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Storing Garments for the Off-Season
by Brad Johnson

Most areas of the country have changing seasons and peopleapostrophes wardrobes change according to the weather and temperature. This means that, for an extended part of each year, groups of garments must be put away until their season arrives. Improper storage of your off-season wardrobe, though, can cause irreparable damage. Following are some typical problems you may encounter, and advice on preventing the damage.

Yellow Stains: Stains that are invisible when they occur, left on a garment during storage, will oxidize with age and appear as yellow, orange, or even brown. Juices, soft drinks, beer, white wine, tea or coffee, and other beverages or foods containing sugars can cause stains to develop during storage. The longer the stain is allowed to age, the more difficult it will be to remove. Natural fibers, like cotton, wool, and silk, tend to retain stains more tenaciously, too. Prevention is the best "cure". When you get a stain, take the garment to your cleaner as soon as possible, and point out and identify the stained area. Your cleaner has special stain removal agents that may remove, or at least minimize, the stain.

Mildew: Mildew will develop on garments that are stored in damp or humid conditions. It has a musty odor and appears as black, grey, purple, or yellow specks with an irregular pattern. Mildew not only stains, it actually deteriorates the fibers of your garments, especially natural fibers such as cotton, linen, wool, silk, and leather. Once established, mildew growth can only be completely stopped by washing in chlorine bleach. Unfortunately, this is not safe on many fabrics and can remove color. The odor associated with mildew can be removed using an ozone treatment. Ask your cleaner if they have this process or if they know of someone locally who does ozone treatments. To prevent mildew, store your clean, dry garments in a well-ventilated, climate controlled, dehumidified area. Some cleaners offer long-term storage if space is an issue or if your have drainage or waterproofing problems at home.

Insect Damage: When stains are left on garments, especially food, beverage, perspiration, and body oils, insects like clothes moths, carpet beetle larvae, and silverfish are attracted to the stain. Consequently, their efforts to eat the staining material will cause damage to the garmentapostrophes fibers. Sometimes, a hole is apparent immediately; sometimes damaged fibers are flushed away during a subsequent cleaning, causing the hole to appear. There is no way to repair this type damage, but you can help prevent it by having your garments cleaned before storing them in a cool, dry place. Cedar chests and moth balls are effective, too. While there is an odor associated with cedar and moth balls, it can be eliminated by airing out or washing.

Light Fading: Many dyes are sensitive to prolonged exposure to sunlight, and even to a light left on in a closet. Silks are especially susceptible, and fading can occur in a relatively short time. Light fading is typically evident on only one side of the fabric, and also only where an edge is exposed to the light source. Fading cannot be corrected, so do not store items in direct sunlight, and remember to turn off closet lights.

Fume Fading: Fume fading appears much like light fading, except it appears as a color change, rather than simply a lightening of the original color. Fume fading is caused by oxides of nitrogen in the atmosphere. These are by-products of combustion such as automobile and industrial exhausts, heating fuels, and so on. Fume fading appears as a pink or red hue and will especially occur on acetate fabrics of green or blue. There is no way to reverse the effects of fume fading. Storing garments in a well-ventilated area away from sources of exhaust gases, such as chimneys, is the best way to prevent damage.

Dye Sublimation: This type of damage is comparable to a dye transfer or dye bleeding, but occurs when certain dyes vaporize and are carried to other garments through direct contact or by air currents. This streak-like staining develops slowly over longer time periods, and can be accelerated by heat. The dye sublimation usually occurs from a dark-colored acetate and is more noticeable on lighter-colored garments. Sometimes, a good cleaner may be able to remove this type staining. Storing dark garments separately from light garments helps to prevent the occurrence of this type damage.

About the Author:

Brad Johnson owns Martinizing Dry Cleaning, an eco-friendly dry cleaning business based in Arvada and Thornton, CO. For more information visit: