Looking at a row of framed family portraits or framed certificates hung on the wall, it’s easy to assume those precious items are safe from damage. Certainly, framing documents and photographs protects them to some degree from fading, dust, and other forms of damage. However, even archival-quality framing can’t protect prized documents from water damage. If a flood, broken pipe, or excessive humidity has damaged your documents or photographs, read on for our primer on how to dry wet documents and pictures that are framed.
How to Preserve Framed Photographs and Other Water Damaged Documents
Work quickly. To avoid further damage, wet documents and photographs must be air or vacuum dried within 48 hours.
Gather materials. To air-dry photographs and documents, you will need a safe space away from the disaster zone. The items you will need for the air-drying process include large trays; fans and dehumidifiers to dry surrounding air; plexiglass or mat board; blotter paper; and plastic bags.
Handle with care. Wear gloves and handle photographs and documents around the edges as much as possible.
Remove item from the frame. Carefully invert the framed item over a flat surface that’s been covered with blotter paper. Gingerly unscrew the frame’s hardware and place it in a separate container. Next, check that the water-damaged documents or photographs are not attached to the frame by gently pushing against the glazing. If the assemblage does have some give, prepare to turn the object back over. Place plexiglass, mat, or masonite board on the back, and use both hands to carefully turn the object over so the frame and precious object are now face-up. Being very careful, lift the frame and then the glass. Contact a document restoration specialist if the photograph won’t come away from the frame or the backing.
Use masking tape to secure the broken glass. If the frame’s glass has been broken, gently tape the pieces together prior to inversion. Work with the object in a vertical orientation if some pieces of glass have slipped down between the document and the glass.
Once the items are removed from their frames, continue the air-drying process, as we have described in previous posts on how to dry wet documents.
If several photographs are stuck together, you may be able to loosen them by soaking them in warm water for about an hour. You can use a plastic bag for the soaking process – just be sure to switch out the water frequently if it becomes dirty.
Place wax paper between photographs so they don’t stick together as they dry.
You can decrease the chance of future damage to photographs and other heirlooms by storing them in dry, cool places. Humid, hot areas, such as the kitchen, basement, and bathroom, are not ideal display areas for documents and pictures you hope to preserve for the long term. For irreplaceable photographs, it is smart to scan the originals and display duplicates so the originals aren’t damaged by sunlight and other display variables.
If photographs have already sustained mold damage, contact a professional restoration expert who knows how to dry and clean damaged photographs. In days past, water-damaged photographs that had been attacked by mold were lost causes. Fortunately, today’s document restoration specialists have advanced technology that can restore even mold-damaged photographs.
[ Photo by: Repoort, via CC License ]