Sunday, May 29, 2011

Rescuing Moldy Photographs

Photos of Comfort Suites, Hagerstown
This photo of Comfort Suites is courtesy of TripAdvisor

If you live in a region that is prone to humidity it is likely that you have experienced the heartache of finding one or more of your precious photographs has been attacked by mold. Even if you do not live in a humid region this mold can become a problem. Mold as I am sure you will agree can lead to very serious problems both for our family's health and for our photographs. The first step in protecting photographs from mold is to prevent possible infection through safe storage of photographs. If you are not familiar with these steps please refer to my previous article on protecting your valued photographs.

But what do you do if your photos already have mold on them. If you are not able to immediately start the mold removal process you should  isolate the photos that have mold on them so that the mold does not spread to other photos. You can do this by putting all affected photos in an air tight zip bag or box. Before removing it you will first need to de-activate the mold. Please remember mold is a dangerous substance and should not be touched with bare hands or inhaled. Use of gloves and face mask or respirator is strongly recommended. Also if you have respiratory problems please have someone else handle the situation.

There is a great deal of information available on killing mold in our homes using such products as Lysol, Clorox or another chemical that is proven to kill mold. However, using these products to remove mold from photographs will ruin your photograph. Instead of killing the mold you will need to use gentler methods to de-activating mold so it can be removed from the photograph. You may be wondering how to tell if mold is active or inactive. Active mold will smear when brushed but inactive mold is powdery.  Three effective ways to de-activate mold are freezing, air drying and exposure to UV light. Direct exposure to UV light can fade your photographs so if you choose this method you may not want to leave the photo in direct light for more than one hour.

Once the mold has been de-activated you will need to either vacuum it up or wipe it off. Keep in mind that the mold spores are only inactive they are not truly dead and they can become air borne transferring to another location to lay dormant until conditions are right to re-activate them. For that reason you may want to do this out doors, and throughly clean vacuum filter according to manufactures recommended process if vacuuming. If you use cot rags to whip off the mold, be sure to change rags often and wash the used rags in bleach and hot water afterwards. If after cleaning and removing the mold you discover that your photo has become damaged don't despair photo restoration has come a long way. The photographic artists at Artistix Network LLC are ready and willing to help.

On an end not, as an extra precaution to avoid possible re-activation of any missed mold spores you may want to isolate the infected photographs after they have been cleaned of mold in a previously unused archival safe photo storage box or bag. Another option is to scan the photo and destroy the original. However only scan after removing all mold spores both active and in-active otherwise you run the risk of spreading the spores to your scanner. If your photo was in a frame or on a shelf don't forget to throughly clean those areas with a product designed to kill mold, it would be a shame to return your photo to it's original spot to have it become re-infected.

I hope that you have found this article helpful and will share this information with others. One rescued photo can equal many rescued memories.


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