Whether you’re an antique enthusiast who’s been in the business for years or you’re just starting out as a hobbyist, you’ve likely encountered the age-old headache: How do I store my antiques without damaging them?

It’s an art form in and of itself, as there are so many things that can go wrong with such delicate merchandise.

Three of the most frustrating issues can be:
 
  1. Fading
  2. Breakages
  3. Humidity damage

In this article we’ll show you how to avoid these issues, so you can keep collecting, storing and even displaying antiques without the pain of damaging them.


 

How to stop your antiques from fading


There’s definitely nothing worse than putting an antique into storage only to find that it has faded or discoloured patches.

 
Wardrobe with sun streaks
This antique wardrobe has suffered
from some nasty sun damage!


Here’s a couple of things you can do to keep this from happening.
 

1. Keep your antiques away from light


One of the chief culprits for fading antiques is light, especially UV light (the type you get from the sun). Wood, leather, paper, photos, fabrics are particularly susceptible. Among the most susceptible items and materials:

  • Wood
  • Leather
  • Paper
  • Photos
  • Paintings
  • Fabrics/textiles
  • Coloured ceramics
  • Anything painted

Without going too far into the chemistry of why this happens, essentially UV rays reduce the ability of pigments and dyes to absorb light over time.

What does this mean for your antiques? Well, if you leave them wholly or partially exposed to sunlight, the areas that are exposed will fade after a while.

The same thing happens when you leave clothes out on the washing line for too long (I've definitely been guilty of that one in the past).

All in all, you want to make sure that you are storing your antiques in dark areas that get little to no sun.

Similarly, if you are displaying them, try and keep your antiques away from areas that receive direct sunlight, such as near windows.
 

2. Avoid protective materials that are acidic or corrosive


Many people like to wrap their antiques in protective materials such as tissue and bubble wrap, and it’s an absolute must if you are transporting them anywhere.

The problem with these materials is that if they come into contact with the antiques, their acidic and corrosive properties can cause some of the colour to leach out of the objects.

Regular tissue paper, for example, becomes acidic and brittle over time.  The acidity of the paper then transfers onto the antiques, causing fading or discolouration.

Luckily there is a solution: acid-free tissue paper. This tissue paper has been specifically designed to protect antiques and fabrics, with a neutral pH treatment.

“But what about bubble wrap?" you ask. Well, bubble wrap is not necessarily acidic.

However, the plasticisers present in the material can leach out onto your precious collectibles, leaving nasty ring marks from the individual bubbles. Wooden antiques are particularly at risk here.

Obviously if you are transporting your antiques you will still want to protect them with some sort of padding.

The best solution in this case is to completely wrap them in acid-free tissue paper first, then bubble wrap and tape.

If you do this, you’ll still have the peace of mind that your items will be safe from breakages, but also that you won’t be damaging the colour or causing fading/unsightly markings.


 

How to protect your antiques from breakages


If you are transporting your antiques at all, you will want to make sure that you are taking every precaution to prevent breakages - especially for more fragile items.

 

1. Use protective packaging


This one kind of goes without saying. The easiest way to protect your antiques is to give them as much padding as possible!

Wrap everything in bubble wrap - handles and protruding parts especially.

The more layers the better. BUT REMEMBER - wrap them in acid-free tissue paper first!
 

2. Use warning labels


If you’re not the one transporting the goods, you should take extra care to let your courier know how valuable and fragile the items are.

If you’re able to have a conversation with them beforehand, that’s great, but you should also invest in some warning labels for any boxes that contain antiques.

“Fragile” “This Way Up” and “Top Load Only” stickers are all essential. If your antique is glass, a “glass with care” sticker is also a good idea - for the safety of your antique and your courier.
 

3. Just in case... get insurance!


Sometimes, no matter how many precautions you take, accidents happen.

Also, antiques are valuable! You wouldn’t be holding on to them if they weren’t.

Of course, some are more valuable than others. You wouldn’t bother insuring an old ceramic pot worth a couple of hundred dollars.

But a collection of antiques worth thousands, tens of thousands, or more? Of course you should get that insured!

The small cost of insurance will pale in comparison to the loss you will make if an accident happens and you’re not covered.


 

How to protect your antiques from humidity


Both low and high humidity can cause serious damage to antiques.

Low humidity can cause wooden objects to warp and bend out of shape.

On the other hand, high levels of humidity will cause mould - which will instantly slash the value of your collectibles.

Humidity is very difficult to manage - you can’t exactly control the environment.

However, one thing that you can do is regularly monitor the humidity of your storage room with a hygrometer.

 
Hygrometer


Humidity between 35 and 65 percent is ideal for storing antiques.

Outside this range, and you may want to consider moving them to a different room.

You can also minimise fluctuations in humidity by keeping them away from windows, air conditioners and fans.


 

Conclusion


Hopefully we were able to allay some fears about storing your antiques.
Make sure you grab your protective packaging materials here:
   
Did we miss any precautions? Let us know in the comments!