I've just bought a very nice cedar-lined chest for the bedroom. The card
that came with it warned against putting "printed material" inside.
Is this something to do with a fire hazard, or is there another reason for
the warning. I was thinking about storing photographs (among other things)
There will be some outgassing of aromatics in cedar. It can damage paper
and photos. Cedar dispels insects and that is why it is used for chests and
closets to store material, especially wool, so that same stuff will be
floating around your photo paper and be absorbed.
I don't think "printed material" fits photographs. I also don't thing that
the offgassing from the cedar would hurt any paper (except make them smell
like cedar). The problem that they may be warning you about is the ink on
printed paper. Many oil based inks dry slowly, the same way that oil based
paints dry, they absorb oxygen and the oils harden. During this setting
time, the ink may transfer from the paper surface to the unfinished cedar
(which is full of the oil that gives it the characteristic smell), leaving
marks on the cedar that is absorbed into the surface. It would be very
difficult to remove this ink stain.
You may want to seal any photographs into ZipLock bags to keep the photo
chemical residues from harming any other materials you place in the chest.
It does not matter what you "think", what matters is the reality of the
situation Ask any librarian about the deterioration of books printed on
acid paper, stored improperly, contaminated by poor envirnment. Please take
the time to learn about the compostion of photo paper, the coatings, the
silver, the colred dyes and other things that may be present in a simple
photgraph, be it black and white or color.
> The problem that they may be warning you about is the ink on
Most inks today are soy based and dry fast. Of course, old manuscripts may
be oil based, old letters may be dye based inks or vegetable coloring.
The Ziploc bags may also ruin the photos. I have a darkroom and I've done
some serious photography. Please don't suggest anything you don't know for
FACT. Terms like "I think" or "it may" don't hold water to the real facts of
archived materials. Your suggestion could wipe out a family history,
memories from the old country, or valuable prints. It won't happen in a
week but it WILL happen.
I may sound a bit harsh, but your post is so far off it can cause serious
problems for a family in a few years when all the memories and history are
You are wrong on many fronts and making a case out of what I did not say.
First of all, I have been in the printing business and photo business for 40
years, I know much about papers, and ink. The term "printed material" is a
common term for papers that are printed on a printing press, and not used to
refer to photographic prints.
Litho and letterpress inks are oil base, whether they use linseed oil, soy
oil or other drying oils, they still dry slowly, especially newsprint inks
which are cheaply produced and the final drying can take weeks or months if
ever. A major problem with printers is when inks don't set quickly enough to
prevent smudging or transfer with post-press handling, the final drying is
slow, which means the inks can transfer to porous surfaces such as cedar.
Whether the paper is acid based or non-acid is not involved in this
discussion, only you brought it up. Yes, conditions do affect archival
storage. But this is a cedar lined box, the conditions that the box is
stored in will have a bigger affect on the life of the "printed material"
than the box itself.
Plastic bags may damage photographs, yes, so will many things. However, many
sheet papers and films are packed in plastic bags. Processed film negatives
are returned in plastic holders, the prints are in plastic lined envelopes.
Probably the greatest cause of photos to loose their image or to go dark is
improper processing. Many photo prints and negatives are processed so
quickly by auto-replenishing equipment that often the chemicals are
partially spent if the operator does not check on a regular basis. The wash
water is not exchanged frequently enough for the amount of material
processed so that the fixer is not removed. Fixer residue is the cause of
many photo materials deteriorating and can cause other non-photo items to
start deteriorating. Yes, I have bought, operated and managed large film
There is much for you to learn before you can tell me that I don't know
anything. I prefaced my statements with "I think" because there are far too
many factors involved to present every possible condition, rather than the
general enquiry made by the original poster. I tried to make a general
answer that would be relatively easy to understand.
PS: Do you know what "microfilm pox" is, and what causes it?
I'm not sure your point here. The shelf life of unprocessed photographic
papers is measured in months, not decades, the duration of archival storage
is measured in decades or centuries. The fact that a plastic carefully
selected by the manufacturer of the paper, which manufacturer is generally
a chemical house of some repute in its own right, is safe for the brief
period of time between manufacture and expiration of the paper does not
mean that that same plastic is suitable for archival storage.
As for negatives being returned in plastic holders, I'm not sure what that
proves other than that plastic holders are cheap and convenient for the
Lose prematurely maybe. But archivally speaking it takes special processing
to achieve real permanence.
Are you talking about an error of processing or are you talking about
something that occurs in properly processed film stored for long periods of
Regardless, the fact that you might have picked up such a piece of trivia
does not demonstrate that you have general expertise.
Reply to jclarke at ae tee tee global dot net
This is the last I will say.
The original poster asked about a simple message that came in a cedar chest.
It recommended not storing printed material in the chest. Where did he ask
about archival storage of photographs? A cedar chest is probably acceptable
but not the best storage for woollens, to avoid moths, as the story goes. It
is not the best storage for archival prints, paper records nor photographic
media, so all our debating is moot. Whether the poster can put printed
material (which is ink on paper) is up to him. The cedar chest is not going
to be worse than many other methods of storage (used cardboard carton!) used
by people, but is not recommended by anyone as the best for long permanent
I'm even more astonished after reading this post than I was yesterday. You,
of all people, should know better than to make the recommendations you did
make. You prefaced the statements with "I think", but I don't think you did
Some ( but not all) plastics are OK with film. Unless you know the
specifics, it is better not to say you "think" it is OK. You make good
point that the photos may not be in the best condition due to the processing
methods, but that does not eliminate the need for care, only enhances it.
Instead of 50 years, sloppy processing may cut it to 25, but why do
something that will cut it to 10 years? Or less.
A general answer that is easy to understand would be, "Don't do it or you
can get damage over time."
It will hurt an awful lot of paper, Particularly coated papers, such
as the outer jackets of paperbacks.
That's a terrible idea. Ziploc (and other) bags are full of
plasticisiers, which are doom and disaster for some printed materials
and definitely for photographs.
Photographs are best stored with paper as an interleaf. Inside a
close-fitting cardboard box is the best way though - unless you're
handling an album, or you're looking for exceptional storage, then an
interleaf is excessive (but not harmful).
BTW - Be careful with "acid free" papers and photographs. Most "acid
free" archival paper isn;t just free of acid, it's also buffered with
a base to stop it becoming acid in the future. This is a good thing
for most materials, but for colour photographs an excess of a base is
nearly as bad as an excess of acid. Use an _unbuffered_ acid free
Should you want more, one of the most accessible simple guides to
archival storage is at:
Thanks for all your replies. Duelling at twenty paces with powerwashers,
anyone? Good job I didn't ask something REALLY controversial.
While I was on the internet my wife made the question irrelevant anyway. The
chest is now nicely packed with linen. :-)
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