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Bear collectors with large "hugs" often rotate their displays by season, by holiday, or simply by their own whims. Others purchase multiples of the same bear: one for their personal collection and one for investment or for a relative who is currently too young to receive it.
Whatever the reason, many face the task of putting some of their treasured Teddy bears away for safekeeping. To that end, The Teddy Baron offers the following tips on Where to Store Your Bears, How to Store Your Bears, and While Your Bears Are in Storage.
Where to Store Your Bears
When your bears can't be with you, they need a safe place to hibernate. How you store them is important but not as important as where you store them.
Bears ideally should be placed in a dry, ventilated, low-light environment. Options include shelves in an insulated garage, an unused closet (yeah, right), a dry basement, or even an attic in moderate climates. Wherever you select, please consider the following:
- Sunlight can fade and eventually damage a Teddy bear's fur and accessories within just a few hours, so please don't display or store your bears in direct sunlight.
- Cold and damp locations are also a Teddy bear "no-no." Damp environments encourage mold growth, which could permanently damage your bears inside and out. Look for a storage area that is dry, somewhat ventilated, and kept at a reasonable temperature.
- The long pile, stuffing, and joints of plush bears are irresistible to rodents and to numerous insects such as carpet beetles, moths, and fleas. Storing your bears in sturdy plastic containers with tight-fitting lids will help protect them, but you also will want to check them every month or so they are in storage.
How to Store Your Bears
While it may be tempting to simply stow your bear in his or her original box, a little extra effort will offer much greater protection for your hibernating friend:
- Purchase some old or inexpensive cotton sheets, preferably made of 100 percent cotton. Yard sales, estate sales, thrift shops, and perhaps your or a friend's linen closet are great sources.
- Wash the sheets with a mild laundry detergent, and then rinse them in distilled water or rain water if desired. The purer water will help remove any residue from the detergent and any mineral deposits from hard water.
- When the sheets are clean and dry, cut them into strips across the width of the sheet. The width of the strips will be determined by the size of the bears to be stored. For smaller bears, each strip may be cut into two or more shorter strips. A general rule is to have enough length to loosely wrap the bear at least twice.
- Remove the bear from its box or plastic bag if necessary. A plastic bag will not allow the bear's fibers to breathe and may encourage musty odors, mold, or other damage.
- Loosely wrap the bear in a strip of cotton sheet.
- If sheets are not available or you need to store your bears immediately acid-free tissue paper is another option.
- If the original box is available, return the bear to its box.
- Place the wrapped bear (and its box, if applicable) inside an adequately sized plastic container with a tight-fitting lid such as a Rubbermaid. Several wrapped bears may be stored together.
- To prevent mild moisture problems, add a few silica packets to the container. Be sure the packet is not touching a bear directly.
- If moths are a concern, add a small lavender sachet, some cedar shavings, or a few mothballs to each box just be sure they aren't directly touching a bear.
- Seal the container and store it in a dry, ventilated, low-light environment. (Please read "Where to Store Your Bears" above for ideas.)
- Check the bears every month or so to make sure they are free of musty odors, moisture, and insects.
While Your Bears Are in Storage…
Checking on your bears every month or so while they are in storage will help ensure they are free of odors, moisture, and insects or help you notice the problem in its early stages and hopefully prevent serious damage. Some things to look for include:
Even slight condensation around or worse, inside the storage container indicates the area is too damp and cold for bear storage. Damp conditions encourage mold growth, which can permanently damage the bears' stuffing, fur, and embroidered features. Dampness also will lead to musty-smelling bears and perhaps rust within the bear if he contains metal components.
The materials and construction of plush bears are irresistible to a variety of insects including carpet beetles, moths, and fleas. While on display and while in storage, it is crucial that you inspect your bears for insects on a regular basis.
Carpet beetles seem to prefer animal hair such as mohair, wool, and real fur. A paper-like casing is the calling card of carpet beetles.
Adult moths don't usually feed on fabrics, but their larvae do. They lay their eggs in thin sheets of silky webbing, which is often left behind as a sign of their presence. Small holes in the bear's fur or paw pads could indicate moths or wood worms if the bear is filled with excelsior.
Prevention is definitely the key but if the unthinkable happens, you might be able to save your infected bear by:
- Freezing the pests by sealing your bear in plastic bag and placing him in the freezer overnight. Remove the bear from the freezer and the plastic bag to defrost (leaving him in the bag may cause water to condense on his fur).
- Fumigating the bear by placing him in a plastic bag with mothballs or flea powder, sealing the bag, and allowing him to sit overnight. You may want to follow this treatment with one of our odor removal recommendations in the plush cleaning section.
- Seeking the professional help of a reputable Teddy bear restorer. Offer as much information as you can about the problem and be sure they are aware it is likely insect-related. They may be able to treat your bear for insects as well as repair any damage.
Much like insects, rodents can't resist the warm, soft nest a plush bear offers and will cause similar damage as they "enjoy" the bears. Droppings around the storage containers are a dead giveaway. Consider placing poisoned bait or traps in the area and check them every one to two days until the problem has been addressed.
If you decide to hire a professional exterminator, remove your bears from the area before the work begins and then allow the area to ventilate completely before returning them. (When the exterminator says it will be safe for you and your pets, it will be safe for your bears.)
While you're checking your bears for moisture and insects, be sure to give each one a good sniff. Musty odors are a good indication that moisture is a potential problem. Other unpleasant odors may signal rodent problems. Regardless of the cause, unexpected odors should be investigated immediately.
As long as your bears are out, examine each bear and their accessories other visible damage:
- Check the bear's fur and paw pads for discoloration. If color has bled from one area to another, the bear may be damp. Allow the bear to air-dry in a warmer part of the house, and check for signs of a moisture problem in and around the storage container.
- If a small area of fur or a paw pad is an unusual color, perhaps it is reacting with any insect repellant you placed in the container. Rearrange the repellant to make sure it is not directly touching the bears or their accessories.
- Gently turn each jointed limb and the head. If they don't turn as smoothly as they did prior to storage, the joints may have swollen with excess moisture or have begun to rust. Consider storing the bear in a drier, warmer location if this is a possibility.
- Look for loose joints and other not-quite-right characteristics, which could indicate the bear was stored improperly or in an awkward pose. Rearrange the bear so that he has adequate support, especially if he is a vintage or otherwise fragile bruin.
After fully inspecting your bears, return them to their wrappings and double-check that the containers are tightly sealed.
Periodic examinations may take a little extra time, but they are an invaluable way to make sure your bears are safe and secure while they await their turn in your future sales, in your displays, or in your arms!