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Flood damaged photos? Tips to salvage your art and photos

Flood damaged photos? Tips to salvage your art and photos

Need help to salvage flood damaged photos?
 
Art Land is offering FREE Scanning and Photo Restoration to all Queenslanders who have suffered water or flood damage as a result of the January 2013 floods. Please click here for more information.
Flood image QLD
Please talk to our team for more details and bring in your framed items and photos as quickly as possible so we can assess and minimise potential damage.

Tips for Salvaging Flood Damaged Photos, Art Work, Documents & Books

Family photos, scrapbooks, memorabilia are irreplaceable and these losses can often be the hardest to accept when flooding or other disasters impact our homes. However, don’t be disheartened by the muddy, soggy mess you have uncovered from your home. Many of your photos and precious documents may be able to be saved and digitally restored with the correct treatment. Follow our tips and talk to our team about ways to protect, restore and rejuvenate your personal memories.
More information and professional links are also provided at the end of this section to help you find the best way to save your personal collections.
 
General Information
Most damage from flooding or water occurs in photos, papers and artwork due to the growth of mould and the deterioration or decomposition of the paper over time. Papers and artwork may also demonstrate blurring, feathering or fading as a result of flood damage.
 
To limit potential damage to your collections follow these 5 basic steps as quickly and thoroughly as possible:
 
1. Clean
2. Freeze (not always necessary – see notes below)
3. Air-Dry
4. Scan (to create digital copy)
5. Assess the damage & reprint or digitally restore image if necessary
 
Please click on the links below to see the correct techniques for the following materials.
 
Also, please remember that not all photos, documents, artworks or books are made the same way and different materials will react differently to flood and water damage. The information provided is general information that applies to most situations. If you have documents, photos or images that are precious you may wish to contact a conservation specialist (such as State Library of Queensland) for more specific information on how to treat your particular collectibles.
 
1. Photos
2. Framed Photos
3. Framed Art Work
4. Papers & Books
 
 
1. Photos
 
Most photos, negatives and colour slides can be cleaned and air-dried using the following steps:
 
CLEAN:
(1) Remove the photos from the mud and dirty water, and from waterlogged photo albums. Be careful not to rub or touch the wet surface of the photo.
(2) In a bucket of clear, cold water gently rinse both sides of the photo.
(3) Change the water frequently and again, be careful not to rub the photo image.
 
FREEZE:
(4) If you do not have time or space to dry your wet photos immediately, you can freeze them. This process is not ideal, but it gives you time to dry them properly at a later date and ensures that mould growth is inhibited in the meantime. (Mould is not killed in the freezer but it does become dormant)
(5) After rinsing mud and debris, carefully stack wet photos between sheets of wax paper and seal them in a plastic zip lock bag.
(6) When you have time, photos can be defrosted, separated and air-dried using the method outlined below.
NOTE: Some older, historical photos are very sensitive to water damage and may not be suitable to freeze.
 
AIR DRY PHOTOS:
(7) Lay each wet photo face up on clean paper towel or blotting paper.
(8) Change the paper regularly until the photos are dry.
(9) You can also carefully hang wet photos on an indoor clothes line to dry in a shady, well ventilated area.
(10) Do not use newspaper or printed paper towels as the ink may transfer to your wet photos. Also, try to dry the photos inside using a fan or air-conditioner to speed up the process. Drying outside will cause photos to curl more quickly and may expose them to more humidity (particularly in a hot, humid climate). Never use a hair-dryer to speed up the drying process.
 
ASSESS THE DAMAGE:
Once the photos have been cleaned and dried we recommend that you:
(11) Scan the image using a high resolution scanner to create a digital copy
(12) Save the digital copy on an off-site back-up system such as an internet server, if the information needs to be preserved (www.dropbox.com is one such system and is a free service)
(13) Reprint the photo if required – with or without digital restoration, depending on the age of the photo and the level of damage sustained.
 
2. Framed Photos
Photos in ready-made (disposable) frames are most at risk as the photo is likely to stick to the glass and you will not be able to separate the two without damaging the photo.
If you have photos in frames, you should remove the photo while still wet to minimise potential damage to the image. Once the photo is dry, it may not be possible to remove it from the frame without damage.
(1) Remove the wet photo and glass together from the picture frame
(2) Holding both together carefully rinse under clear, flowing water
(3) Use the water to gently separate the photo from the glass.
(4) Follow the steps for Saving Photos as outlined above
NOTE: If you are not sure if the photo has been professionally framed by a picture framer, or is in a ready-made (disposable) frame, please bring the item to Art Land Indooroopilly as soon as possible and our team can assist with the removal of the image to minimise potential damage.
 
3. Framed Art Work – (Original & Prints)
(1) Bring the framed artwork to Art Land Indooroopilly as soon as possible for a quote for recovery and restoration.
(2) Our professionally, qualified framers will take apart the frame in our factory and assess the damage. Sometimes it is superficial and can be easily repaired or replaced, other times more extensive re-framing is required. Components that commonly suffer damage in floods include:
  • Art prints may suffer water damage and may be at risk of mould/fading/foxing (acid damage) or blurring.
  • Wooden frames may warp or swell in wet conditions.
  • Mat boards and backing boards may suffer water damage which promotes growth of mould over time which will damage artwork.
(3) Art Land will assess the damage and be able to provide a quote for art work and framing restoration or recovery, depending on the piece.
Art Land works with professional art restorers and can provide quotes for restoration for original art works at all levels and also antique frames.
Please remember that artworks may suffer from mould, foxing and other deterioration even if they have not been submerged. Being exposed to a wet, humid environment can cause mould to grow – even in sealed picture frames.
If your art work has been exposed to flooded rooms, then it may suffer from mould or damage in the coming months. In this case, partial or total re-framing may be necessary to protect it from mould damage in years to come.
 
4. Papers & Books
Paper becomes very fragile when wet, and must be handled very carefully to avoid further damage. However, most documents , books and papers can be cleaned and air-dried using a similar process to saving photos. The key objective with flood damaged papers and books is to remove the dampness as quickly as possible before mould sets in.
CLEAN:
(1) Remove the paper or books from the mud and dirty water
(2) In a bucket of clear, cold water gently rinse papers. If the papers are particularly fragile you can lay the paper on a piece of plain paper towel and then gently spray it with water to remove built up mud and debris.
(3) Change the water frequently.
 
FREEZE:
(4) If you do not have time or space to dry your wet papers or books immediately, you can freeze them. This process is not ideal, but it gives you time to dry them properly at a later date and stops the deterioration of the paper.
(5) After rinsing mud and debris, carefully seal the papers and books in a zip-lock plastic bag. If you have access to wax paper, then use this to separate pages as much as possible.
(6) Place plastic bag in the freezer.
(7) When you have time, papers and books can be defrosted, separated and air-dried using the method outlined below.
NOTE: Some older, historical books and papers are very sensitive to water damage and may not be suitable to freeze.
 
AIR DRY:
(8) Lay papers separately on a flat surface covered with plain paper towel or blotting paper, out of direct sunlight. If you do not have enough space you can carefully hang them on an indoor clothesline instead. If the papers are soggy lay them in piles to dry out a little before attempting to separate them.
(9) Change the paper towel or blotting paper regularly as it becomes soaked.
(10) If possible use a fan or air-conditioner to increase air circulation in the room. But do not blow air directly onto the papers or books or use a hair dryer to speed up the process.
(11) Books can be dried by placing absorbent paper between the wet pages. You do not need to separate every page – absorbent paper every 20 or 50 pages is normally fine. However you should change the paper towel or blotting paper every few hours as it absorbs the moisture from the book. Books can either be laid flat to dry or stood upright with the pages fanned open.
 
ASSESS THE DAMAGE:
Remember also that books and papers can suffer from mould growth even if they have not been submerged in the flood water directly. A wet, humid environment can trigger mould growth and preventative measures should be taken as quickly as possible to minimise potential damage.
(12) Remove the books from the damp, humid environment as quickly as possible.
(13) Store in a well ventilated room until completely dry. Use a fan or air-conditioner to speed up this process if necessary.
If your important papers or books have suffered mould damage, then it is advisable to digitally scan the items as soon as possible to create another copy. Mould can re-activate in damp, humid conditions and it is important to regularly check your papers and books for damage.
 
General Do’s & Don’ts
DO:
- Wear gloves where possible when dealing with flood damaged photos, books, papers & artwork
- Circulate air using fans, air-conditioning & open windows
- Freeze your papers & photographs if you do not have time to clean & dry them within 2 days to inhibit mould growth & paper deterioration.
- Digitally scan or copy important documents and images as soon as possible to preserve content
- Bring your framed photos and art work to Art Land Indooroopilly as quickly as possible so our team can professionally take them apart and minimise potential damage.
- Contact a professional conservation expert if you have valuable collectibles which you are nervous about cleaning yourself.
 
Don’t
- Touch or rub wet photo surfaces
- Don’t use newspaper or printed paper towels to help dry materials
- Don’t freeze old photos or negatives without first talking to an expert as some historical photos are very sensitive to water damage and may not be recoverable
- Don’t attempt to remove “active mould” as this will simply smear and stain
- Don’t use heat or hair dryers to dry goods as this will increase mould growth and potential damage.
- Don’t allow the photos, books or papers to remain in damp, humid conditions as this will also promote mould growth.
REMEMBER: mould can be toxic so be very careful when working with mouldy goods – wearing protective gloves and a mask is ideal.
 
Additional information & resources