Getting Mildew Off Photos

By: Charles Kassotis

Mildew is often synonymous with mold. Mildew is a type of fungus that attacks organic material. How, then, does mildew occur on photos? The answer is in the fact that the photographic paper used for pictures contains cellulose, which is an organic material. Mildew spores exist just about everywhere, but they do not normally germinate profusely unless the humidity level reaches about 70 percent and the temperature is above 68 degrees.

For the most part, mildew on photos will manifest on the darker areas of the picture and then spread. For pictures kept in a dark and damp place, such as a basement, the danger of mold is relatively high. This is because most basements, while they feel cool, are not actually cold. Most of them remain temperate at between 65 and 72 degrees. Additionally, because they are often damp dude to moisture in the ground and water pipes, there is usually more moisture in the air in a basement than in the rest of the house. The conditions are idea for the development of mold and mildew on photographs.

While you are likely to see stains, no matter how you clean off the mold, you can minimize the damage by following a few simple steps to removing mildew from off of your photos. The first thing to do is to isolate the photos in a cool, dry location. If possible, outside is best. The mildew spores are carried on air currents, and can remain floating in the air within your home. The mildew will turn dormant in the less favorable conditions. It is important to note that the mold is not dead. If it is carried to ideal conditions, it will “wake up” again and start to spread.

When the mildew on your photos has turned to a powdery and loose substance, it is time to gently brush it off the photo. Use a very soft brush or cloth so that the photo is not scratched. Outdoor removal is best, in order to prevent the spread of dormant mildew. If you do remove mildew from pictures inside, use a vacuum with a HEPA filter to clean up the powder. Non-HEPA filter vacuums will simply re-circulate the mold spores throughout your home.

Be careful when working outside to remove mold form photos. More than a couple hours’ exposure to the sun can result in significant fading. While the photo may fade initially even if it is outside for a very little time, it will probably be unnoticeable and preferable to having mildew completely destroy your photographic memories. If you have very important photos, or antique photos, you can take them to a professional conservator who can do a careful job of preserving your important photos.

Watch the photos carefully after removing the mildew. If the mold returns consistently, you may need to have a copy made of the old photo and dispose of the moldy one, in order to prevent the mildew spreading to attack other pictures. There are many companies capable of creating almost perfect reproductions of your photos.

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Learn more about mildew and the damage it can cause, as well as how to get rid of mildew, by visiting The Mildew Facts Web Site

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