by Jen Nason and Camille Myers Breeze
Fragile and historic textiles pose many challenges to textile conservators, especially when their aim is to reduce wrinkles or to re-hydrate dry and brittle fibers to allow for safer handling. However, all of this can be accomplished using Gore-Tex (Polytetrafluoro-ethylene, or PTFE).
The pores in Gore-tex membrane are large enough for water vapor to pass through but too small for water droplets, which gives it the “breathability” desired in clothing and shoes. This low-risk, high-tech humidification system introduces cool water vapor into thirsty textile fibers without the use of heat or pressure, and requires no electricity.
Our newest MTS Handout is on the Gore-Tex Humidification System. It requires few supplies but you must have a clean, flat surface to work on.To make it easier to learn this technique, we have made a short video to demonstrate using the Gore-Tex system.
You can adjust the variables—such as time, moisture, whether the Gore-tex is membrane-up or down, and placement of blotters—to suit each situation. Never leave a textile in a Gore-Tex chamber unattended, as over-wetting can occur, causing dye bleed or fiber weakening.
Gore-Tex humidification is ideal for historic textiles that can not stand the pressure and high-temperature of ironing or steaming. Painted textiles are particularly suited to Gore-Tex humidification, though the paint layer has been known to become tacky. Because the textile is not pressed or rubbed, the paint can be allowed to dry safely as the textile dries.
Gore-Tex humidification can provide excellent visual results, or sometimes just a modest improvement. In either case, a textile can benefit greatly from being rehydrated and realigned, which leaves it in a better state of preservation.