Cleaning Old Photographs

by April Reinhardt
(last updated August 15, 2016)

While perusing Grandma's old photographs, did you spill liquid or food on them? Don't panic! The photo isn't ruined. There is a way to clean old photographs. Follow these steps to clean old photographs, and then read the pointers for preserving them for future generations:

  1. For fresh stains, act quickly. Keep in mind that photographs are processed in liquid, so water will not harm them. Place the photo in a stream of running water, or in a pan of clean water.
  2. Gently hold the photo by the very edge, and swish it back and forth in the water.
  3. Using your fingers as a squeegee, remove the excess water from the photo.
  4. Inspect the photo for water droplets, and dab at them with paper toweling.
  5. Place the photo between paper towels to remove all water.
  6. Place the photo on a thick bath towel and then use a hair dryer on the highest heat setting to dry the photo completely, moving the dryer back and forth at least ten inches away from the photo.

The previous steps are not intended for very old photos, such as ferrotypes. And never, ever use water or liquid on photograph negatives, as you will completely destroy the image. It is best to take very old photographs to a professional restoration artist to have them cleaned, but you can enhance and preserve old photographs yourself if you have a computer and a photo editor. I use Picasa2 as my photo editor, and have scanned and then enhanced many old photos for my personal library. Follow these steps to preserve and enhance your old photographs with a photo editor:

  • Scan your photograph.
  • Choose to import it into your photo editor.
  • With your editor, choose to crop, straighten clear red eye problems, adjust contrast, lighting, color, color temperature, and even sharpen the photo.
  • Save the "cleaned" photos to a folder on your hard drive, and then store the original old photographs in dry, clean conditions at a steady room temperature with little humidity. Keep original photographs from direct sunlight.

When cleaning old photographs, try to determine the processing used for the particular print. Water will ruin certain types of prints. Avoid scratching or rubbing photographs while cleaning them, as doing so may etch the print. Avoid writing with ink on the fronts – or backs – of photographs, as the ink can transfer through to the print. If you must write on an old photograph, use pencil and write very lightly.

Author Bio

April Reinhardt

An admin­istrator for a mutual fund man­age­ment firm, April deals with the writ­ten word daily. She loves to write and plans to author a memoir in the near future. April attend­ed More­head State Uni­ver­sity to pursue a BA degree in Ele­men­tary Edu­ca­tion. ...

MORE FROM APRIL

Removing Hard Water Stains from Linoleum

Since linoleum is made from natural ingredients, it is a porous material and can absorb watery substances, forming ...

Discover More

Is Age-Defying Makeup Different?

Before buying expensive anti-aging creams and age-defying makeup, perform a little research and determine if the product ...

Discover More

Adding a Garden Water Fountain

Adding elegance and visual interest to any garden, a water fountain also provides the relaxing sound of trickling water. ...

Discover More

Remove Stubborn Stains Quickly Get everything looking clean again: Walls, floors, baseboards, counters, blinds, appliances, and more. Micro-scrubbers easily reach into surface grooves, lifting dirt away. This low-cost 8-pack is great for stubborn stains and touble areas. Check out Mr. Clean Magic Eraser 8-Pack today!

More Cleaning Tips

Cleaning a Chalkboard

For routine cleaning, wipe your chalkboard down with a dry cloth. For a dirtier board, the following method can be used ...

Discover More

Photo Cleaning

One of the great things about photos is that they can help us remember and re-experience many of the greatest moments of ...

Discover More

Cleaning Vinyl Records

A gentle approach is the key to washing vinyl records. Handling with care you want to wet the record on both sides with ...

Discover More
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in Cleaning Tips from Tips.Net. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

View most recent newsletter.

Comments

If you would like to add an image to your comment (not an avatar, but an image to help in making the point of your comment), include the characters [{fig}] in your comment text. You’ll be prompted to upload your image when you submit the comment. Maximum image size is 6Mpixels. Images larger than 600px wide or 1000px tall will be reduced. Up to three images may be included in a comment. All images are subject to review. Commenting privileges may be curtailed if inappropriate images are posted.

What is eight minus 6?

There are currently no comments for this tip. (Be the first to leave your comment—just use the simple form above!)


Newest Tips
Subscribe

FREE SERVICE: Get tips like this every week in Cleaning Tips from Tips.Net. Enter your address and click "Subscribe."

(Your e-mail address is not shared with anyone, ever.)

View the most recent newsletter.