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Best Practices When Storing Collectibles and Heirlooms

Storing Collectibles and Heirlooms
When you plan to store your sensitive items and your valuables, you need to consider a few things first to ensure they stay protected and damage free. By following the steps we provide below, you can help preserve your collectibles and those precious heirlooms passed down through your family.


protect from uv and sunlightYou first need to consider how light will affect your valuables. It may seem simple or silly, but direct light, specifically sunlight/UV, can dry out the material and cause damage over time that cannot be easily fixed. Depending on what item you are storing, too much sunlight or UV light can speed up chemical reactions that occur naturally in the material. If there is no way to avoid light, you need to set a schedule to rotate the item regularly so the same area is not being hit by light too long. You also need to cover the valuables with fabric that is made to keep out UV rays. Doing this will slow down deterioration over time. And, if the item is small enough to fit inside something, you can put it into a box or inside the drawers of furniture you are storing for added protection.

In addition to covering them with specialized fabric, it is also a good idea to use dust covers. And, if you have those small items that can fit inside something, purchase our specially treated boxes which will help prevent mildew and keep them out of light as you open and close your storage door. You can purchase both of these items in our retail shop located inside the rental office.

Think of your patio or beach umbrella. Those are coated to protect you from harmful UV rays which can damage your skin. The same goes for your valuable wood antiques and other items where sunlight and even fluorescent lighting can cause damage.


extreme temperatureThe next important thing to consider is the temperature in which you are storing your items. Extreme swings in temperature can create warping, splitting and damage to antiques and wooden furniture.

We recommend using a temperature control unit when you have items that are sensitive to temperature swings. Using one of these units will keep your valuables in the range of 55-80 degrees year round, helping prevent possible damage.

Again, think of yourself. When it’s too hot you turn on the A/C and wear light clothing; when it’s too cold you crank up the heat and layer your clothing and use blankets. Your collectibles don’t have that luxury, so you need to take temperature into consideration when storing them for long periods of time.


The third thing to consider when storing valuables is the humidity level. Items can become very brittle if the air is too dry all the time. On the flipside, if the air is saturated and humid constantly, mildew can grow and wooden items can warp and crack with extreme shifts. You want to keep these collectibles at about 50% humidity consistently. Using dehumidifiers and humidifiers to help control the levels is a good idea. You can also purchase a hygrometer to monitor the levels of your storage space, or use products like DampRid to keep the moisture level down.

That’s right, back to you. When the air is too dry, your skin starts to itch and flake and you end up using tons of extra moisturizer to relieve the symptoms. And, when the air is too humid, your skin can get oily and break out more easily. Think of the coldest winter months when your nostrils stick together as you breathe in from the dry air and you want to scratch the skin right off your arm. Now think of the humid August days where you feel like you can cut the air with a knife it’s so thick and you feel like you’re back in high school with blemish after blemish.

Beyond the light, temperature and humidity, there are some other things you can do and avoid to keep your valuables in tip-top shape and free of damage.

Avoid Cleaning and General Handling.

natural patina on antiquesAvoid cleaning? That’s right! I wish this was true for my entire house! But really, cleaning and handling an antique or collectible is not recommended. Oils in your skin get on everything you touch, and they can cause deterioration of your valuables. If you must handle your priceless items, wear protective gloves to protect the finishes, and only handle or move them when necessary.

If you clean your collectibles too much or use the wrong cleaner, you can likely decrease the value! The natural patina (layer of age) is actually desired and will raise the value of most antiques. If you are not sure if your valuables are safe to clean, research them! If you have something very valuable, lean toward caution and avoid cleaning; if your item is only worth a couple bucks and you really want to clean it, go ahead because you aren’t getting rich by selling it.

If you think about old coins for a moment, a coin dealer can tell pretty quickly if the coin was cleaned just by looking at it with the naked eye or using a magnifying glass. Over time, coins often develop toning that increases their value. By cleaning them to make them “more shiny”, you are actually decreasing the value quite substantially. That “dirty” look isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The same idea goes for antiques and collectibles.

If you absolutely must clean your valuables, follow these tips and keep some of these items handy so you can safely clean without causing excessive damage:

• To remove dust, keep a brush with soft bristles nearby.

• If you have a dust issue and it is out of control and needs cleaned badly, use a can of moisture-free compressed air. Be sure to hold it far enough away to prevent damage from the high pressure of the contents. If you dust your items this way, use a shop vac to clean up afterwards because dust will be flying everywhere!

• Q-tips are a great tool for tiny spaces and tiny corners.

• If you need to clean more than dust, you can safely use distilled water on most items. All the chemical elements have been removed from distilled water which will leave no residue. Be sure to dry your item completely after wiping it down though.

• If the distilled water just doesn’t pack enough punch, you can use isopropyl alcohol on some items. Depending on the finish, this will work well. We recommend you test a small area out of sight, like inside a drawer or the underside, to see if it causes any damage before you start cleaning all over.

• Use acid-free archival paper to wrap fragile items, such as photographs and artwork that can naturally decay over time. NEVER use printed newsprint or you risk the ink transferring to your items causing irreversible damage. Be sure to wrap these fragile items individually to keep them safe and protected from chipping or rubbing.

• If you choose boxes or storage bins, make sure to get acid-free and airtight ones. It’s best to purchase boxes that are specially treated for storage, like the ones we sell in our retail shop, so the box doesn’t cause damage. Free boxes from the market may sound like a great idea, but they are not! They are only manufactured for temporary use and residue from what was shipped in them can cause problems for your valuables. Be sure to pack heaviest on the bottom and lightest on top as well.

• NEVER use plastic bags for storing items. These can collect moisture over time and damage items made with paper, cardboard, rag/linen, etc., which will start breaking down your valuables.

Now you have the tips and techniques to store your collectibles, heirlooms and antiques. The big question is do you have the room or conditions needed to store those items at home? If the answer is no, that’s where we can help! Stop in and speak with the property manager about your best options. Or if you already know what you need, you can rent a storage unit online any time!