Water Damage on Art – Stains, Mold Discover 5 Little Known Survival Tips
We all have valuable, if not irreplaceable, items on paper: certificates, diplomas, love letters, genealogy… stuff that can’t be insured. Collectors of prints and art on paper have investment and decorating money wrapped up in their items. Water damage is enemy #1.
Have any of your prints or personal documents been exposed to water? Little brown dots on your paper items could tell a past story of mold that had died and dried. Maybe there is a leak in your garage and it happens to be right over a box of your family history papers, diplomas and wedding certificates?
If it has, you may be now wondering what those live fuzzy dots on it are… it is live mold that will get wore, stain worse with time and eat into your cherished family treasures, memorabilia, heirlooms. Now your thinking how in the world can you get rid of it???
This is a print that was in a woman’s house that caught on fire, the fireman luckily saved her house, so naturally all of her house contents (lots of art, paintings and prints) were exposed to water, staining, mold, etc. We got involved as the expert witness for her insurance company to help them figure out the damage, settle and to help her take care of the damage.
This print from the 1800’s had mold growing all over it. After it got wet, it was luckly set aside somewhere safe where it wouldn’t be touched, put somewhere to dry and now it is covered with the little brown dots of dead mold as mentioned before. It attacked the mating around the picture, the backing board behind the print, and there’s a little bit barely on the print itself.
So, what do you do now? I have good news! You can’t do anything about the dots nor water stains. You’ll need professional help for that. So, take that task off your To-Do list. But I will tell you how you can stabilize the stains so they don’t get darker or spread.
DO NOT THROW YOUR STAINED FAMILY HISTORY DOCUMENTS, OLD PHOTOS OR PRINTS AWAY! (My Mom did that and I’m still crying over the important stuff we lost) Follow these 5 Little Known Survival Tips, as I promised:
- Don’t handle any paper items while they are wet! They will tear. Let them dry out, move the air with fans, don’t turn on a heater… that will encourage mold growth!
- Do not try and clean the mat and backing board, just throw them away. If the framing needs to be pulled apart, the framer can do that for you. You will probably damage the matted item.
- Get an architect cleaning pad to get fuzzy mold off of the artwork. This will not remove the stain (Click here for Chapter 6 page 87 of How to Save Your Stuff from a Disaster). Be sure to wear a protective dust mask and plastic gloves.
- Deacidify the print from the back of the artwork with a deacidification spray. This will help retard any future discoloration and darkening of the paper or stains. Use in a well ventilated area. The solvent will also kill the mold.
- Either store in Mylar protective envelope or reframe/re-mat in acid free buffer boards. As you can see in this photo, the mold afflicted the print mostly around the border and not in the central image. So, when you re-matt the item, you can “matt out” the mold stains around the edges. In this case you wouldn’t have to do anything to the “fix” the print.
Those of you that enjoy a little “light” do-it-yourself work, this process is for you. Get a copy of How To Save Your Stuff From A Disaster for more instructions, fun stories and invaluable help. For supplies, go to University Products.
Art conservation questions? Call Scott M. Haskins 805 564 3438
Art appraisal questions? Call Richard Holgate 805 895 5121
For a quick interesting video about shake proofing your home (earthquakes, hurricanes, tornados, grandchildren) go to http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kxOkdN-IR_o
Leave a THUMBS UP and a comment? Thanks
For a short video tour of Fine Art Conservation Laboratories, click here.