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Disasters don’t need to be catastrophic to wreak havoc on your life and photos. A flooded basement from a spring storm or a broken sump pump can threaten your photos just as easily as a hurricane, fire or tornado can.

Every homeowner I have worked with is devastated by the disaster that has befallen them, but they know that in the end, for the most part, they will be able to replace their personal property that was damaged.

This is not always the case with photos! Photos that have been left in sitting in water for days on end after a disaster are more often than not thought to be damaged beyond repair.

If you follow the suggestions below from ThoughtCo, you just may find that you can save most of your photographs, negatives and color slides. 

How to Save Water-Damaged Photos

1. Carefully lift the photos from the mud and dirty water. Remove photos from water-logged albums and separate any that are stacked together, being careful not to rub or touch the wet emulsion of the photo surface.

2. Gently rinse both sides of the photo in a bucket or sink of clear, cold water. Don't rub the photos, and change the water frequently.

3. If you have time and space right away, 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 inside if possible, as sun and wind will cause photos to curl more quickly.

4. If you don't have time right away to dry your damaged photos, just rinse them to remove any mud and debris. Carefully stack the wet photos between sheets of wax paper and seal them in a Ziploc type plastic bag. If possible, freeze the photos to inhibit damage. This way photos can be defrosted, separated and air-dried later when you have the time to do it properly.


More Tips for Handling Water Damaged Photographs

  • Try to get to flood-damaged photos within two days or they will begin to mold or stick together, making it much more unlikely they can be salvaged.
  • Begin with photographs for which there are no negatives, or for which the negatives are also water damaged.
  • Pictures in frames need to be saved when they are still soaking wet, otherwise, the photo surface will stick to the glass as it dries and you will not be able to separate them without damaging the photo emulsion. To remove a wet photo from a picture frame, keep the glass and photo together. Holding both, rinse with clear flowing water, using the water stream to gently separate the photo from the glass.

If you decide you don’t have the time to clean the photos or if you would like them not only cleaned but scanned, contact Plan B Inventory & Photo Scanning for more information on our Water Damaged Photo Restoration services. 


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