How to care for textiles and kākahu (Māori cloaks) Tiakitanga o te Kahu Āku

Learn how to preserve fabric and other textiles.

Caring for textiles

Prolong the life of your treasured textiles and clothing by storing and treating them appropriately. This resource guide, from National Services Te Paerangi, shows you how.

Caring for Textiles and Clothing - He Rauemi Resource Guide (1.19 MB)

For advice on caring for dresses visit The Australian Dress Register.


Textiles are particularly vulnerable to damage and deterioration. If in doubt, ask a professional conservator.

  • Handle textiles as little as possible.

  • Wear clean cotton or disposable gloves to protect textiles from grease, dirt, perspiration, and natural acids.

  • Support objects carefully, evenly distributing their weight.

  • Label storage containers clearly to reduce the frequency of handling.


  • Store textiles in total darkness. Light (including from bulbs) fades and damages material over time.

  • Use acid-free boxes to store your textiles. Don’t store in plastic – it can trap moisture and promote mould growth.

  • Store items flat when possible, or rolled round a covered tube, face-down. If you have to fold textiles, do so carefully and re-fold them once a year.

  • Keep the temperature and humidity levels stable. Changes in the environment can cause expansion and contraction, which can break fibres. Excess moisture can allow moulds and mildew to grow, and dyes to bleed. Excess dryness can make textiles brittle. Ideally, store at 12–18°C and 50–55% relative humidity.

  • Keep storage areas clean, tidy, and well ventilated. Vacuum and dust regularly.


Wet cleaning or washing can have irreversible results. If in doubt, ask a professional conservator.

  • If you are confident it will not cause harm, use a vacuum on a gentle setting with a piece of monofilament screen or nylon between the hose and the material.

Māori textiles

Taonga made of Māori textiles are usually made from plant material, often harakeke, or animal material such as wool, feathers, or hair. Like other textiles, their preservation requires careful attention. This guide, from National Services Te Paerangi, shows you how to store and treat Māori textiles.

Caring for Māori Textiles - He Rauemi Resource Guide (3.51 MB)

Case studies

See how Te Papa’s conservators treated these different materials:

Samoan titi (dance skirt)
Wedding dress, 1920
Kaitaka paepaeroa (cloak)
Stabilising black dyed fibres

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