6 Steps to Saving Water-Damaged Family Photos

These Tips Will Help You Salvage Your Treasured Family Pictures

How to Save Water-Damaged Family PhotosWhether you’re just beginning to research your family history or are a seasoned family historian, you have likely come across one of the most commonly dreaded family photo woes: water damage.

While the loss of treasured family photographs can be truly disheartening, don’t fret! There are ways to salvage water-damaged photos so you can add them to your family tree. If your family photos were damaged due to high humidity, a damp basement, a flood or even a house fire, the following steps could save many of your precious family memories.

How to Save Water-Damaged Family Photos

1.) Don’t Dry Them Out

While you may panic at the first sight of your soggy photographs and run to grab a hair dryer, this is a big family photo faux pas. In fact, you may cause even more harm to your photos! Once those family photos dry, they’ll stick together. And when you try to separate them later, it will be nearly impossible not to cause further damage to the photos. So, don’t dry them yourself — and don’t let them dry out on their own if you can help it, as this could also cause the photos to mold.

2.) Start the Salvaging Process ASAP

If you can help it, know that your family photos should never stay wet or damp for more than a few days (three, max). Grab your family members or some friends and have them help you start scanning images — even if they are stuck together. Scanning the photos that can be seen and that aren’t as damaged as others will help you keep at least some of your family memories intact. You should also start scanning pictures that don’t have negatives, and the ones for which negatives have been damaged, too.

3.) Store Wet Photos In…Water, Then Separate Them

While it may seem like an odd place to store wet photos, photo restoration professionals recommend that you place them in a container filled with clean tap water — the colder, the more beneficial to salvaging your photos. Only place photos in water if they’re still wet from a disaster, however. Change the water every day while you’re working on saving your family photos.

Separate as many photos as possible before returning them to the cold water bath, and repeat the soaking process if needed. After you’ve successfully separated your family photos, you should then store them in water until you are able to rinse them individually. Rinse each photo in another container under clean tap water (paying strict attention not to run it directly onto the photos). Do this until water runs clear into the container. Repeat.

Photo Salvaging Tip! Whatever you do, don’t force your photos to come apart as you attempt to separate them! If you feel too much resistance, it’s best to leave them alone or you may cause permanent damage to your photos.

4.) Let Them Hang-Dry

Once you’ve separated the photos or negatives and rinsed them clean, you can start the natural drying process. What you will want to do is hang-dry them somewhere that won’t allow debris or dust to fall across them. There are even photo drying solutions available that help facilitate a safe, uniform drying process.

5.) When in Doubt, Call a Professional

If you are worried about messing up the steps, or unsure about how to salvage certain photos, rest assured that photo restoration companies can work their expert magic on saving as many of your family photos as possible.

Photo Restoration Tip! ScanMyPhotos offers more tips on how to save your precious family memories, and offers expert help on restoring damaged pictures.

6.) Digitize Your Family Photos & Store Them Online

Of course, even if you contact a professional for help or attempt all of the steps as outlined above, just know that some of your family photos may still be damaged permanently. In order to combat a lifetime loss of your treasured pictures, you should always scan and digitize them first and then back them up online before disaster strikes. Even after it does, be sure to digitize your restored family pictures right away! This important process will ensure that your family memories stay intact forever. Follow these step-by-step instructions to scan your family photos and start digitizing them today.

Photo Digitization Tip! Create a collaborative, online Crestleaf Family Tree which will help digitize your photos and back them up online. Your entire family will be sure to benefit!

Have your family photos suffered from water damage? What did you do to save them? Let us know on Twitter!