Baskets are a delightful decoration for your home decor and can make quite a dramatic statement about your taste. Enjoy your collection for many years and extend the useful life of your baskets by following these simple basket care tips and hints. Also see the article “How-to Care for Wicker Furniture.”
Copyright 2003 by The Wicker Woman/Cathryn Peters
1). KEEP BASKETS OUT OF SUNLIGHT AND AWAY FROM HEAT SOURCES Keep all baskets away from heat sources such as fireplaces, wood stoves, gas stoves, heat registers and radiators, and/or sunlight. The intense heat and ultraviolet rays of the sun may cause fading and bleaching in addition to drying them out prematurely, making them brittle.
2). KEEP BASKETS AWAY FROM GREASE Keep baskets away from the kitchen stove, wood burning stove, or fireplace area where they might become dirty with soot, smoke and grease, making them hard to care for and clean.
3). MAINTAIN INTENDED USE FOR BASKETS Don’t cross contaminate your baskets used for food storage and baskets used to hold potpourri, perfumed oils, or soaps. Keep baskets used for food separate from those used for other purposes. For baskets that hold food, be sure to line them with a plastic liner to protect the baskets, or line with a cloth napkin or paper towel to absorb any grease or oil that might be in the food.
4). HANDLE BASKETS CAREFULLY It’s best to handle your baskets with clean hands; free of lotion, oil or grease of any kind. Body oils can damage the baskets as can high humidity, by causing stains, mold and mildew. Also pick up baskets by supporting the bottom, especially if it has any contents inside and wear latex or cotton gloves when you handle them.
5). CLEANING YOUR BASKET A feather duster or a clean, dry natural bristle paintbrush is the best way to remove dust from a basket. Or use the upholstery attachment of your vacuum cleaner with a nylon stocking placed over the end. For deep cleaning, dampen a white 100% cotton cloth (cotton baby diapers work well), very slightly with clean cold water and blot gently; then let basket air dry completely. Soaking a basket in water or giving it a thorough “shower” can result in swelling of the fibers, and can contribute to color fading and loss of patina (a valuable asset for antique collectors).
6). ROTATE YOUR COLLECTION-KEEP IT CIRCULATING Move your collection of baskets around your room and house so that each basket gets a change in humidity and heat, different exposure to sunlight or artificial light, and changing exposure to objects they might come in contact with, which might be deteriorating factors.
7). MAINTAIN A CONSTANT HUMIDITY AND TEMPERATURE LEVEL We all know how temperatures and humidity can fluctuate in our homes, but it can be very detrimental to your basketry collection. The use of air-conditioners and dehumidifiers for hot, humid conditions discourages mold and mildew growth and insect activity. Mold and mildew are very difficult to remove properly and can severely damage your basket’s condition, quality and value.
8). HANG OR MOUNT BASKETS PROPERLY If your basket is to be hung on the wall, use wall hangers appropriate to the weight of the basket and its embellishments. Incorrect mounting devices may distort your basket in an undesirable way.
9). KEEP BASKETS OUT OF HARMS WAY Fragile baskets should be kept up high, away from pets and young children where they could easily get bumped or broken. Antler baskets and ones made with sharp projections can hurt children too, so keep them on a level surface, away from curious children and pets. Displaying your baskets in glass or acrylic cases or domes is a good protective measure, and also keeps dust away.
10). PACKING AND SHIPPING YOUR BASKETS First of all, make sure the boxes and wrapping materials are clean and free of rodents or insects. Double boxing of the basket is the best and safest way to pack a basket. Make sure basket is completely dry and if stained, the stain is dry and fume free.
As an added protection again loss during shipping, always include the name, address and phone number of the basketmaker or owner and the recipient on a 3 x 5 card, placed inside the basket and another card at the top of the packing materials before sealing each box.
Type address information on a packing label or print the information legibly in block letters, and attach to top of box. It’s a good idea to pack baskets in boxes within another box for best stability and protection. Begin by carefully wrapping the basket in several layers of archival tissue paper and bubble wrap, placed inside a plastic bag.
Then place the wrapped basket in the center of a new cardboard shipping box, allowing at least four inches in every direction to place Styrofoam peanuts (prepacked in individual plastic bags), newspaper or other packing materials. Place this box in a second box that is at least four inches larger in each direction, and fill again with packing materials. To assure ease of shipping, make sure there are no other writings, advertising or bar codes on the box, other than your shipping label, and that it is legible.
11). LONG TERM STORAGE For best results, follow the directions above and don’t allow heavy objects to rest on top of the storage boxes. Damage most often occurs when baskets are stored for extended periods of time in attics, basements, or garages, where heavy objects might be placed on the boxes and the temperature fluctuates dramatically. The boxed baskets should be kept in a humidity and temperature controlled area. If you are no longer using and enjoying your basket collection you might consider sharing it with others. You could sell the collection, exhibit it through a museum or gallery or donate your baskets individually to deserving friends, family or even a basket guild, perhaps.
12). REPAIRING DAMAGED BASKETS Basketry repair and restoration is extremely difficult, because of the brittle nature of the basket, material matching problem (sometimes it’s no longer available), and color matching difficulties, to say nothing of destroying antique value if repaired badly. If your basket has been damaged in some way, minimize further damage by taking it out of circulation, don’t use it and keep it in a safe place until you can locate a basket repair expert or conservator. Don’t use any kind of masking tape, duct tape or any sort of adhesive as a stop-gap measure, because that may add to more broken pieces during the removal process.
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