your clothes in a vacuum with no bacteria or insects and your clothes will last forever. But this is not possible ( at least not at home ) for you and me. So what do I do to keep my favourite clothes – my wedding dress, those silk blouses and pashmina shawls from self destructing in the wardrobe.
Yes, there are tips for storing them properly which almost recreats an ideal situation – well close enough.
1 Donot expect miracles from low quality clothes
Remember that good quality fabric will last without much damage for a long time. And in the same coin, cheap fabrics will not last long – whatever you do. It will yellow. It will deteriorate or the creases will break down and holes will appear out of nowhere.
Donot buy clothes just because they are on sale. Look at the quality of the fabric, sturdiness of the seams and ease of maintenance. If you are ok with throwing away clothes after some use or you want disposable clothes for soiling work it is ok to look at price;but if you want keepers – buy quality
2. Do proper preparation before storage
Remove pins and other decorations like brooches from the cloth before storing. The pins may rust on the cloth or leave visible holes.
Donot throw good clothes with heavily soiled clothes in the laundry bin ; Also check for clothes which you know may bleed in the bin or in the wardrobe; donot keep them together with other clothes. I have lost a beautiful white tunic this way. It emerged blotched in pink stains after contact with a pink scarf in the laundry bin.
Donot keep shoes in the cupboard where you hang clothes. At least keep them in a shoe bag if you must.
Ensure that you have enough space in the wardrobe for all your clothes. An overflowing overstuffed wardrobe is not the best start for great storage. There is no way delicate clothes will survive stuffing and careless handling
Ensure your clothes are not exposed to sunlight for long.
3. Clean clothes properly before storage
Store garments which are clean. Keeping a dress with food stains and such dirt will surely destroy the fibers at some point.There will be some unseen spots with dirt in your dress which you may not be easily visible ;so for clothes which you donot plan to wear for some time, it is better get it cleaned – yourself or by a drycleaner
You can give the dress to a dry cleaner and they will clean it and keep it in a box for storage if you request. Some fabrics like wool and silk may have to be dry cleaned. Basically I donot like dry cleaning. Too much chemicals in my opinion. If you have the courage clean the clothes by hand washing them yourself. But donot attempt this if the dress is heavily embroidered ( checkout this post on hand washing clothes to see which are the clothes you can easily wash at home and which you cannot). The thread used in the embroidery may run and this is enough for a panic.
If you are washing the clothes at home yourself, you should ensure that you have rinsed all the soap residue from the cloth before storing . The soap residue will gradually corrode the fibers.5 rinses would not be too much for your heirloom.
Remember not to use bleach on any of your delicate clothes. Especially on white clothes. Bleach will cause the fabric to yellow over time.
Hand wash your clothes in cold water – distilled water can be good for extremely precious piece of clothing. Make sure the detergent you use is ph balanced and fragrance free. Donot scrub hard if you donot want fabric fibers damaged. And donot tumble dry if possible for longer lasting clothes.
Check out the post on washing bras and lingerie properly so that they las long
Checkout the post on washing delicate clothing here for more details. Soaking very delicate clothes repeatedly to replace the agitation you give in usual washing may keep the delicate fibers of your garment intact.
Do you know that you can vaccum your clothes – use the hand vacuum to take out dust particles in clothes which are not suitable to be laundered.If you have a very delicate fabric the vacuuming may damage it so keep a protective layer / screen over it before attempting vacuuming.
4. Storage ideas
Ensure that the storage area is dry and clean. Your damp basement is generally not a great space for storing your precious clothes
Check for Humidity inside the wardrobe – high humidity means moisture will be present inside and this is not good.Mildew will soon follow
Make sure that the place you have chosen is not near any heat source.
Hanging your gown for a long time as a storage is generally a bad idea. After some time the hanging will take a toll on the fabric. Storing the clothes flat in a cupboard is recommended.
If your wardrobe has metal anywhere inside, donot keep your clothes in contact with this surface. Use muslin lining and then keep clothes.In the same token, do not use metal hangers.
Plastic boxes will sweat so it is not a great idea for storing clothes.They also give out toxic gases which are harmful ; Plastic bags are also out of question for long term storage of clothes
You can choose large clean cardboard boxes to store the clothes. Make sure that there are large holes in the box for air to circulate. Some cardboard boxes will come moth infected . They should be avoided.
Line the box with the acid free lignin free neutral ph tissue paper so that the fabric doesnot come into direct constact with the cardboard. You can also use washed thin muslin/ mull cloth. Keep the garment and then place the tissue/cloth over it as well.
The dress should not be cramped or stuffed inside the box.They should lie flat and without creases. If there are deep creases, after sometime the fibers may crack there. It is a good idea to take it out and change the position of the folds from time to time. This way the creases would not set permanently. Some people roll the garments rather than fold it to avoid the permanent creases
Fabric bags with zips may also be used to keep precious dresses neatly arranged
Donot arrange your wardrobe so that the thin delicate clothing are weighed down by heavy clothes on top.
5. Prevent and stop moth attacks
Make sure that there are no bugs in the cupboard.Cloth moths and carpet beetles are small insects that eat fabric fibers in the dark corners of wardrobes. They leave holes behind which are unsightly. They are not easy to spot till you notice your clothes getting holes.
But once you have seen the moths, be aggressive in cleaning them out. Use a vacuum cleaner to remove every drop of their trace. Dispose of the vacuum bag without delay or even better burn it.
Keeping moth balls in a sachet inside the wardrobe is a good preventive measure against cloth moths. These balls ( also known by the chemical name paradichlorobenzene crystals) will have to be kept inside a closed wardrobe for it to be effective. Donot let them come in direct contact with the clothes.
How to keep the moth balls so that they donot touch your clothes
- hang the balls from a small sachet on the clothes rod
- keep inside a box with holes so that the vapour will spread inside the wardrobe( this is important – the vapour kills the moths).
Keeping the moth balls along with a sachet of herbs like orange peels, lavender sprigs will make sure that the horrible smell of moth balls are somewhat lessened. The herb sachet may not be enough to keep the insects away so keeping them along with moth balls offer a better realistic solution than some claim