Main Content
Release date: 
October 6, 2013
Release Number: 

DENVER – Heirlooms and keepsakes are not always lost to the flood. By being patient and prompt and using professional tips, irreplaceable objects such as photos and documents may be salvaged.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), working in conjunction with the Heritage Emergency National Task Force and Heritage Preservation, offers recommendations on cleaning water-damaged belongings:

  • Before cleaning any flood-damaged belongings, wear long sleeves, watertight shoes, non-porous gloves, a fitted face mask and eye protection.
  • Damp items that cannot be dealt with immediately should be put in open, unsealed boxes or bags.
  • Heirlooms can be fragile when wet. Separate damp materials by removing the contents from drawers, taking photos from damp albums, removing paintings and prints from frames and placing paper towels between pages of wet books.
  • Inhibit the growth of mold and mildew by reducing humidity. Increase airflow with fans, open windows, or air conditioners and dehumidifiers.
  • Gentle air drying indoors is best for all heirlooms. Sunlight and heat may be too intense, causing splits, warping and buckling.
  • Loosen dirt and debris on fragile objects gently with soft brushes and cloths. Avoid rubbing, which can grind in dirt.
  • Clean photographs by rinsing them carefully in clean water. Air dry photos on a plastic screen or paper towel or by hanging them by the corner with plastic clothespins. Do not let the images come into contact with other surfaces. Wet photographs and negatives stuck together should never be pulled apart. Soak them in clean water until they separate on their own. Rinse again in fresh clean water.
  • If objects are broken or begin to fall apart, place all broken pieces, bits of veneer and detached parts in labeled 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.
  • Rinse metal objects exposed to floodwaters, mud or silt with clear water and dry immediately with a clean, soft cloth. Allow heavy mud deposits on large metal objects such as sculptures to dry. Caked mud can be removed later. Consult a professional conservator for further treatment.

Because the information given is general, FEMA, Heritage Emergency National Task Force and Heritage Preservation strongly recommend that professional conservators be consulted regarding the appropriate method of treatment for historic objects.

To help Coloradans cleaning up heirlooms after the flood, Heritage Preservation offers a free online video guide at For professional assistance, visit, and click on “Find a Conservator.”

Last Updated: 
October 7, 2013 - 09:23
State/Tribal Government or Region: 
Back to Top