our everyday life

How to Preserve Military Uniforms

by Samantha Volz

Few experiences can be so satisfying as connecting to your history. Genealogies and other historical research have become wonderful hobbies for people around the world, who have traced their heritage back generations and found their true connections in the past. One of the easiest ways to preserve a family's history is to take care of military uniforms that have passed through the generations. Whether your grandfather served in World War II or you have a cousin currently serving in Iraq, properly preserving a military uniform can ensure that the legacy of heroism that fuels armed forces around the world is carried on into the future.

Cover the soft brush attachment of your vacuum cleaner with a nylon stocking. This will limit the strength of the suction the vacuum can produce.

Vacuum the uniform thoroughly with your covered vacuum attachment. Go over all parts, inside and out, to remove dust or other buildup that can damage the material.

Pad the inside and outside of the uniform with acid-free paper. This special type of paper is most commonly used in photo albums and historical archives, and can be found in many arts and crafts stores. The paper will protect the uniform from dust and other potential harmful compounds while posing no risk to the garment.

Store the uniform in a storage case designed to handle uniforms and other delicate historical materials. These cases are often on sale at historical societies and museums. If possible, use a case in which the uniform can be completely stretched out, as opposed to folded.

Store the uniform in a cool, dry, dark place. Do not use an attic or basement--these areas tend to have high levels of moisture that, over time, can seep into the storage case and sometimes the uniform itself.

Items you will need
  • Vacuum cleaner
  • Nylon stocking
  • Acid free paper
  • Uniform storage container

Tips

  • If vacuuming alone does not get the uniform clean, have the garment professional dry cleaned or serviced by a professional preserver. Especially for older uniforms, certain types of cleaning or chemicals can damage the material, so always consult a professional before starting the process.
  • According to the Iowa State Historical Society, uniforms should be on display for only six months at a time, followed by six months of storage. Longer exposure to the elements and to sunlight can cause permanent damage and fading.

About the Author

Samantha Volz has been involved in journalistic and informative writing for over eight years. She holds a bachelor's degree in English literature from Lycoming College, Williamsport, Pennsylvania, with a minor in European history. In college she was editor-in-chief of the student newspaper and completed a professional internship with the "Williamsport Sun-Gazette," serving as a full-time reporter. She resides in Horsham, Pennsylvania.