Salvaging Water-Damaged Photos

Do you know what to do if one of your prints gets damaged by water? If you living in a flood prone area (or are clumsy), it’d be good to know.

The Conservation Center for Art and Historic Artifacts (CCAHA) has an informative technical bulletin titled “Salvaging Photographs”, that provides a rundown on the response you should take to water damage.

One of the interesting tips is to freeze your prints to prevent further damage:

Freezing to help retard further deterioration by water or mold may be necessary if the materials cannot be treated immediately. Storage at low temperatures buys time in which to safely plan and organize the many steps needed to dry the affected materials and to prepare a rehabilitation site.

Vacuum freeze-drying can help you recover the prints:

In this method, photographic materials—either wet or frozen—are placed in a vacuum chamber. As the vacuum is pulled, a low heat source is introduced and the photographs are carefully dried at temperatures below freezing.

Some additional tips from the document:

  • Keep immersion time to an absolute minimum
  • Treat least stable items (i.e. prints rather than negatives) first
  • Keep identifying information near the prints
  • Never let the prints dry in contact with any surface, since it may stick permanently

If there’s any chance you might have to deal with recovering wet prints, this PDF would be a good thing to bookmark, save, or print out.

(via Lifehacker)

Image credit: Flood series by cikaga jamie

  • Blink Interactive

    great tips! thanks

  • Christopher McIntosh

    C-prints don't deteriorate in water :)

  • Happy Tinfoil Cat

    I have some family photos which survived three house fires over the years and are a bit singed only to all stuck together from water damage. I suppose they could be x-rayed. Thanks for the tips, I'll probably end up using them at some point. (although I am scanning thousands of photos right now.)

  • Water Damage

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