How to Save and Restore Water Damaged Photos: Guide

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How to Save & Restore Water-Damaged Photos

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It can be disheartening to find water-damaged photos or other types of liquid stains. Not all hope is lost, however, because there are different techniques you can try at home to restore your pictures to their original shine.

How Can a Photograph Be Damaged by Water?

Not only can a major flood in the city cause serious damage to photographs, but other factors that can be dangerous, such as:

  • Prolonged exposure in glass frames
  • Humid environments
  • Central heating in the house
  • Incorrect storage
  • Flooding
  • Accidental water spills

The good news is that most water-damaged photos can be recovered, but it has to be done quickly.

Restoring a Water-Damaged Photo at Home: Step-By-Step Guide

Fortunately, with some simple techniques, it is possible to save those printed images that are no longer what they were.

Nonetheless, as these are homemade tips, the instructions should be followed carefully. Photographs may have different reactions depending on their characteristics.

Do note that experts recommend assessing the damage properly before trying DIY techniques.

Act Quickly

To avoid further deterioration of the material, the drying process should be started as soon as possible. The longer the time passes, the more likely it is that the photographs will start to develop fungus, or even stick together.

Clean the Photos

Before the cleaning process, be mindful that the affected area of the photos shouldn’t be touched. If cleaned incorrectly, the ink might get permanently damaged.

Additionally, it is necessary to wear gloves when handling the photograph, as it could have been stained by contaminated water or fungus.

Often the water stains the photograph and to clean it you can place it in cold water and then wipe it with a cotton swab moistened with milk.

Dry the Photos

After cleaning the photographs, they should be dried with an absorbent material such as wax paper or napkins. If possible, avoid visibly soiled newspapers, because the ink can transfer from one surface to the other.

Let them dry on a towel with the image facing up. Place a book or magazine along the edges so they don't curl while drying.

Beware of the Sun

Do not dry photographs directly in the sun: high temperatures can cause the material to curl and the color to fade. It is therefore recommended to keep them in closed spaces free of humidity.

If the photo turns red, yellow, or white while cleaning it, it may indicate that it needs professional care. It may be too damaged to repair at home.

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How Can I Separate Photos Stuck Together?

Sometimes, due to the humidity of the environment, a photo can get stuck to the glass of the frame where it was exposed. This happens when small drops are formed between the glass and the picture.

As a result, the surface of the photo becomes like jelly. Thus, the print should be handled carefully; otherwise, it’ll sustain damage, especially when separating the picture from the glass.

For these cases, a very effective technique is to use an unscented humidifier and pass the steam around the image. This procedure can be done several times until the photograph is completely detached from the glass.

At no time in the process should force be used to separate the images, nor should they be manipulated while wet.

If you do not have a humidifier, another option is to use a hairdryer to blow hot air at a low temperature. This should be done at about 10 centimeters from the photo for a few minutes along the edges.

Warm gusts of air remove excess moisture from photos and can cause the image coating to harden again, releasing one layer of images from the next.

If the photos are stuck together due to humidity, you can place them in cold water on both sides. Then, with a piece of cardboard or a card, try to separate them by passing them from one side to the other.

Another technique is to place the glued photos in an airtight plastic bag and press it to remove the air. Then, put it in the freezer for 30 minutes and try to separate them with a card.

Cleaning Mold on Picture Frames

Excessive humidity generates fungus agglomeration capable of damaging some of our most valuable belongings. Just like photos, wooden frames are also damaged by this agent.

It is worth clarifying that if the humidity has swollen the wood of the frame, it will be impossible to recover it. In case it has only accumulated mold, it can be solved with the help of sunlight and alcohol.

To remove the mildew, it will be necessary to expose it to direct sunlight. Only after can it be sanitized with a lint-free cloth soaked in alcohol.

Where Should I Keep the Restored Photos?

The best way to keep your photos in excellent condition is to prevent water damage from occurring. The most advisable place to store your precious memories is always inside a photo album, which is great against humidity.

Avoid storing photographs in cheap, low-quality, or very porous boxes. Instead, place them in paper albums that will be stored in a dry place.

Since accidents and water spills can affect our photos, a good preemptive measure is to have a digital backup by hiring a professional photo scanning service. That way, the original copies won’t run into water damage.

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Get an Expert Advice

Each photo has its own characteristics, and only an expert can differentiate between each of the types of paints and inks. Thus, if DIY techniques do not work, it’s high time you seek professional help.

The experts at Forever Studios will be able to perform a photo restoration according to your pictures’ pigment and level of deterioration in a personalized way.

Moreover, computer programs can get your water-damaged photos to how they originally were. What’s more, this software can also eliminate stains, scratches, and traces of humidity.

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