Old, Musty Photos

Dear Donia,
How can I get musty/moldy smells out of old photos? MicroChamber

Q. Dear Donia,

 How can I get musty/moldy smells out of old photos? Thanks, Nancy

A. Dear Nancy,

The first thing to do is to take the photographs out of any boxes or albums (if you can). This will help the odor problem a lot. The next thing to do is consider your options for decreasing the odor.

One option is to get some MicroChamber paper from Conservation Resources. This paper absorbs odors and traps them within the paper so that your photos don't smell as bad and it doesn't escape the paper and make the house smell.  This may not be the cheapest option, but it is the one that I have found to be the most effective.You would simply interleave the photos with the paper or you can interleave an album directly page by page.

Another option is to get a plastic bin and some closet deodorizers. Put the photos in with lots of space around them and add the deodorizer so it isn't touching the photos. You can gain more space by putting photos on stackable cooling racks within the bin. Leave them in the bin a month and then check on the progress. Replace the deodorizers as needed. This is a much slower process (6 months to a year depending on how bad the odor is) so if you want to access the photos sooner, you may want to go with the MicroChamber paper option.

Finally, the least expensive option is to do as above with the bins but use bowls of baking soda in place of the deodorizer. Don't sprinkle the soda over the photos as this will just create another problem. Again, this will be a lengthier process but if you have time, it will be the least costly.

I hope this give you enough information to decide what is best for you. If you find you do have mold, be sure to write back since that just adds another layer of things you need to do to keep yourself safe.