Saving Possessions & Preventing Mold

WTVY Hurricane Center -> Cleaning Up -> Saving Possessions & Preventing Mold

Saving Possessions & Preventing Mold

How to Start the Cleanup

Secure a clean, dry environment where the temperature and humidity are as low as possible.The temperature must be below 70 degrees and the humidity below 50 percent, or mold probably will develop and distortion will be extreme.Wet books, documents, or photographs that cannot be air-dried within two days should be frozen to inhibit mold growth.

Keep the air moving at all times in the drying area. This will accelerate the drying process and discourage the growth of mold. If materials are dried outside, remember that prolonged exposure to direct sunlight may fade inks and accelerate the aging of paper.

Blotting material for air drying should be clean and absorbent.Options include: blotter paper, unprinted newsprint, paper towels, rags, mattress pads, etc. Screening material (such as window screens) well supported and stacked with space between them provide an excellent compact drying surface.

If records are printed on coated paper, they must be separated from one another to prevent them from sticking. Place a piece of polyester film on the stack of records. Rub it gently down on the top sheet. Then slowly lift the film while peeling off the top sheet. Hang the polyester film up to dry on a clothesline using clothespins. As the document dries, it will separate from the surface of the film, so it must be monitored carefully. Before it falls, remove it, and allow it to finish drying on a flat surface.

Once dry, records may be rehoused in clean folders and boxes, or they may be photocopied or reformatted in other ways. Dried records will always occupy more space than ones that have never been water damaged.


Place interleaving material between the text block and the front and back covers. If time and supplies allow, interleaving material should be placed intermittently throughout the text as well. Fan volumes open, and stand them on edge with the interleaving paper extending beyond the edges of the book. Replace interleaving paper as it becomes soaked and invert the volume each time to ensure even drying.

Photographs, Negative, Motion Picture Film

Several classes of photographs are highly susceptible to water damage, and the recovery rate will be very low. Avoid touching the surface of photographic prints and negatives. If an old photographic process cannot be identified, observe the item carefully and contact a conservator for advice. Never freeze old photographs or negatives.

Most prints, negatives, and slides may successfully be individually airdried face up. Change blotting material beneath the photographs as it becomes soaked. Contemporary photographic prints and negatives that are still wet and have stuck together may separate after soaking in cold water.

Framed Items

Remove the backing material from the frame. If the item is not stuck to the glass, carefully remove it from the frame and air dry. If the object appears to be stuck to the glass, do not attempt to remove it from the frame.

Dry intact with the glass side down. The treatment of items of high monetary, historic or sentimental value should only be performed in consultation with a conservator.


Start cleanup as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the more likely the mold will grow.

  • Assess the damage. If the molded area is less than 10 square feet, you likely can clean it yourself. If not, consult a specialist for proper cleanup.
  • Dry all items completely. Dehumidifiers can help.
  • Scrub mold off hard surfaces with detergent and water. A mild bleach solution also may help with some surfaces. Afterwards, dry completely. Appliances, such as washers and dryers, should be cleaned with hot water or a mild bleach solution, not detergent.
  • Absorbent materials, such as ceiling tiles, upholstery, clothing and carpet, may have to be thrown away. Mold can grow on or fill in the empty spaces and crevices of these types of materials, meaning where mold may be difficult or impossible to remove completely.
  • Avoid exposing yourself or others to mold. Buy a respirator or mask, which cost about $15, to avoid breathing in mold. Also wear gloves and goggles.
  • Do not paint or caulk moldy surfaces before cleaning the mold.
  • You should be able to reoccupy the area without health complaints or physical symptoms.
  • If you have concerns or questions, call the Environmental Protection Agency Indoor Air Quality Information Hotline at (800) 438-4318.

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