Anyone who knows anything about storage also knows that mold is a big problem. The EPA has even released 10 must-know facts about mold. The most important one is that mold can wreak a ton of havoc. It can be toxic--like black mold on appliances--or it can be healthy like the stuff that makes cheese. It can also be a nuisance, like the stuff that ruins video tapes.
Since we’re not a health blog (more lifestyle, really), we’re most concerned with the last kind--namely the mold that attaches to your videotapes and makes them unusable.
What Causes Mold?
Mold is a living organism that thrives in environments with tons of moisture. That can include under sinks, in bathrooms, crawl spaces, or anywhere else that the moisture level is high. Mold can cause allergies and it can grow practically anywhere with a consistent source of water.
In case you’ve ever wondered, that’s one of the big reasons that you shouldn’t use carpet in your bathroom. Aside from being kind of icky, your bathroom is the ideal environment for mold to grow since water is always splashing around and getting stuck in crevices and cracks.
What About My Tapes?
It turns out that mold can grow on just about anything. Because it’s a living organism, it has certain preferences when it comes to the environment where it lives, but it can hang out just about anywhere. That means that it can also grow on the plastic shells of your VHS tapes, on the winding mechanisms, and even the film itself.
When it comes to mold on tapes, the best thing to do is to make sure they never get it in the first place. Prevention is the best defense. A couple of things you can do to help stave off the onslaught of mold spores is to make sure that your storage is dry. A good tip is to put your tapes in boxes or sealed crates, and add a couple of packs of silica gel in them to keep the water out.
What If My Tapes Already Have Mold?
Getting mold on your tapes doesn’t necessarily have to be the end of the road for your memories. You might be able to save them. The first thing to note is DO NOT PUT THE TAPE IN YOUR VCR! The mold will transfer from your tapes to the equipment and ruin it. It can also ruin your tapes. Damage mitigation is the biggest goal at this crucial stage.
If you suspect that your tapes have mold, the best thing to do is drop them off with a professional who knows how to clean them. Usually this involves patience, cotton swabs, know-how, and a bunch of elbow grease. It’s also very easy to damage the film if you don’t know what you’re doing.
If you want to try to clean your tapes on your own, this article is pretty helpful, but again, be careful!
Mold on tapes can be a complete nightmare, but with a little bit of pre-planning, know-how, and digital backups, you’ll never have to worry about mold ruining your memories.