I am back from vacation! The weather has been so humid and muggy the past few weeks. Does your sacristy smell musty? So few churches are air-conditioned in New England and most sacristies are closed and airless during the week. This can be deadly in the summer months-but what can you do? If you do not have an air-conditioned sacristy, there are a few measures which can be taken to help prevent damage to vestments, mildew, and that musty odor.
Textiles like to be comfortable at about the same temperature human beings enjoy. Ideally, 50% humidity and 60 degrees farenheit is the dream climate for textiles- but highly unattainable unless you have a museum set-up. You can however, remove vestments from those big plastic storage zip-up bags. These have their own mini-environment which is not good in summer months for long-term storage. A de-humidifier is a cheap and effective device for removing moisture from the air. It’s a good idea to leave tight-fitting drawers and closet doors open so air can circulate. Simple standing fans placed at each end of the room can keep heavy air circulating, which is important. Recently I found at the Christmas Tree Shop, those dehydrating crystals which come in a small plastic tub. These absorb excess moisture in the air and can be placed in the closet. Although it is a strong temptation to open and leave open sacristy windows, street dust and pollutants and insects can enter and cause problems.
If you store wine in the sacristy, be aware that it may turn vinegary if stored where the temps rise high. There’s nothing worse than Taylor Tawny Port from under the sink in a hot sacristy! What a terrible “bouquet” and flavor! Keep your wines cool, even if it means storing them elsewhere in the church during the summer months. Pita, and other types of made bread for the altar will mold very fast. It is best to keep these refrigerated during the week and remove just before use. Even wafers become gummy and softened. You may try keeping wafers dry and crisp in a tight plastic container in the refrigerator instead of in a sacristy cabinet.
Finally, do remove all flowers and foliage from the sacristy trash can. Left for even a couple of days, the smell of rotting cellulose is very unpleasant, and becomes a source for mold and mildew. If flowers are left on the altar from Sunday, the water will need to be changed frequently during the week as bacteria grows fast inside the vases and the smell is horrific- something that must not be countenanced for altar flowers! Summer is a challenging time to keep things fresh and odor-free. The good news is that September is coming soon!