- Sunlight - UV rays / ultraviolet. Breaks-down latex.
- Heat - Bakes out natural moisture latex needs.
- Perspiration - Contains oil, oils rot latex.
- Petroleum - Oil and solvents dissolve latex.
- Crushing - Folding and pressure creases masks.
Most removable discolorization is caused by airborne particles and dust. If cleaning with a soft cloth and mild soapy water doesn't clean it, STOP! Chances are the problem is a stain and the mask may need to be re-painted. Common stains are from fake blood, paint, and clothing dye. Normal discolorization from age, ultraviolet and flourescent light can be expected. Carbon from smoke damage is a possibility as well. "Mask Rust" is a severe form of discoloring and is evident when the latex has an orange-yellow appearance. It is important to keep Halloween masks in cool low lit areas away from the Sun and severe lighting.
Halloween masks are made from a variety of materials. Latex rubber has been a staple in mask production for many years and is still the most widely used to date. Latex rubber is a type of tree sap that is processed with amonia and other additives, which when poured and left to congeal in cool monster mask molds gives ya loads "O" fun! Since latex is a natural material, the loss of moisture within will cause a mask to become less flexible and eventually tear. For Halloween masks produced in vinyl, the life expectancy is usually higher. Vinyl is a type of plastic which remains supple due to an oil content. When enough of this oil flashes off from age or contact with a porous material, it becomes fragile and more likely to tear. Once a tear begins in a vinyl mask, it will widen easily with improper handling.
The Solution - For any mask, a tear is pretty much a sign of retirement from being worn. This doesn't mean it's not a keeper, it only means the mask should be placed on a stand for further enjoyment as a display piece. To fix a tear, pull it closed and line the edges up as evenly as possible. Take a strip of 1/4 inch masking tape and place it carefully over the joined tear on the outside of the mask, making sure the two edges of the split remain touching and even. From the inside of the mask, spread yellow contact cement along the tear and about a 1/2 inch on either side. Allow this to dry. Cut a strip of paper towel, cheesecloth or muslin as wide and long as the glued area inside the mask. Lay this strip on clean newspaper and paint the contact cement on one side covering the entire strip. Let this dry. Working from the joined end of the tear, slowly lay the strip (glued side down) onto the glued area inside the mask. Make sure you line both glued areas up and gently press the strip down a little at a time, working it down until you get to the end of the split. Once firmly in place, press down from the center of the strip outwards. Let this dry for a minute and gently brush an additional thin layer of contact cement over the entire patch. When dry, dust with baby powder. This fix may not be completely perfect, but it will help keep your treasured mask together. Now place the mask on a display stand and enjoy! This process works best on latex masks, vinyl doesn't accept this type of glue as readily and the tear may continue. Vinyl glue is available at some hobby and hardware stores as well, but in a pinch the Caretaker swears by good old duct tape for little tears on his vinyl Halloween masks and custom pieces!
Cracks come with age and exposure. The Sun will rob a mask of it's natural moisture very quickly, as will any source of extreme heat. The Sun is a Halloween masks greatest enemy. You've got extreme heat and ultraviolet light together in one big package of death! A crack is the first sign of serious wear and tear and means that the mask has pretty well paid it's dues. You may want to think about putting the mask on a display
stand at this point.
The Solution - Fixing a crack is the same as fixing a tear, only less severe. You may only have a surface crack that doesn't appear on the inside of the mask. It's a good idea to nail these little cracks before they turn into a split, which will eventually grow into a tear! Simply pinch the mask on either side of the crack so it opens slightly enabling you to paint in a very small amount of yellow contact cement. Use a little paint brush or Q-tip, being careful not to get any glue on the surface of the mask. Hold the crack open for a few minutes after you have applied the glue so it dries completely. Once dry, gently return the rubber to it's original position and gently push in so the two sides of the crack are firmly joined. If you plan on wearing the mask again, you may want to add a strip on the inside of the piece as a re-inforcement for the crack. See Tearing Solution.
The hair on most Halloween masks is a synthetic "Fun Fur" type, and is usually glued on with rubber cement. If it comes loose it can be glued back down easily with more rubber cement. Other popular types are crepe, wool, and polyester. These styles of hair are usually very cottony and can be re-attached with rubber cement as well. The rubber cement is applied sparingly and carefully to the mask. Gently press the hair in place and hold until dry. If your mask is a collectors type, the hair may be hand laid and styled in a certain manner, you may want to consult a pro. Laying hair is an art and can be tricky. Mask makers use many different brands of hair, and certain collector masks look better with their intended brand. Works best on latex masks!
Foam Filling Your Mask
When a mask begins to age, it starts to succumb to the effects of gravity. It's a good idea to keep masks on styrofoam wig heads or stuff them with soft material and raise them with an inner support stand. This will help the rubber retain it's original shape. Masks that are used primarily for display purposes and are no longer worn, can be "foam filled" for added strength and overall durability. If your mask is showing signs of severe cracking, tearing, or has that "gooey" feeling that retains fingernail impressions, it's time to foam-fill it! The foam used in mask-filling is a semi-soft urethane material that is basically the same stuff found in a foam pillow or cushion. There are two liquid components, that when mixed rapidly, begin to expand at an accelerated rate until they cure as a soft and flexible spongey solid. Because foam begins in a liquid state, it flows fairly easily throughout, and contours itself nicely as it expands. Foaming a mask is tricky though, and is more or less a one shot deal. It's important that you have experience with the material before attempting to use it. An added bonus to foaming a mask is the opportunity to insert a large diameter tube or rod inside the head as it's filling. Once gelled, the tube is securely held in place by the foam and can be used as the support stand from that point on!
Halloween and collector masks require a certain degree of care and up-keep. Rubber will begin to decay over time. The amount and severity will depend on the conditions your mask is subjected to. The heat of the Sun and it's ultraviolet properties can rot a mask and turn it into soup within a few weeks of outdoor exposure. If a mask is in a room that gets a fair amount of Sunlight, it will break-down at an increased rate. Keep masks in cool, dry, dark areas away from ultraviolet light. Flourescent lighting will discolor certain types of paint fairly quickly, giving the finish a yellowed appearance. Masks should be on styrofoam heads or stuffed and placed on stands with the necks hanging and not resting on surfaces. Place a loose plastic bag over your mask and try to seal it at the base so air can't get to the rubber. The downside to the bag is the lack of enjoyment you get from looking at the mask, but the Caretaker will leave that up to you. Clean your mask with mild soap and warm water. If the piece has added hair, try and keep it dry. Rubber must be completely dry before it's stored in plastic and sealed! Rubber will crease and may distort if not properly stuffed and supported.
The Caretaker recommends his moldy-old pal The Mask Doctor for all your rubber-noggin-needs! The Doctor is always in... sane and can fix just about any mask or prop you care to throw at him! Be sure and surf this saw-bones site soon to see what the Doc's been up to!