Don't Let A Flood Take Your Memories Too: How To Salvage Your Priceless Photos

Posted on: 14 May 2015

Having to clean your home after a flood or other disaster is distressing enough, but losing all your precious photographs due to water damage adds insult to injury. Here's how to salvage those priceless photos.

Act Quickly. Don't let the photos dry out! Wet photographs will stick together, encouraging mold growth and causing further damage. If they dry while they are stuck together, attempting to separate them could cause irreparable harm.

Rinse Off Debris. Immerse the wet photos in a pan of cold running water as soon as possible, but don't run the water directly on the photos as that could cause additional damage to the photographic emulsions. Touching only the edges of the photographs, place the rinsed photos in another pan of clean, cold water while you work on the remaining prints. Don't worry about separating the photos at this point. As long as any debris has been rinsed off, you can transfer them to the second pan of clean water. 

Repeat.  After the initial rinse is completed, clean, dry and refill the first container with cold water. Immerse small groups of photos and gently separate them, keeping them submerged as you work. If the photos are really stuck together, don't try to force them apart. Instead, let them soak some more and try again.

Freeze. Having just experienced a catastrophic event, cleaning and repairing your home is probably more pressing. That's OK. Freezing the rinsed photos will delay further damage until you have time to work with them. Just hold each photo by its edge so excess water can drip off, then put each photo into a separate plastic bag. Put the bagged photos into a container and store them in the freezer.

Dry Your Frozen Photos. You have two options to choose from, either of which should take two or three days drying time: 

  1. Nylon or Plastic Window Screening.  Staple or nail screening cloth between two saw horses. Lay sheets of plain white paper towels on the cloth, and put one photo face up on each paper towel. Replace wet towels as needed, touching only the edges of the photos when moving them.
  2. Clothesline and Plastic Clothespins.  String a clothesline in the basement or a small room, and hang the wet photos. Place paper towels under the clothesline to catch water as the photos thaw.

In either case, keep the room as cool as you can – below 68 degrees if possible – and use a dehumidifier to reduce the chance of mold growth. Position a fan to circulate air either above or below the photos, but not directly on them.

Once you've salvaged your wet photographs, you can reprint them or consider submitting them to a professional for additional restoration.

To learn more about water damage restoration, contact a company like All Care