Foxing – Definition, Examples, History & More – Art Conservation and Restoration Glossary

What is Foxing?

Foxing is a term used to describe the reddish-brown spots or stains that can appear on paper-based materials such as books, prints, and artwork. These spots are typically caused by fungal growth or other environmental factors and can detract from the overall appearance and value of the item.

Foxing is often seen as a form of deterioration that can affect the aesthetic quality of the artwork or document. It is important to address foxing promptly to prevent further damage and preserve the integrity of the piece.

Causes of Foxing

There are several factors that can contribute to the development of foxing on paper-based materials. One of the primary causes is high humidity levels, which create a favorable environment for fungal growth. Other factors include exposure to moisture, pollutants in the air, and poor storage conditions.

Fungi spores are present in the air and can settle on paper surfaces, leading to the formation of foxing spots over time. Additionally, acidic materials in the paper itself can accelerate the deterioration process and make the paper more susceptible to foxing.

Effects of Foxing on Artwork

The presence of foxing can have a negative impact on the overall appearance and value of artwork. The reddish-brown spots can be unsightly and distracting, drawing attention away from the intended focus of the piece. In severe cases, foxing can also weaken the paper fibers and cause structural damage.

Foxing can also affect the longevity of the artwork, as the presence of fungal growth can continue to spread and deteriorate the paper over time. It is important to address foxing promptly to prevent further damage and preserve the integrity of the artwork.

Prevention of Foxing

There are several steps that can be taken to prevent the development of foxing on paper-based materials. One of the most important measures is to control the humidity levels in the storage environment. Keeping the relative humidity below 55% can help inhibit fungal growth and prevent the formation of foxing spots.

It is also important to store paper-based materials in a clean and well-ventilated area, away from sources of moisture and pollutants. Using acid-free materials for framing and storage can also help prevent foxing by reducing the acidity of the paper and slowing down the deterioration process.

Treatment of Foxing

If foxing has already developed on an artwork or document, there are several treatment options available to help reduce or remove the spots. One common method is to gently brush the affected areas with a soft brush to remove any loose fungal spores or debris.

For more stubborn foxing spots, a mild bleach solution or hydrogen peroxide can be used to lighten the stains. It is important to test any cleaning solution on a small, inconspicuous area first to ensure that it does not cause further damage to the paper.

Conservation and Restoration Techniques for Foxing

In cases where foxing has caused significant damage to an artwork, conservation and restoration techniques may be necessary to preserve the piece. This can involve stabilizing the paper fibers, removing stains, and repairing any structural damage.

Conservationists may use techniques such as deacidification, washing, and bleaching to restore the paper to its original condition. In some cases, infilling or inpainting may be necessary to fill in missing areas or retouch the artwork.

Overall, the key to effectively addressing foxing is to take proactive measures to prevent its development and to address any existing spots promptly to prevent further damage. By following proper storage and conservation techniques, it is possible to preserve the integrity and value of paper-based materials for future generations to enjoy.