Summer storage of winter garments is a must in climates like the Midwest. Garments need to be stored in the off-season to keep them safe and often to free up needed closet space for the current season’s wardrobe. However, by not taking the proper precautions, you could be putting next year’s wardrobe into jeopardy. Keep in mind, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, especially since many of the different types of damage that can happen to garments while in storage are irreversible. Here are few things to keep in mind as you prep your items for summer storage that will help you avoid some potential problems, as well as solutions and prevention tips:
Possible Problem: Light Exposure
Many dyes fade if exposed to sunlight or artificial light. Fabric types play a definite role, and some dyes will tend to fade easier than others. For example, dyes on silk are very susceptible to damage by light exposure, and garments with bright colored dyes or dyes that are not fade-resistant will fade quickly in any area that is exposed to light.
Solution: Once the fading occurs, it cannot be corrected.
Prevention: To minimize the possibility of light fading, do not store items in direct light. For example, even light left on in a closet could fade the fabric. For hanging items, we suggest a breathable garment bag. For folded items, store them in a drawer or opaque container.
Possible Problem: Insect Damage
Wool and other fabrics can become damaged by insects such as clothes moths, carpet beetle larvae, cockroaches, beetles, silverfish, etc. Insects are usually attracted to fabrics stained with food, beverages, perspiration, and oils from the skin and hair. While feeding on a stain, the insects also cut or weaken the surface fibers. When the item is cleaned, the fibers are flushed away, and the damage becomes more apparent.
Solution: Unfortunately, there is no method of replacing the eaten fibers.
Prevention: To prevent moth and other insect infestations in stored garments, they should be stored in a cool, dry place. Storing items in the attic or basement is not recommended since the heat and humidity are usually not appropriate for fabrics. Moth and insect infestation bear a direct relationship to temperature increases in the storage area. Garments must be cleaned before storage to remove all substances that could cause stains, because insects feed on stains. Storing garments in cedar chests with lavender sachets or mothballs is also helpful, though the garments may require airing and washing to eliminate the mothball odor.
Possible Problem: 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.
Solution: There is no method for reversing this type of discoloration.
Prevention: Store clothing in a well ventilated area that is free from contact with exhaust gasses or heating fumes. Store the clothing in boxes to keep the gasses from making contact with the clothing.
Possible Problem: Sublimation of Dye
Some fabric dyes tend to change to a vapor and then transfer and condense onto articles in use or storage, forming stains, usually in the form of streaks. This type of staining usually develops when a dye sublimation occurs from a dark-colored acetate fabric. This discoloration slowly develops over a long period of contact with another article. The staining can also develop when items are not in direct contact with one another. Heat may cause this process to occur more easily if a garment is stored in a warm place.
Solution: In some cases, the staining can be removed by a professional cleaner.
Prevention: Store dark items separately and keep the fabrics away from heat. You can also use acid-free or acid-neutral tissue paper between folded garments to prevent contact from one garment to the other.
Possible Problem: Mysterious Yellow Stains
Stains from juices, beer, soft drinks, tea, coffee, or other foods or beverages that contain tannin or sugars can cause stains to develop during storage through oxidation. These stains were probably invisible when the garments were put away. However, once the stain has been left in the fabric, it oxidizes and becomes apparent as time passes. These stains may be tough to remove, especially from wool, silk, and nylon. The longer the stain is allowed to age, the more difficult it is to remove.
Solution: Professional cleaners may be able to remove the stains with specialized stain removal agents, or at least lighten the stain enough so that the garment can be returned to a wearable condition.
Prevention: Clean garments thoroughly before putting them into storage. Dry cleaning will help eliminate the possibility of having mysterious yellow stains show up on your clothing when you bring them out of storage. Be sure to point out all stains and potential stains when you check your garment in at the dry cleaner.
Possible Problem: Mildew
How it works: Mildew is a fungus that usually develops on solid garments or items that are stored in damp or humid conditions. Mildew appears as irregular purple, gray, black or yellow speckled stains. A damp, musty odor usually accompanies the stains.
Besides creating stains, mildew can even deteriorate cellulose fibers such as cotton, linen, and ramie. Mildew is also likely to grow on other natural fibers and materials such as wool, silk, and leather. Synthetics generally resist mildew, but if they are stored in a warm, damp place, they can fall victim to a mildew attack.
Solution: Mildew odor can be removed by washing or with an ozone treatment. Fashion Cleaners can use an ozone treatment on your clothes if they are affected by mildew odor. However, getting the stains out is a different story. You can try washing the garment with a mild bleach or all-fabric type bleach to lighten the staining, but only chlorine bleach will completely kill the mildew and prevent its regrowth. Unfortunately, chlorine bleach is not safe on many fabrics, especially silk and wool, and is likely to cause color loss.
Prevention: Only store clean, dry garments in well-ventilated, air-conditioned, or dehumidified areas. Any problems with drainage, waterproofing, or caulking could cause mildew problems when it comes time to bring your clothes back to the wardrobe.