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water damaged photos

Water damage can easily destroy family photos and important documents. When a flood happens most people try and protect or salvage family photos first. This post will highlight how to salvage your photos or important documents from water damage.

Saving Photos From Water Damage

  • Carefully lift the photos from the mud and dirty water. Remove them from water-logged albums and separate any that are stuck together, being careful not to rub or touch the wet emulsion of the photo surface.
  • Gently rinse both sides of the photo in a bucket or sink filled with clear, cold water. Do not rub the photos, and change the water frequently.
  • Time is of the essence, so as soon as you can arrange adequate space, lay each wet photo face-up on any clean blotting paper, such as a paper towel. Don’t use newspapers or printed paper towels, as the ink may transfer to your wet photos. Change the blotting paper every hour or two until the photos dry. Try to dry the photos indoors if possible, as sun and wind will cause them to curl more quickly.
  • If you don’t have time to dry your damaged photos right away, rinse them to remove any mud and debris. Carefully stack the wet photos between sheets of wax paper and seal them in a zipper-type plastic bag. If possible, freeze the photos to inhibit damage.1

Handling Water-Damaged Photographs

  • Within two days try to get to your photos or you run the risk of mold and them sticking together. It then becomes less likely that you can salvage them.
  • Start with photos that don’t have negatives.
  • Photos in frames need to be saved when they are still wet, or the photo surface will stick to the glass when It dries. It will become impossible to separate the two without damaging the surface of the photo.
  • To remove a wet photo from a frame, keep the glass and photo together. Holding both of them, rinse with clear flowing water. Use the water stream to gently separate the photo from the glass.

Note: Some historical photographs are very sensitive to water damage and may not be recoverable.

Saving Paper from Water Damage

As with photos, most papers, documents, and books can be cleaned and air-dried using the following steps:

  • Carefully remove the papers from the water.
  • If the damage is from dirty flood water, gently rinse the papers in a bucket or sink of clear, cold water. If they are especially fragile, try laying the papers on a flat surface and rinsing with a gentle spray of water.
  • Lay the papers individually on a flat surface, out of direct sunlight. If the papers are soggy, put them in piles to dry out a bit before attempting to separate them. If space is a problem, string fishing line across a room and use it as you would a clothesline.
  • Put an oscillating fan in the room where you are drying your papers to increase air circulation and speed the process.
  • For waterlogged books, the best option is to place absorbent paper between the wet pages (this is called “interleaving”) and then lay the books flat to dry. You don’t have to place blotter paper between every page, just every 20-50 pages or so. Change the blotting paper every few hours.
  • If you have wet papers or books that you just can’t deal with right away, seal them in plastic zipper bags and stick them in the freezer.

After your papers and books are completely dry, they may still have a musty smell. To combat this put them in a box with an open container of baking soda to help absorb the odors.

If you are experiencing water damage and need help salvaging your home calls us today at 630-995-3516.

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