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Water Damage and Your Memories

By Katy Sommerfeld

There are few things in life that are as special as time spent with family and loved ones.


That’s why we cherish recorded family history so much - it allows us to look back on some of the greatest moments in our lives and remember those who are close to us and those who may be gone. Our photos, videotapes, and films that catalog birthdays, holidays, and other special events are priceless, and their meaningfulness could never be replaced. 

The truth is, though, these pieces of media that we’ve saved from over the years aren’t immune to the tests of time. All analog media deteriorates over time, even when stored in perfect conditions, and if these sensitive materials are exposed to the elements in any way, the rate of deterioration and the risk of damage significantly increases. Exposure to extreme heat and cold, water, humidity, light, and fire can all cause irreversible damage to analog media. 

Water damage, in particular, can have devastating effects on photos, tapes, and films. Natural disasters like floods and hurricanes can destroy not only homes, but also the precious family movies and pictures that you have stored in your home. Even if you live somewhere where floods and hurricanes are unlikely, water damage can occur in other ways, such as a burst pipe from cold weather or plumbing issues. 

Films and photographs that are submerged in water can have their bases separate from the emulsions, erasing the images imprinted on the film. Tapes are relatively safe when submerged in clean water, but floodwater or water from a broken pipeline will likely have chemicals and pollutants that can destroy the tape. The point is, water damage can be very bad for your favorite pictures and home movies. 

As bad as water damage can be, don’t lose hope! In many cases, as long as the media materials are not submerged for a lengthy amount of time, the media can be mostly restored. To restore water damaged photos, tapes, and films, submerge them into distilled water and gently wipe away dirt and debris from their surfaces with a clean paintbrush. Then, set the media face-up on a clean drying surface. You can lay paper towels on their surfaces, but do not blot wet photographs, tapes, or films, as the images on the materials can become distorted from blotting. 

One great way to keep your analog media safe from water damage is to store it in a waterproof container of some kind. Get rid of those old shoeboxes! A waterproof box will protect your media from significant water damage. However, trace amounts of humidity and water can sometimes still enter a waterproof container if submerged for a long time, so even proper storage cannot always protect your media. Also, a waterproof container cannot protect your media from extreme heat or cold, or fire.

The absolute best way to prevent water damage, and damage of any kind, from harming your photos, tapes, and films is to get them digitized with Southtree! At Southtree, we take your analog media and convert them into digital copies that you can save on your computer or online, keeping them safe from all kinds of damage forever. You never know when disaster may strike, and you don’t want to wait to protect your media until it’s too late. With Southtree, digitization is easier than ever before! You don’t even have to leave your house. We will send you shipping materials, and all you have to do is pack up your media and send it back to our headquarters, where our skilled digitizing technicians will hand-digitize your media with the utmost care. Don’t wait any longer - try Southtree today!

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