Protecting Your Photos from Mold

black and white photo of black spots of mold. Protect your photos from mold.

Protecting your Photos from Mold

Fall is here and with it –  hurricane season.  This newsletter’s topic is all about protecting your photos from the menace of mold. With so much misleading advice out there, I want to make sure you have the right information to safeguard your photos and documents effectively.

Understanding the Threat of Mold

Mold is a common problem that can wreak havoc on your prints and documents. It thrives in damp environments and can grow rapidly if left unchecked. Mold not only damages the physical items but can also cause irreversible loss to the content they hold. It’s important to be proactive in preventing mold growth.

Spotting Mold on Photos and Documents

Look for discoloration: Mold often appears as fuzzy patches, specks, or discoloration on the surface.

Musty smell: A strong musty or earthy odor may indicate the presence of mold nearby.

Warping or distortion: Mold-infested materials may show signs of warping, curling, or distortion.

Preventing Mold Growth

Control humidity levels: Keep your photo and document storage areas at a relative humidity level of around 30-50%. Your living spaces are more climate-controlled and are better storage areas for photos. Avoid damp basements, garages or areas prone to moisture.

Maintain proper ventilation: Ensure proper airflow and ventilation. Air conditioning and dehumidifiers help.

Don’t hang valuable photos in kitchens or bathrooms – too risky!

Use archival storage materials: Store photos and documents in archival-quality boxes, sleeves, and albums.

Avoid direct contact: Don’t stack damp / moist materials on top of each other, as it promotes mold growth.

Regularly inspect and clean: Routinely inspect your collection for any signs of mold or deterioration. Clean surfaces gently with a soft brush or cloth.

Responding to Mold:

Isolate affected items: If you discover mold, separate the affected items from the rest of your collection. This prevents further contamination.

Coyle Studios, a professional photo restoration and conservation business in Maryland, shared these helpful tips on their site:

Do not try to clean photos yourself. A quick internet search showed a dozen or more pages dedicated to helping people clean their photos at home. Remedies included using a Q-tip with water, a dry paintbrush, and a bleach/water solution to clean the mold. Others suggested freezing the photos to stop mold growth. 

These methods may treat the mold, but they stand a greater chance of destroying the photo completely and spreading mold into the air.

When it comes to mold, you want to act fast, but not rashly. If you find mold on your photos and documents, don’t panic. Call a conservator right away. A pro will ask you a few questions about your photos, determine the damage, and advise you on your next steps. While there is no one way to treat mold, a pro can often save or at least stabilize your images.

By being vigilant and taking proactive steps, you can safeguard your photos and documents from the damaging effects of mold. Remember, prevention is key. Implement the strategies above and protect your precious memories for years to come.

If you want to make sure your photos are always at your fingertips and safely backed up, let’s talk. Contact us here for a free, no obligation 30-minute consult.