Family heirlooms are unique and irreplaceable items handed down from one generation to the next. Families who want to keep these items for decades or centuries more need to take steps to protect the heirlooms from damage and decay. There are five ways to safely protect and store precious family heirlooms.
Use Waterproof and Acid-Free Containers
Any container, clip or bag that is not specifically archival and acid-free could be causing damage to family heirlooms. The acid in plastics, papers and even fabrics could be slowly destroying an heirloom each year. Heirlooms should be stored in boxes or bags that are archival quality and that are acid-free. It is also a good idea to wrap or place the archival containers into a waterproof container for the most protection.
Avoid Sunlight and Moisture
Heirlooms should be kept out of direct sunlight at all times, especially photographs. Ultraviolet light can cause dyes, inks and photographs to fade very quickly. Direct sunlight can damage fabrics, papers, adhesives and many other materials. Family heirlooms should be stored in areas that never see directly sunlight. The heirlooms should also be kept away from areas with high moisture like basements, attics or kitchens.
Rent Climate Controlled Storage Units
Climate controlled storage units can protect family heirlooms from many dangers, and free from the chance of theft. Renting heated and cooled storage units will prevent damage due to drastic temperature changes, sunlight and varying humidity levels. The storage units keep items out of the home so they cannot be damaged when moving furniture or shuffling items in closets. Storage units provide an optimal environment for family heirlooms.
Keep Heirlooms Separate
Family heirlooms should be wrapped separately and should not be placed together in a pile inside of a box. Some items can actually cause damage when coming into contact with another surface. Metals can cause oxidation, fabrics can transfer dyes, and papers or photographs can leach acids. All items should be individually wrapped.
Handle With Clean Hands or Cotton Gloves
Delicate or old family heirlooms should be handled only with clean hands or cotton gloves. Hands should be washed for at least 30 seconds in warm water without lotions or harsh soaps. Cotton gloves are good for fabrics, woods and other items although they are not helpful when handling papers or some photographs. This will prevent the transfer of skin oils and chemicals that could damage the heirlooms.
Every precaution needs to be taken in order to protect and store family heirlooms correctly. The smallest particles can slowly destroy an item over the course of several decades. The best environment for family heirlooms is a dry and temperature controlled environment, free from direct sunlight.
Anita is a freelance writer from Denver, CO. She enjoys writing about home, family, business and finance. A mother of two, she enjoys spending time with her family and reading a good book when she isn’t writing.