Preparation and Maintenance
Protect fabric items from contact with the natural oils in cedar by lining the chest with a white bed sheet that is free of any detergent, bleach or softener residue or line the inside of the chest with acid-free white tissue paper. All fabric items should be laundered and dried and free of starch, softeners or bleaches before being stored. Arrange items within the chest so the heaviest articles are on the bottom and the most delicate items are on top. Store the cedar chest in a cool, dry location away from humidity or fumes. For example, avoid storing the chest in basements or garages. Unpack the chest annually to air the contents and the internal chest.
Fold fabric items as loosely as possible, avoiding sharp creases. Rolling fabric garments will decrease crisp crease lines that can turn into tears after a number of years, as the fabric fibers break down along the crease line. During the annual unpacking and airing out of the cedar chest's contents, refold the items differently than before to shift any crease lines to another area of the item.
Acid-Free Tissue Paper
Wood, papers and plastics emit gases and oils that can damage items packed in a cedar chest. Acid-free tissue paper is specially formulated paper that does not produce gases or acids that will damage belongings. Acid-free papers have a neutral pH level and will not chemically react with other objects. Place layers of acid-free tissue paper between folded fabric items to reduce the likelihood of the object being stained by cedar oils. Stuff acid-free tissue paper into bodices, sleeves, bonnets, hats or any other object that doesn't lay flat. Wrap all items in a layer of acid-free tissue paper before packing it into the cedar chest.
Things to Avoid
Plastics, such as dry cleaner bags and zipper bags, and paper bags, such as grocery bags or kraft paper, produce acidic gases and absorb or retain moisture. Plastic retains moisture and humidity within the bag or container, which causes the discoloration of fabrics and paper. Retention of moisture can also lead to mildew. Plastic is made from petroleum products; as it ages and deteriorates, it produces chemical vapors that will yellow and erode fabric. Avoid packing items into the cedar chest that contain metal paper clips, staples, straight pins and safety pins. Metal breaks down over time and will leave black, green or rust stains on objects.
Use of Desiccants and Sachets
Placing acid-free paper packages of desiccants within a cedar chest is fine as long as the desiccants do not make contact with the objects. Desiccants absorb moisture and can reduce humidity levels within closed spaces such as a cedar chest. Many people prefer to pack lavender or other natural sachets among their items in cedar chests. Sachets should not be allowed to make contact with items unless the objects are wrapped in acid-free papers for protection.