Removing Mildew from B/W Prints

Discussion in 'Photography' started by Lenny Abbey, Dec 14, 2004.

  1. Lenny Abbey

    Lenny Abbey Guest

    I have inherited hundreds of old family photographs, some dating back to
    1870. Many of the most important prints have been invaded by mild to
    moderate mildew. This is mostly on the old prints mounted on cardboard with
    the studio's logo on the back.

    Does anyone have a suggestion for removing, or maybe just stopping, the

    I am frantically scanning these images, but I would hate to lose the

    Thanks in advance!

    Lenny Abbey, Dec 14, 2004
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  2. Lenny Abbey

    C J Campbell Guest

    Google is your friend. :)

    I would think that the coolest, most dehumidified air available might be
    from an air conditioner.
    C J Campbell, Dec 15, 2004
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  3. Lenny Abbey

    RSD99 Guest

    RSD99, Dec 15, 2004
  4. Lenny Abbey

    TJMcG Guest

    I would suggest a cleaner like Pec 12. It can't damage the print, and should
    clean the mildew. You should know, however, that some of the emulsion may
    have been permanently lost.

    If there are smears or streaks after cleaning, you can wash the prints in a
    large pan of water, and dry them with hair dryer. Just hold them in the
    water and move them back and forth gently for five minutes or so.

    An alternative is a wipe designed for cleaning prints.

    After they're clean and dry, store them in archival plastic sleeves in a dry
    dark area, preferably not in a basement.

    Best wishes

    TJMcG, Dec 15, 2004
  5. Lenny Abbey

    Lenny Abbey Guest

    What is PEC 12, and where can I get it?


    Lenny Abbey, Dec 16, 2004
  6. Lenny Abbey

    RSD99 Guest

    PEC-12 is the most common archival-grade film (and print) cleaning
    solution. It should be available from almost any camera store ... on-line
    *or* bricks-and-mortar.

    RSD99, Dec 16, 2004
  7. Lenny Abbey

    Lenny Abbey Guest

    I found it!

    Thanks a million!


    Lenny Abbey, Dec 17, 2004

  8. jan805 from Lloyd Erlick,

    Please post regarding the success of using Pec-12 for
    this purpose. I'd like to know if it worked.

    My guess is that it does not, and that it is a very big
    chore to wipe down a load of prints.

    For killing mildew on paper (such as books, prints,
    etc.) or fabric, the old standby has been formaldehyde.
    Make a box or cover (cardboard will suffice) of some
    sort (do this outdoors, in the barn, on the balcony,
    etc.), put some sort of racks inside, place the prints
    so they are fully exposed on all surfaces, put a dish
    of formaldehyde inside the covering and close it up.

    Formaldehyde is very deadly. It will need time to
    circulate around inside (it's a gas) and to seep into
    the fibers of the paper. But a couple of hours should
    be pretty final for the mildew. Don't get liquid
    formaldehyde on the prints. It's good for sterilizing
    because it's a gas and blows away completely after it's
    no longer wanted. Just lift the cover, take away the
    dish of formaldehyde, and let the air clear it.

    Formaldehyde is a gas that dissolves readily in water.
    When it's in a 37 to 40 per cent solution it is often
    called formalin. It would take a lot to harm a human,
    and it would need to be in close quarters unless there
    was a truly astounding amount. Also, the smell is
    overpoweringly strong and awful, so the ability to be
    closed up with a significant amount of the stuff is
    most unusual.

    Dead mildew might still smell (of mildew, that is). The
    only thing to do is to let it air however long it takes
    to clear, which could be several weeks. I've done this
    with gloves and scarves (although they were not so
    delicate as to require a gas type of mildew killer, so
    I just washed them with plenty of chlorine laundry
    bleach). The mildew odor hung around for many weeks
    while they sat out in the sunny window.

    Chemical suppliers would have it (it's used to preserve
    biologicals) but it probably would be cheaper to get it
    at a farming supplier.

    Mildew is a tough adversary. The spores are very
    tenacious. Humans are often sensitive to it,
    occasionally to the point of suffering personality
    alterations under its influence. That is rare, but I've
    witnessed it in an adult male of large body mass. The
    change is not for the better. The exposure was from
    carrying a few things out of a basement, over less than
    an hour. I felt no effect, although I passionately hate
    the odor. My friend became angry, abusive, loud,
    outright loony. He's touchy about leaf mould, too, and
    I've seen him go over the edge (shouting at passersby!)
    just from doing yard work!

    I'd rather be exposed to formaldehyde.

    Please note that my legal staff are bursting into my
    room right now, insisting that I inform you never to
    listen to anything I have to say about toxic materials.
    You'll have to educate yourself about proper handling
    of dangerous chemicals, if you haven't already.

    Lloyd Erlick Portraits, Toronto.
    voice: 416-686-0326
    Lloyd Usenet-Erlick, Jan 8, 2005
  9. FORMALDEHYDE is carcinogenic (can cause cancer) so handle with extreme care.
    Perrian Robertson, Jan 11, 2005
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