Tips on Salvaging Flood-Damaged Family Treasures

Release Date Release Number
NR DR-4438-OK 021
Release Date:
June 27, 2019

Oklahoma City, OK – Oklahomans who had family treasures, heirlooms, photos and books damaged during the severe storms, straight-line winds, tornadoes and flooding between May 7 and June 9, shouldn’t throw them away just yet. They may be salvageable and expert advice is available to help.

Here are some tips on how to save some of your family treasures:

  • Flood water may be contaminated. Wear protective gloves, clothing and goggles.
  • If an object is still wet, rinse it gently with clean water. If dry, remove silt and other foreign material with a soft brush or damp cloth.
  • Air dry wet things indoors. Sunlight might be too intense. Keep humidity as low as possible to prevent mold accumulation.
  • Don’t try to separate photos or negatives that are stuck together. Soak them in water for up to 48 hours until you can safely pull them apart. Hang them with clips or clothespins to dry.
  • Put wet books in a sturdy covered plastic container, spine side down. Place the container in a freezer and keep it there for several weeks, even months. Then remove and let dry.
  • With fabrics or textiles, remove mud and debris with gently flowing clean water or fine spray from a hose. Press out the excess water with your hand. Do not try to wring out the water. Allow to dry.
  • Clean wooden objects (like furniture) with a damp sponge; blot and let dry slowly inside the house, not under the sun.
  • Rinse metal objects with clear water and blot dry immediately with a clean, soft cloth. Fans or low-heat hairdryers will hasten drying rate.
  • For broken pottery or ceramics, put all the pieces in an open container and mark what it is. Don’t try to glue the pieces back together until they are dry. And watch for mold. If mold appears, spray the pieces with Mold-Ex or a similar product.

FEMA offers a free fact sheet at with advice on how to save personal possessions.

Basic salvage guidelines are also available from the Heritage Emergency National Task Force, a coalition of 58 national organizations and federal agencies co-sponsored by FEMA and the Smithsonian Institution. For more information, visit or email HENTF@si.ed.

Another resource is the American Institute for Conservation and the Foundation for Advancement in Conservation, which provides advice on the proper care and maintenance of family heirlooms as well as a search tool to find local conservation professionals that can help salvage photos, books, textiles, paintings, wooden furniture and other valuable objects (

Learn more about the current disaster in Oklahoma at and Follow us on Twitter at and the FEMA Blog at

# # #

FEMA's mission is to help before, during and after disasters.

Disaster recovery assistance is available without regard to race, color, religion, nationality, sex, age, disability, English proficiency or economic status. If you or someone you know has been discriminated against, call FEMA toll-free at 800-621-FEMA (3362). For TTY call 800-462-7585.

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is the federal government’s primary source of money for the long-term rebuilding of disaster-damaged private property. SBA helps businesses of all sizes, private non-profit organizations, homeowners and renters fund repairs or rebuilding efforts and cover the cost of replacing lost or disaster-damaged personal property. These disaster loans cover losses not fully compensated by insurance or other recoveries and do not duplicate benefits of other agencies or organizations. For more information, applicants may contact SBA’s Disaster Assistance Customer Service Center by calling 800-659-2955, emailing, or visiting SBA’s website at Deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals may call 800-877-8339.

Last updated March 18, 2021