Put the Lysol Down: How to Deal with Mold.

how to deal with mold on photos

Put the Lysol Down: How to Deal with Mold.


The word makes you want to bathe in bleach. It is bad enough that you have to battle the mold growing in the shower, but what do you do when it appears on your great-grandmother’s face?

Believe it or not, mold can grow on photographs and documents. It is tragic and horrifying, but it is not uncommon.

How does mold happen?

How to make moldy photos: Mix one part moisture with one part cellulose. Bake at 70 degrees F (or higher) for a long time.

This is a tried and true way to curate your own brand of fungus. Moisture can be introduced easily by improper storage (in damp basements or hot attics), spraying glass cleaner directly on framed photos, or having humidity in the home.

Mold and mildew can grow easily on rag matting, antique prints, and cellulose base prints.  These quality art materials are made of things of the earth – cotton, plants, even animal skin. These materials will react and feed off of the environment they live in unlike today’s RC prints that are made of plastic.

Ewwww. How do I prevent mold?

The easiest thing to do is to take moisture out of the equation. We live in the Mid-Atlantic region where temperatures are unpredictable and humidity is constantly in the air. You can combat humidity by:

-. Keep art in living spaces. Keep art out of damp basements, hot attics, or garages.

– Run your air conditioner or heat to keep the environment dry. Stability is essential to image preservation.

– Bathrooms that experience steam/condensation are not an option. You can have art professionally sealed to help protect it from the steam/condensation, but we recommend keeping the art you truly love out of the bathroom.

– Use albums with air tight slipcovers.

– Put silica desiccant packets in storage boxes to absorb moisture.

mold square

So, I found mold. What do I do?

First and foremost, put the Lysol down. Do not try to clean photos yourself. A quick internet search showed a dozen or more pages dedicated to helping people clean their photos at home. Methods included using a Q-tip with water, a dry paintbrush, and a Clorox/water solution.

These methods have the potential to destroy the photograph and spread the mold into the air.

We have had a few clients try at-home photo restoration techniques, and most of them have resulted in the client creating more damage. You could accidentally wipe off the hand coloring of a crayon portrait or burn through the emulsion. A simple fix by a pro just turned into a full blown restoration.

The best DIY that you can do is prevention. Buy silica desiccant packets here and album slip covers here.

Have more questions? Give us a call or email us. We’ll help you out.