Lighten Your Laundry Load
A few weeks back Museum-L was abuzz over washing white cotton gloves. Conservation experts posting comments seemed to form a consensus that museum professionals should wash gloves only with Orvus detergent and take care to use washing machines that have not been contaminated by any other products. One post admitted the difficulty of securing these conditions and consequently recommended disposable nitrile gloves in all handling instances where gloves are appropriate.
In our Collections Care Basics workshops we usually advise cotton gloves for handling metals and textiles and nitrile for most other materials. Rubber emits sulfides as it deteriorates, which in turn, tarnish silver. This was the reason cotton gloves were recommended for metals handling. Nitrile, however, is a synthetic rubber and does not pose the same threat to metals. Consequently, it’s probably fine to use nitrile with all materials. We buy nitrile gloves for our workshop participants from Uline and they are inexpensive. (200 for $22 + shipping) Especially for most of the smaller institutions in our C2C audience, without the luxury of collections-specific laundry equipment, nitrile gloves may be the best choice for protection during handling.
Another new-ish product that can reduce collections-care-related laundry is the dust bunny. This is an electrostatically charged dust rag made from tyvek, a cloth-like polyethylene (preservation-appropriate plastic). These rags can be washed and re-used several times, until their electrostatic charge disappears. The most convenient point about dust bunnies, as opposed to other types of dust rags, is that they can quickly and easily be hand washed in your office sink, ideally using either Orvus or plain Ivory soap. Their soft-textured tyvek fabric allows the rags to air dry rapidly.
Of course, cotton rags still prove useful in many other collections-care tasks, such as silver polishing, but these newer products are worth a try for convenience and lighter laundry loads.