Buffered vs Unbuffered
Not sure if you should be choosing a buffered or an unbuffered option for long-term storage of your valuable possessions? Read our guide below to help choose the best storage option.
Unbuffered materials are pH neutral and are preferred when storing materials that by nature have a more acidic composition. These materials are predominantly animal (protein) derived ones like wool, silk, leather, fur, etc but also include some photographs that include natural gelatin sizing. Using buffered tissues on these materials may neutralize these materials to their own detriment and unbuffered materials are strongly recommended.
Buffered materials have an alkaline, or basic, composition meaning they have a pH above neutral (7+). This is typically achieved by adding a buffering agent like calcium carbonate.
Instances when a buffered surface would be preferable are when storing natural fiber based materials like cotton, paper or textiles, in addition to many synthetic materials. The alkaline properties of the tissues work to neutralize any acidity that comes in contact with the material, and thus increase its longevity.
Always use caution when using buffered materials and make sure that your stored materials have not been treated with other chemicals or processes, like natural gelatin sizings on photographs.
Not sure what your object is made from? We typically recommend that you air on the side of caution and choose an unbuffered material.
So, in answer to the time old question:
“How do I preserve my mother’s wedding gown and heirloom textiles?”
The answer lies in the material:
Natural plant derived fibers and some synthetics → Buffered
Animal derived fibers and some colored photographs → Unbuffered