Rubber Stamp Care & Storage
Now that you have a growing collection of high quality rubber stamps, you'll want to take good care of them. If you do, there is no reason why they can't last you a lifetime. Most important is storage, and the last place you want to store your rubber stamps is scattered across the dashboard of your car. Why would you do that? You probably wouldn't, but it illustrates the point that sunlight and air are, in the long run, rubber's worst enemies. Dirt comes in a close third but we'll cover that in a moment.
Sunlight and air are bad for rubber because they will dry the rubber out. You can see and feel the difference. The deep red-orange color will fade to a dull, somewhat whiteish hue. In severe cases the rubber may even develope small cracks. Before any of that happens though, you can feel the rubber with your fingertips - fresh rubber will "grab" and your finger will not easliy slide across the surface. Old rubber will feel dry, and your fingertip will easily slide around on the surface. A stamp in this condition may still print well, but it's time to start taking better care!
If some of your stamps show minor damage, it helps to use a stamp cleaner on them (even if they are clean). Stamp cleaners (such as JudiKins Rubber Stamp Cleaner and Conditioner) have solvents that actually soak into and rejuvinate the rubber. Note: this will not work on heavily damaged goods!
There are many systems for stamp storage available. Choose one or make your own but make sure it keeps your stamps away from air and sunlight. Flat cardboard boxes work well, but plastic is even better because less air will get through, and plastic seems less dusty than cardboard. Any kind of container that is kept inside a cupboard or closet or drawer will be more than sufficient. The trick to having them buried, though, is also having a well organized system for finding them quickly when you want to - but that's another article. Some people like having their entire collection on little shelves, that way everything is visible and easy to find. This looks quite impressive, but it's not the best for long-term storage. I suggest a smaller set of shelves, and just keep your newest or current favorites there. If you buy rubber stamps from a store, examine them very closely to see if they've sat on the shelf there too long.
If you are not already in the habit of "stamping off", you need to get there. Stamping off means pressing your rubber stamp on scratch paper repeatedly, immediatly after using it, every time, until no more ink comes off. You will produce quantities of colorfully stamped paper for which the creative mind will find many uses. After stamping off, press the stamp several times onto a moistened (with water) lint-free cloth or paper towel, then dry by pressing on dry cloth or paper towel. For everyday use, water is the only cleaner you need. These actions should become automatic to the point where it feels "funny" to use a stamp without stamping off.
If your rubber stamps are really dirty already, or if you are doing some kind of goopy technique like Suze's mud pots, you'll need more than just water. For getting grit, paper particles and glitter out of crevices, an old toothbrush is handy. Stamp cleaning fluid (mentioned earlier) will help too, especially when using permanent inks. Some techniques and products that you buy may have their own clean-up instructions. My advice is to follow them.
Cleaning the Handles
Generally this is not something to worry too much about. Wood mounts that are oiled will stay cleaner than bare wood, but all mounts are going to show some wear (aka love). You can clean them the way you would clean any wooden surface, use furniture polish if you want them to smell nice. If your kid barfs all over your stamps, you can briefly run them under water and then dry them with a dishcloth or paper towel. If you do this, I would recommend leaving them out in the air overnight to make sure all the excess moisture evaporates from the porous cushion and wood.