Why “Acid Free” Mat Boards Should Never Be Used In Framing

Diploma Framing

Stain from wood pulp mat boards sold by college stores


Document previously framed with "acid free'" matting

Document previously framed with “acid free'” matting, known as a mat burn around the art or document

In my over 25 years of taking this business seriously, it bothers me when I see framing shops, both small and the big box outfits, tout “acid free mats” or “museum quality framing” just to draw people in without actually knowing what materials or techniques need to be applied to properly preserve and present people’s important artwork and keepsakes.  If  framing is not done properly, and sub par materials are used in the framing process, there is an excellent chance that the art or artifact being framed will be damaged over time.

A very common phrase I see advertised a lot is “acid free”.  To lure people into one’s framing business, owners and managers know the buzz words to use that will peak people’s attention.  The problem is the mats they sell and use are NOT “acid free”.  These mats are made from wood pulp (also alpha cellulose).  They have been buffered to temporary minimize the acids. Over time, as light, heat and humidity contact the matting, the acids react and breakdown.  The acids then out gas from the matting and ooze onto the artwork.

Ever notice that subtle tan/brown line that encircles the art that has been framed for several years?  As a matter of fact, sometimes you don’t have to remove the frame to see it.  This is due to an “acid free” mat used by the framer for framing.

The best mats to use are PURE 100% cotton rag. No wood. No harmful chemicals. No matter the buffering process a manufacturer uses on their mat boards, chemicals are still artificially applied to the mats.  You would not put chemically treated food in your body.  Your art deserves the same treatment.  After all, if you did not care for your art, you would not display or frame it. Right?


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