Acid Free mats damage artwork, diplomas, etc. due to their chemical makeup

stained diplomaOver the years, I have stressed the damage “acid free” mats can do to your artwork, diplomas, historical memorabilia, etc. over a period of time. You may wonder why they are called “Acid Free”. I wonder as well. Actually, without going into Einstein discussions here, simply put, these mats are made of wood pulp (buffered) that has been chemically treated to a certain neutral pH. The problem is that the matting being acidic by nature, will react with any humidity, lighting, temperature fluctuations and break down. Causing staining on items, such as the diploma pictured. And, no, this shot was not exaggerated. This diploma was framed over 10 years ago and kept in a very clean office environment.

This is why, if you ever take a frame apart (and who really does that?) and remove the matting (unless some inept framer glued it down to the backing) you may see a mat stain around the perimeter of the artwork or diploma. This is called a mat burn. Over the years, I have seen this on valuable artwork, diplomas, historical autographs, antique prints and maps. You name it. Once this damage is done, it is difficult and expensive to get a paper conservator to restore it. Being a framer of rare, historical and personal items, I have seen rare Currier & Ives prints damaged, letters written and signed by George Washington stained. This does not have to happen.

Think 100% Museum Grade cotton rag matting. By the name, these mats are made of cotton cellulose which has a very long life as it is durable and renewable. No trees are used to make rag mats. Most of the colonial writing papers, currency and book leafs around today were made of cotton rag. This is why they have lasted many hundreds of years. Rag Mats are even used by curators, museums, and other repositories contain important works of art on paper. And, framing with these matboards should not be expensive at all. As such, if you are going to spend money framing, frame it once. After all, what would you rather have touching your item, a piece of treated wood or pure cotton?

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