Main Content

Saving Personal Photographs after the Flood

Release date: 
July 13, 2002
Release Number: 

San Antonio, TX -- As people return to their homes after the flooding and begin the difficult process of cleanup, they may still salvage some of their drenched photographs with proper handling.

Photographs may be the only record of special occasions such as weddings, birthdays and graduations. The Federal Emergency Management Agency, along with the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works, offer the following tips to help save family photographs.

Damaged photographs for which there are no negatives available should receive attention first. Once photographs have stuck together or become moldy saving them may not be possible.

Washing photos: Handle all wet photos carefully as the surfaces may be fragile. Wet photos may be washed and rinsed in clean water (if necessary), but be careful not to touch the surfaces. Handle only the edges. Dry them face up in a single layer on a clean surface, such as a table, window screen or clean plastic. Avoid drying the photos in direct sunlight as exposure may lead to splitting, warping or fading of the photos. Photographs may curl during drying, but they can be flattened later.

Freezing photos: If a freezer is available, freeze the photos immediately after rinsing them. Seal several photos at a time in plastic bags with a tie or a Zip-Lock type plastic bag. If possible, place wax paper between each individual photo to prevent sticking. Later, photos may be separated and air-dried.

Drying photos: The key to drying photos is air circulation. Electric fans, when used safely, can significantly aid in the drying and preservation of your important memories.

Remember that if floodwaters did not damage the negatives, you can make additional prints anytime.

For additional assistance on care for water-damaged collections and heirlooms from the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works, see the FEMA Web site at

Last Updated: 
January 3, 2018 - 12:56