Can Photos Be Saved After a Flood

after a flood

There are many important possessions to be concerned about after a flood affects your home. Among these are family photographs. These often irreplaceable images are a major recovery priority after a flood if direct contact of water has occurred. Water and photographs definitely don’t go together well. However, certain steps you can take after a flood will help minimize the effect of water damage and make additional later options—such as digital restoration—more feasible.

Begin with the most valuable photos for which there are no existing negatives. These should be highest priority as there’s no option for direct reprinting.

  • If photos are stored inside an album that is water-soaked, gently remove them from the album pages and and lay them out individually, face-up.
  • If photos stored stacked together are wet after a flood, gently separate them and lay each out individually, face-up. Avoid touching the delicate emulsion (image) side of the print.
  • Rinse photographs individually by dunking them gently in a bucket or sink of clean, cold water (distilled water is best). Change the water frequently.
  • Lay photos out individually, image side up, on clean dry paper towels. Don’t use newspaper or any paper that is printed as the ink will transfer.
  • Change the paper every two hours during the time the prints are air drying.
  • Don’t expose wet prints to direct sun or any other heat source. This may cause prints to permanently curl.
  • If you’re unable to lay photos out for drying immediately, after rinsing, stack the photos between sheets of wax paper, place them in a zip-lock bag and put the bag in the freezer. This inhibits potential mold growth and allows you to do the air-drying process at some other time.

If certain wet photos are stubbornly stuck together after a flood, attempting to separate them by more extended soaking in lukewarm water (up to 30 minutes) may work—or it may cause more damage. If the photo is very valuable and you’re not comfortable with the risk involved, freeze the stuck photos and consult a professional photograph conservator for more advice.

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