How to Restore Water Damaged Photos

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How to Restore Water Damaged Photos

Photos are an integral part of many people's lives. With the advent of digital cameras, it is common to store images safely on computers or external hard drives. However, some photos of great sentimental value may exist in physical forms that are easy to damage. Water damage is one of the most common types of harm suffered by photos, either by flooding or spills. It is possible to restore these photos if owners act quickly by following simple steps that depend on the type of print.

Prerequisites to Restoring Water Damaged Photos

It is important to start the restoration process while photos are still wet. If a stack of photos dry, the pictures may stick together, which makes it difficult, or even impossible, to separate them. Extended exposure to moisture results in blurring, disintegration of the paper, and mould.

Freeze Water Damaged Photos

If it is impossible to examine the photos immediately, put the stack of prints or the photo album in a plastic bag without separating the pictures and place the bag in the freezer. Prints can remain in the freezer for a long time. If the pictures are in contact with plastic page protectors used in photo albums, they may stick, which changes the surface gloss. When ready to restore the photos, simple remove them from the plastic bag and leave the prints to thaw.

Determine the Type of Photo

Most photos are traditional prints, dye diffusion thermal transfer prints, or inkjet prints. The restoration process varies for each type of photo.

Type of Photo


Traditional photographic print (black and white)

Silver image within a gelatin layer

Resistant to water damage

Distorts after drying

Sticks to another photo if contact occurs

Traditional photographic print (colour)

Dyes within a gelatin layer

Less distortion after drying

Less likely to discolour in white areas

Sticks to another photo if contact occurs

Dye diffusion thermal transfer print

Dye image is heat transferred to the paper

Used in photo booths and by some home colour photo printers

Resistant to water damage

Some distortion after drying

If submerged for more than a day, image transfers to adjacent prints

Inkjet print

Dyes or pigments on coated or uncoated paper

Coated paper is swellable or microporous

Dye images on swellable paper bleed and distort if severely damaged by water

Dye images on microporous paper bleed, distort, and flake if severely damaged by water

Pigment images flake after water damage

Owners should remove photos stored in albums carefully. Ink from notes in albums may bleed onto prints and discolour them.

Restore Water Damaged Photos

The method used to restore water damaged photos depends on the type of print. Carry out all work with extreme care. Owners should wear rubber gloves to prevent contamination.

Traditional Photographic Prints

Soak the stack of photos in clean water at room temperature. If the prints are soiled, use a soft brush to remove dirt or sand, starting at the corners. If any part of the image starts to discolour, stop cleaning immediately to prevent severe damage. Gently peel the photos apart. If there is resistance, leave the stack to soak for longer. Once all the photos are separated, rinse them in clean, cool water. Spread them on blotting paper or hang them to dry in a dark, dust-free area. Do not use heat to dry the photos.

Dye Diffusion Thermal Transfer Prints

Owners can separate dye diffusion thermal transfer prints that are stuck together, even if they are dry. Then wipe the surface gently with a damp, clean towel.

Inkjet Prints

Separate pigment-type inkjet prints by peeling them apart gently when wet. If they are soiled, soak them in water and clean with a soft brush. Dry the prints in the shade.

For soiled dye-type inkjet prints, soak them in water at room temperature for one minute; longer immersion results in the dye separating from the paper, leading to faded or blurred images. Use a soft brush to clean the photos quickly, but carefully. Do not soak these prints if they are not dirty.

How to Buy Supplies to Restore Water Damaged Photos on eBay

The process of restoring water damaged photos requires a few simple supplies found easily on eBay. Use the search bar available on every eBay page to find products, for example, " blotting paper". Buyers should read the item description before committing to a purchase. eBay offers a range of deals that are updated regularly. Water damage to photos can happen quickly and without warning, caused by accidents, such as a spilled drink or flood. Owners should act quickly to salvage as many photos as possible. Freeze wet photos immediately, then determine the type of print and follow the restoration steps.

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