Stabilizing Wet Textiles and Clothing

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Facts about Textiles[edit | edit source]

Textiles are composite objects. Different fibers will react differently to water.

  • Cellulose (cotton, linen, rayon, cedar bark, etc.)
  • Protein (wool, silk, horsehair, etc.)
  • Embellishments (leather, ivory, mother of pearl, metal, etc.)

What to expect when textiles get wet[edit | edit source]

  • Old textiles are fragile – and even more fragile when wet
  • Textiles are not self-supporting – and are heavy when wet
  • Colors may not be stable in water
  • Mold growth is possible

Drying textiles[edit | edit source]

  • Air dry
  • Freeze to buy time if necessary
  • Use carrying supports
  • Blot off excess water
  • Air dry in a single layer, or stuff out layers
  • Ensure good overall support during drying
  • Pad out shaped items (hats, shoes) to correct shape with absorbent materials
  • If dyes from one part of a textile are bleeding onto other parts, cover with a cloth to draw dye out and away

Salvage priorities[edit | edit source]

  • Fragile textiles
  • Composite constructions
  • Bleeding dyes
  • Textiles with water-soluble, ivory, baleen, bone or iron components