How To Restore Water Damaged Photos

By: Flora Richards-Gustafson


A storm hit. A water pipe burst. The sprinkler system went off and your photographs fell victim to water damage.

Don't panic. Read on to learn about how to repair water damaged pictures and photo recovery.

1. Remove. Carefully lift and remove the wet photographs from the water. Avoid touching the surface of the photographs. If the water-damaged photos are stuck together, carefully peel them apart, but do not force separation.

Framed photos need to be removed from their frame immediately, as the photo can later stick to the glass. To do this, rinse the glass and the photo under gently flowing, cold water. While holding both items, allow the flow of the water to gently separate the photo from the glass. The same technique can be use for photos that are stuck in albums.

2. Rinse. The damaged photographs should be carefully rinsed in a bucket or bowl of cold water. Start with the photographs that lack negatives. Then rinse the photos that have negatives, but the negatives also became wet. Do not rub the pictures. If the photos are still stuck together, try again carefully to peel them apart. Change the rinsing water frequently.

Do not let wet photos dry out during the process of retrieving them and rinsing them. Continue to rinse the photos until the water that overflows is clear of any dirt or debris. Leave the photos in the clean water until they can be thoroughly rinsed individually.

3. Dry. After rinsing, lay the wet pictures face up on any type of absorbent paper, like paper towels. However, do not use paper that has any prints on it. Change out the towels or blotting paper every hour until the photographs are completely dry.

To prevent mold damage, use a dehumidifier, especially in rooms that are small or humid. Keep the room in which the photos are drying at a cool temperature. Use a fan, too, to help the air in the room circulate.

If photos curl, place them in a tray of water (do not submerge) or dampen the back of the photo. Then stack the photos between white blotting paper and apply a weight to the top of the stack. Leave the pictures in this position until they are completely dry. This trick can help the photos lay flat again.

One should also consider printing new copies of photographs whose negatives were not damaged by water. Older photographs will be the hardest to recover because they are more sensitive to water and may no longer have negatives.

When it comes to heirloom photographs, restoration specialists are the way to go, as they have the latest in digital technology. Restoration specialists can scan cherished images into a computer, correct any damage, and print the renovated image on archival or photo paper. Restoration specialists can also put restored photos on a CD or online database so they can be printed in the future. For those that have a large number of water-damaged photographs, a document restoration specialist can help you save the most photos as possible in a short amount of time. Most restoration specialists have special dehumidifying techniques that make photo restoration faster and more successful.

There is hope for your photographs when disaster strikes. Water damaged photographs should be attended to quickly, but do not need to be a cause for panic.

~Flora Richards-Gustafson, 2009

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Rapid Refile specializes in Pennsylvania and New York water damage restoration services. Visit the website to read more about recovering wet photographs and our special freeze-drying technology.

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