How To Save Water Damaged Photos and Documents

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Lots can be lost in the event of a natural disaster but your scrapbooks and photos do not have to be among them! Whether a storm or humidity, there are ways to save memories and documents that appear to be destroyed.


If your pictures have been flood damaged, try to salvage them within two days is possible. After this time they will begin to mold and stick together and it will be difficult to fix them. When you are able to grab your photos, do not just let them just sit and dry out. They will stick to each other and will be impossible to save. Carefully take them out of the water or mud and separate any that are stacked together. Try not to rub or touch the wet emulsion of the photo surface. In a sink or bucket, gently rinse both sides with clear, cold water. Change the water frequently as dirt comes off.

Make space with blotting paper or a paper towel to lay each photo face up to dry. Do not use newspaper as the ink may transfer onto the wet photos. Change out the paper towels as they get wet or until the photos are dry. Do not dry the photos outside as the sun will cause photos to curl.

If you do not have time to dry out each photo, follow the rinsing process and stack the photos between wax paper. Put stacks in a ziploc bag and seal. You can seal the bags to prohibit any more damage and give you time to dry them out later.

Papers and Books

Important documents such as birth certificates, marriage licenses, or even favorite books can be recovered. Just like photos, you want to remove the items from the water as soon as possible to avoid mold from setting in. If there is dirt you can rinse in clear, cold water or use a spray bottle. Set the items on plain white paper towels and out of direct sunlight. Use a fan to circulate air and speed up drying. For books, use absorbent paper in between pages and leave flat to dry.

Remember that paper items do not have to be directly in water to incur damage. Extra humidity in the air is enough to trigger mold growth.

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