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Frequently Asked Questions

Flood Damaged Photographs

My photographs were damaged in a flood. What do I do?
First and foremost, it is important that these materials (negatives, slides and prints) NOT dry out prior to separation and cleaning. If they do, they may "block" (stick together), making subsequent separation more difficult or impossible. On the other hand, materials allowed to stay wet for extended periods of time become very fragile. Accordingly, separate and clean your materials as soon as possible. As a precautionary measure, wear rubber gloves while working with them -- contaminants or biological growths may be present.

If thorough cleaning is not immediately possible, rinse your materials in a tank of cold clear running water until the water overflow runs clean. This is to remove any loose dirt and debris. Do not run water directly on them, as this may cause physical damage to the already-softened photographic emulsions. Keep them in a container of cold, clean tap water. The cold temperature minimizes further softening, so place the container in your refrigerator or use ice to keep the water cold -- the colder the better. The chlorine in your tap water will prevent biological growth. However, keep in mind that chlorine dissipates within 24 to 48 hours, so change the water every day. Do NOT add chlorine to the water -- higher concentrations can dissolve photographic emulsions.

As soon as possible, work on the photographic materials. Start by removing the smallest quantity possible from the storage container, and work with them submerged in a sink of clean water. Gently separate the films or prints from each other or their storage material. Do not force the separation -- you may cause further damage. Separate them as much as possible, then return them to the water bath while you start another batch. Periodically return to previously worked batches to do additional separation. Eventually, you may have no choice but to force the separation and accept the resulting damage.

Once separated, further cleaning may be needed. First, wash your materials in cold running water to remove any loose substances. Remember to keep them submerged, since dried-on debris is difficult or impossible to remove. If necessary, use a tuft of cotton or a soft foam rubber brush to dislodge stubborn debris. Finally, rinse the materials one last time and hang them (unrolled, where applicable) on a line to dry. Prints should be simply hung to dry. The use of KODAK PHOTO-FLO Solution on black-and-white negatives and slides made on KODACHROME Film, or a stabilizer on color negatives and slides made on KODAK EKTACHROME Film, will facilitate cleaner and more uniform drying. PHOTO-FLO Solution and stabilizers are available through photographic dealers and/or photofinishing labs.

After all efforts to salvage the materials, you can consider additional restoration. Reprinting negatives or making copies of prints would be the first step. Further restoration may be possible through retouching and then recopying. Today, digital imaging can offer significant benefits in restoration. While the costs may still be relatively high, these services are becoming more readily available and the costs are diminishing.

Kodak, Photo-Flo, Kodachrome and Ektachrome are trademarks.

Frequently Asked Questions provide information of limited or specific application. Responsibility for judging the applicability of the information for a specific use rests with the end user.

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