Photos are extremely fragile. They are, after all, just ink printed on paper. Inside of frames, they are protected but frames are not infallible. They will be weakened when wet or exposed to higher humidity levels than they can handle. They are designed for use indoors, not for humid greenhouses.
Water damage is not limited to being caused by homes flooding. Anywhere there is excess moisture, there is the potential for water damage. That is worth considering when deciding on where to hang your frames.
As an example, on a downstairs wall that is directly under a gas boiler carries the risk of a water leak causing trickles of water to run down the wall cavities raising humidity behind the frame. That would increase the risk of water damage inside the frame if it was exposed to those conditions for too long. Dampness increases humidity, and high humidity can attract paper eating insects. It is never good.
The earlier you detect water damage, the sooner you can take corrective actions before you need to restore ink pigments on a water-damaged photo.
Early signs of high humidity
The walls you hang your frames on show signs of high humidity before prints are damaged by excess moisture. The earliest sign of high humidity is mould and mildew growth behind the frame. It happens when there is a lack of air circulation. That is one reason frames are not hung flat to the wall surface like what teens often do with their posters when they pin them to walls or use blu-tack or worse – sellotape.
Where you are more likely to find mould being a problem is when frames are hung on exterior walls. The higher temperature and increased room humidity indoors with the exterior temperature cooler and air flow behind the frame restricted can raise the humidity to the extremes that cause mould to grow. If that continues, it can penetrate into the frame causing moisture damage to your prints.
Excess moisture can cause the print to stick to the glazing
If you notice humidity damage, handle your print with care. When moisture is inside the frame, the paper will be brittle and it could be stuck to the glass. If it is, there will be white spots on the photo. Peeling a photo that is stuck to the glass of a picture frame will damage it more than it already is.
How to safely dry wet photos
Photo albums have less protection from water than frames provide. If albums get wet, the photos will need to be dried.
Do not be tempted to dry wet photos in sunlight. It seems logical that the sunlight will help it to dry faster, but it will also cause the colours to fade.
The safest method for drying photos is to let them air dry. Fans will speed up the drying process. Lay them on top of absorbent paper, such as a kitchen towel to soak up as much moisture as possible, then leave them near a fan so they get exposed to increased air flow. They will likely curl as they dry.
Reproducing Water Damaged Prints
When prints are damaged, they are not always salvageable. Sometimes, you have to take a picture or scan a photo to recreate a digital file, then restore your print from the backup.
If you only have the original and no backup, the only way to save it will be to restore the print to as close to its original as possible.
If you do have photos that are either water-damaged, showing white spots indicating the print is stuck to the glass, or it’s torn, scratched, or wrinkled after drying, our photo restoration service may be of assistance.