Tips For The Care Of Flood Damaged Family Heirlooms And Valuables

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Release date: 
October 14, 2003
Release Number: 
1495-21

New Castle, DE - Family valuables and heirlooms can sometimes be saved after the severe water damage they suffered due to tropical storm Henri and Hurricane Isabel.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provides these suggestions for recovering damaged valuables:

  • If the object is wet, rinse with clear, clean water or a fine hose spray. Clean off dry silt and debris with a soft brush or dab with a damp cloth. Be careful not to grind debris into the object.


  • Air-dry objects indoors if possible. Sunlight and heat may dry certain materials too quickly, causing splits, warping and buckling.


  • Inhibit the growth of mold and mildew by reducing the level of humidity. Increase airflow with fans, open windows, air conditioners and dehumidifiers.


  • If objects are broken or begin to fall apart, place all broken pieces, bits of veneer and detached parts in clearly labeled open containers. Do not attempt to repair objects until completely dry or, in the case of important materials, until you have consulted with a professional conservator.


  • Documents, books, photographs, and works of art on paper may be extremely fragile when wet; be careful when handling them. Free the edges of prints and paper objects in mats and frames, if possible. Air dry along with soaked books and papers, or keep in a refrigerator or freezer until a professional conservator can treat them. Please note, photographs and negatives that have gotten wet and stuck together should never be pulled apart. Soak them in clean water until they separate on their own. Rinse them in more clean water. Do not touch the wet surface. Allow to dry on a clean, smooth surface.


  • Textiles, leather, and other "organic" materials will be severely affected by exposure to water and should be allowed to air dry.


  • Remove wet paintings from the frame but not from the stretcher. Air dry; face up, away from direct sunlight.


  • Furniture finishes and painted surfaces may develop a white haze or bloom from contact with water and humidity. These problems do not require immediate attention. Consult a professional conservator for treatment.

Because the information given is general, FEMA strongly recommends that professional conservators be consulted regarding the appropriate method of treatment for historic objects.

On March 1, 2003, FEMA became part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. FEMA's continuing mission within the new department is to lead the effort to prepare the nation for all hazards and effectively manage federal response and recovery efforts following any national incident. FEMA also initiates proactive mitigation activities, trains first responders, and manages Citizen Corps, the National Flood Insurance Program and the U.S. Fire Administration.

Last Updated: 
July 16, 2012 - 18:46
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