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Don't Store Your Puzzles In Plastic Bags

So we had quite the mystery when artist Natalee Morse emailed us to ask why her Tall Tower puzzle had "darkened" since she bought it a few years ago.

I have to admit, at first I thought she was just mis-remembering how the colors, or doing the puzzle under different lighting conditions, as in general printed colors tend to lighten and fade over time, not darken!

But as an artist she knows her colors and was steadfast that her other puzzles hadn't changed but that this one had.

We were quite puzzled as to how a puzzle could darken!

Then she realized her daughter had stored the puzzle in plastic bags!

We are pretty sure that was the culprit somehow, though we are not positive why storing it in a plastic bag could darken the print. 

My hypothesis is the bag somehow got humid (we've all seen plastic bags fog up), and the puzzle got damp, and we know spilling water on a puzzle will darken it.

However, Natalee thinks it might be something about the plastic itself, based on her past experience:

Some years ago I did outdoor art shows. My medium was glass in the form of table top sculptures. I started out wrapping them in bubble wrap to pack them for travel. I discovered that the plastic left a film on the glass which I then had to clean off to show the pieces. If I first wrapped them in paper and then in bubble, they came out clean. After doing some research I discovered that the plastic gave off some kind of gas which was leaving a film on the glass. It had to do with the plastic being a petroleum product.
Anyone out there think they know what happened?

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  • Greer G on

    Indeed, as a retired preservation librarian I can tell you that yes, ordinary plastic (PVC) bags release destructive gases. For archival purposes (like keeping wooden jigsaw puzzles), you want inert plastics: mylar, polypropylene, or polyethylene. Not eco-friendly, but if they degraded, they wouldn’t be archival.

    Here is more info:

  • CT on

    This is very interesting to know. I am not sure why plastic would darken the puzzle. But lately I have been thinking that wooden puzzles need to be stored in a cool, dry and no direct sunlight area to prevent the pieces from being damaged by the heat or humidity.

  • Barb on

    No, but thank you for the advice. One of the other brands I buy comes in a plastic bag within tissue….I’m going to get rid of the bags today.

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