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sticky rubber toys

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    • #134004
      Peter E. Durbin

      As we have been packing a large farm toy collection, we have found some pieces made completely of rubber that are sticky. Is there a substance that can be used to stop rubber deterioration? Any suggestions for conservation care of these old pieces?

    • #134005
      Elizabeth La Duc

      Thank you, Peter, for your interesting question.

      Artifacts made with modern materials such as rubber and plastic are some of the most complicated objects to preserve. These materials are often not made to last; and conservators and scientists are still studying the best ways to treat these objects.
      From your description, it seems like like the toys are suffering from plasticizer migration, when plasticizers added to plastic or rubber for flexibility start to move towards the surface, resulting in a sticky surface which can also trap dust and durt. Plasticizer migration is a symptom of plastic and rubber degradation.

      Unfortunately, plastic and rubber degradation is irreversible, and there are very few treatment options for degraded objects. The good news is that the degradation can be slowed by proper storage and handling. First, it’s important to identify what plastics or rubber you have in your collection, as different material types have different needs, and certain materials such as cellulose nitrate and cellulose acetate should be “quarantined.” Then you need to implement better storage. With a few exceptions, modern materials last longest in cold, dark, dust-free, and dry environments with adequate air flow. Cold storage, such as a refrigerated storage room, might be your best option.

      Always handle the objects with latex or nitrile gloves. Vacuuming the objects to remove loose dust is fine, but do not try to clean them with liquids.

      I strongly recommend you consult a conservator or other collections care specialist who is familiar with modern materials. In the meantime, I suggest you get the following books for an overview of the subject: Plastics: Collecting and Conserving by Anita Quye and Colin Williamson and Conservation of Plastics by Yvonne Shashoua.

      Also, please look at the following resources:
      A C2CC video recording on the care of plastics:
      Canadian Conservation Insitute Note:
      NPS Conserve O’ Gram:
      Good luck,

    • #134006
      Sharlane Gubkin

      The info and references you sent seem very good!

    • #134007
      Sharlane Gubkin

    • #134008
      Ramona Duncan-Huse

      There happens to be a book titled Conservation of Plastics by Yvonne Shashoua as well, the index has a section on interventive treatments which may help point them to a conservator as well.

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