Caring for your latex mask


The Big Gunns

This is some info from Kelly Mann "The Mask Doctor".

Remember, masks are made of natural latex. They have a finite life span.

We can extend their usefulness with common sense, and a little know-how.

The major enemies of all latex masks are:

Perspiration- It contains oil, and oil rots rubber.

Petroleum- Any kind of oil, Vaseline, or solvent, dissolves latex.

Sunlight- UV rays and ultraviolet. They also make rubber brittle.

Heat- Heat will bake out the natural moisture rubber needs.

Crushing- If folded, and under pressure, masks will crease.

Age- Any mask, no matter how you baby it, will eventually rot.

If you wear your masks, please be careful to clean them well on the inside as well as the outside. A washcloth with a mild soap solution, followed by a water wipe and dry will remove any perspiration, saliva, and make-up. When dry, you should follow this with a light dusting of baby powder inside to help keep it dry.

If the mask has long hair that needs attention, don’t wash it! Brush the hair using a very gentle wide toothed brush, or an Afro pick comb. Starting at the ENDS and working gently toward the roots, Brushing out one small area at a time. If the hair is extremely dirty, gently dab it with a water-dampened paper towel. Allow to air dry. Avoid using a hairdryer. The heat will restyle the hair if it is supposed to be curly or kinky. Then brush the hair, as above.

Between wearings don’t just toss your mask in a closet. Store it properly, and it will be ready for the next time.

It is a good idea to support your mask between wearings. If you don’t have a Styrofoam wig stand to put it on, stuff it with plastic garbage bags, to help it retain its’ shape. Many people use newspaper, but I’ve found that to be too acidic, and it eventually gets brittle and then affords no support. (You know this if you have brittle back-issues of Famous Monsters of Filmland!) Then store your mask inside another plastic garbage bag. You can label it with a masking tape label. Be sure to carefully dry out the mask's interior first, of any perspiration or saliva, using one or more paper towels. Allow it to dry thoroughly, then dust lightly with a little talc or baby powder.

Remember to do this each time the mask is worn.

If your masks are displayed as showpieces, there are other considerations as well. Obviously, we all can’t pay to have museum cases built to protect them, so here are some more affordable ideas.

The previous tips apply here too. However the first and best protection is a proper method of displaying the mask. It should be supported by a Styrofoam wig stand at LEAST. If the mask is too tall, or the neck is too long, masking tape the wig stands’ base to an empty plastic peanut butter jar. And fill it with rocks or sand for better balance.

The best support however, is to have the mask foam-filled. It’s light, completely inert, and fully supports every part of the mask. Of course, I offer this service on my Mask Doctor web-site.

Once your mask is properly supported, consider where you are going to display it. Choose a spot that is out of direct sunlight, and is cool and dry.

If possible display your masks on a shelf that has another shelf above it. This will help keep them out of sunlight and dust-free. Use a display surface that is at least three feet above the floor. Especially if you have pets. This will also help keep them away from a dusty environment, the carpet.

As much as possible keep dust off your masks. Household dust will trap moisture and oil, which degrades rubber. Remove dust by whisking with a disposable paintbrush or any soft clean brush. Clean with mild soap and water, and a soft cloth, only in extreme cases of dirt or oil contamination.

Sometimes, depending on the type of paint used, or storage problems, a displayed mask will yellow, or appear to “rust”. This mask “rust” can be removed, but refer this to a professional. (me.)

With the best of intentions, we can sometimes do more harm when we think we’re helping. For instance, NEVER use any silicone based rubber protectant products such as Armor All on a mask. It can do some strange things to rubber over time. And never EVER use shoe polish, Vaseline, or saddle soap. The oil content will kill the liveliness of latex, and break it down.

If you want to re-paint a mask, do not use spray paint, or model paints. Not only is it brittle, and will crack, but it too contains petroleum solvents. Using makeup to color a mask is also a mistake, since it is oil based. It Takes an experienced eye to tell what kind of paint was used on your mask. A re-paint should be compatible.
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