This winter we have witnessed some very unusual and deadly weather patterns. Flooding has begun early aggressively. In Is There a Flood Coming to Your Neighborhood? I spoke about preparing for and surviving a flood. Now is the time to learn how too salvage some of those precious items that may seem beyond saving.
Saving Water-Damaged Photos
Most photos, negatives and color slides can be cleaned and dried using the following steps:
Carefully lift the photos from the mud and dirty water.
Remove photos from water-logged albums and separate any that are stacked together by placing in a tub of clean water and carefully pulling them apart. Be careful not to rub or touch the wet emulsion side of the photo surface.
Gently rinse both sides of the photo in a bucket or sink of clear, cold water. Be sure there is no sand of grit iin your water even if it looks clear. Do not rub the photos and be sure to change the water frequently.
Lay each wet photo face up in a single layer, on any clean blotting paper, such as a paper towel. Don’t use newspapers or printed paper towels, as the ink may transfer to photos. Do not press photos against the paper, just let them dry slowly. Change the blotting paper every hour or two until the photos dry. Photos should be dried inside or in an area protected from the wind and the sun as sun both will cause photos to curl or fade.
If you can’t dry your damaged photos immediately rinse them to remove any mud and debris. Carefully stack the wet photos between sheets of wax paper and seal them in a Ziploc type plastic bag. Place photos in freezer to reduce damage. Photos can then be defrosted, separated and air-dried later.
Flood-damaged photos will begin to mold or stick together if you do not treat them within two days so this should be near the top of your priority list.
Prioritize and begin with photographs for which there are no negatives, no duplicates with extended family and friends, or whose negatives are water damaged.
Photos in frames need to be saved while they are still wet or they will stick to the glass as they dry. To remove a wet photo from a picture frame hold both under gently flowing water, using the water to separate the photo from the glass.
Historical photos are very sensitive to water damage and may not be recoverable. They should not be frozen without first consulting a professional restorer.
If there are photos which can not be successfully removed from a frame or photo album or if you are just running out of time, take digital pictures or scans of each. Shoot several, some very close up and some further away from the image. It is amazing what can be done to enhance a photo so even if think it is too far gone take a picture.
Saving Water-Damaged Papers & Books
Most papers, documents and books can be cleaned and air-dried using the following steps:
Carefully remove the papers from the water.
If the damage is from dirty flood water, gently rinse the papers in cold water. If they are fragile lay the papers on a flat surface and rinse with water from a spray bottle.
Lay the papers individually on a flat surface, out of direct sunlight. If the papers are very wet, lay them in piles to dry out a little before separating. Paper is easier to separate when drier. You can also hang the papers on a string or clothes line using clothes pins.
Books can be opened and draped over a line. Open the book to the center and hang over the line. Allow to dry a few hours. Remove the book and open to another page 30 to 50 pages from the center and begin the process again. Continue until the book is completely dry.
Increase air circulation to speed drying.
If you have room to lay everything out, water-logged books should be dried flat. Place absorbent paper between the wet pages. Lay the books flat to dry. You don’t have to place paper between every page, just every 15-30 pages. Change blotting paper every few hours.
If you can’t treat books immediately seal them in zip-loc type bags and store them in the freezer.
Books and paper don’t have to be directly in the water to experience damage. High humidity is enough for the growth of mold. It is important to remove these books and papers to a location with fans and good air circulation to lower humidity. Lay them flat and open in an area of good air movement. You do not need to use blotting paper.
After papers and books are completely dry, they may still retain a musty smell. If the smell remains after a few days place them in a closed container with an open box of baking soda. Do not to let the baking soda touch the books or papers. After a few days the smell should be gone or vastly improved.
If you have tried everything, and papers or photos develop mold, digitally scanned them and throw them away. Again, it is amazing what can be done to enhance and save these items.
Now is the time, if you have not already done so, to begin a preparedness binder so you will have information available when a disaster happens to you. Be sure to keep your binder is a safe area when you have warning of an impending disaster is on it’s way.