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Shipping Damage of Heirlooms: Liquid Tide Detergent Disaster

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By Arianna Spiller, FACL Intern

A man and wife were being moved by her business; the moving company packing up all of their general belongings to go from Atlanta to Las Vegas. When the wife packed up her heirlooms and keepsakes, she took extra care…she thought.  Some of these heirlooms were the paintings done by her father, which happened to be some of the only keepsakes she had of him. This included the portrait he did of her as a young girl. However, she was unable to control where these items were placed, and how they were placed, inside of the moving truck. During the shipping of these heirlooms to Las Vegas, an open box containing Tide detergent overturned and poured into the package of the two paintings and their frames.

Father's portrait of daughter ruined by liquid Tide Detergent?

You could imagine her devastation, opening up the box containing such valued family heirlooms and keepsakes only to see that it had been doused in green goo. After searching the internet and reading blogs and watching YouTube videos, she called Fine Arts Conservation Laboratories, hoping that FACL could restore them back to their “pre-existing condition” (an important insurance term). Scott Haskins, head of conservation paid the owners a visit at their home and inspected the items at no charge. After outlining the options and costs, the owner made her decision and FACL picked up the two framed painting and will personally deliver them back when the work is completed

Luckily, the paintings themselves had a good, strong layer of varnish over the paint. This helped prevent the detergent and paint from interacting which would have made it almost impossible to clean the paintings of the Tide without disturbing the paint. After FACL cleaned the paintings, they were re-varnished. FACL was able to restore the paintings back to their “pre-existing condition” without significant damage.

The frames, however, were not as lucky.  The finishes on them did not allow for the removal of the detergents and stains. Therefore, in order to restore the frames and bring them back to “pre-existing condition” they will have to be re-finished.

Liquid Tide Detergent spilled on picture frame

The shipping damage of heirlooms can be prevented entirely if the proper precautions are taken in the first place. When moving an heirloom, or anything you would like to protect, always make sure it is properly sealed and protected from any outside source. Some of the common problems FACL sees in shipping damage is dirt and dust getting on the items, water damage (and other liquids) and, of course, damage from getting banged around (impact damage). Always get proper instruction for wrapping and packing heirlooms. However, when moving collectibles along with other objects that could potentially damage it, sealing is only part of the work. The proper placement of a valuable when moving is important. Take precaution to not let any other potentially dangerous items spill, bump or fall on your valuables. This involves placing a protective barrier around the item, and not surrounding it with objects that could possibly hurt or damage it.

After this incident happened the owner let some time elapse. She had never thought to check with the fine art insurance of the shipper or the insurance company of her new employer to cover the $6000 worth of damage done to the two paintings and the two frames. Unfortunately, she had to pay for a mistake that was not necessarily her fault.  If you are ever faced with a situation such as this one, where collectibles or heirlooms have been ruined or are in need of fixing, the internet is a great place to do research, find some help and do your due diligence.

What did you think about this article? Leave a comment! We’ll comment back.

To learn more about what you can do at home to take care of your stuff, download now a copy of Scott Haskins’ book, How To Save Your Stuff From A Disaster at 50% off! CLICK HERE to know more:

For a news article featuring Scott M. Haskins’, Click here:

For art conservation and painting restoration questions call Scott M. Haskins 805 564 3438 or

For art appraisal questions call Richard Holgate at 805 895 5121 or

See short videos by Scott M. Haskins on art conservation related subjects at YouTube channel “Bestartdoc

See short do-it-yourself videos on collection care and emergency preparedness for art collectors, family history items, heirlooms, memorabilia at Youtube Channel “preservationcoach

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