Caring for and Storing a Military Uniform

November 8, 2017

The military uniforms of our servicemen and women deserve respect.  Preserving uniforms for future generations is easily done. The key is to protect them from the elements especially light and moisture. With proper handling, the uniforms should last for hundreds of years.

The uniform and support pieces should be as clean as possible before storing.

As much as possible, military uniforms should be stored flat in an appropriately-sized container. You should use boxes sold for the archival storage of textiles. These are made of acid-free paper and are safe to use. Buy the largest size needed because the fewer folds in the uniform, the longer it will last.  You can see our selection here.

Military Uniforms over time - Wiki Commons

If space is a problem, or the uniform is worn periodically, then a muslin garment bag might be a better choice. 

Never store a uniform in the plastic bag furnished by a dry cleaner.  These plastic bags can off-gas chemicals that can weaken fabrics over time.  They are almost always clear or lightly colored, allowing light to come through.

You will need acid-free tissue paper for stuffing and padding the uniform.  Our kits all come with archival tissue paper. It must be both acid and lignin free.  The tissue will be used to soften folds, to wrap small pieces, and to stuff hats so that they retain their shape.

Before you begin, wash and dry your hands, natural oils from your hand, or lotions can be harmful to fabrics over time. For best results, use cotton gloves. Begin by lightly stuffing hats and uniform coat shoulders with the acid-free tissue paper to help them hold their shape. Then, lay the garment onto a layer of tissue. Place a layer of tissue between each garment within the box. Wrap each small item with tissue. Be sure that there is tissue cushioning each fold. This will prevent heavy creasing. Place item in storage box. 

Repeat steps with each individual item. Do not over stuff the storage box. You may want to store heavier items in a smaller individual boxes.

Any metal items, including buttons, should be removed from garments and stored separately. Store any medals, ribbons, or other non-fabric items in another box or container.  The metal could rust or corrode and cause staining to fabrics. Wool fabric contains sulfur which actually attacks the metal.  You can buy small muslin cotton bags for this purpose.

Choose a dark, cool, dry space for storage. Avoid extreme temperatures areas like attics, basements and garages. The ideal spot is an interior space away from exterior walls and pipes that might burst and off the floor away from pets.

Inspect the military treasures at least once per year. Look for any stains that may appear and treat them promptly. You'll have better success the sooner the stains are caught. With clean hands, fold items slightly differently with the tissue to minimize creases and stress to fabric.

Picture from wikimedia commons


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