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Cleaning Possessions and Valuables After a Flood

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Again, assess what you have and assign priorities for what you'll work on first. Set aside all photos that you think you can reprint from negatives. Focus on images that you don't have negatives for. It's important to work quickly here; as pictures dry, the emulsion on their surfaces will make them stick together. Once they do that, you might not be able to save them. Mold growth is also a problem as it can damage fragile emulsion.

Handle all wet photographs carefully and only by their edges as much as possible. If you have lots of them to work on, rinse them off with clean water and seal them up in a plastic garbage bag or a plastic bag with a zipper-type seal. If you have time, put pieces of wax paper between each picture. Freeze them until you can get to them. When you can, defrost, separate, and air dry.

If you can't freeze them or even refrigerate them, rinse them all in clean water. Dry face up in a single layer on a clean surface. Don't dry them in direct sunlight—this can scorch the paper and damage the emulsion. Don't worry if they curl as they dry; a photo restorer might be able to flatten them out when they're dry. If not, you should be able to have copy shots made of them.


A Fine Mess

Don't hose or sponge off painted furniture without checking it first. If the finish is blistered or flaking, let the piece air dry before cleaning it.

Gently rinse off wood furniture with a hose sprayer set on fine, or sponge off. Blot surface water with cloth or paper towels.

Water can cause veneer layers to separate. If this happens, weight or clamp the areas. Put a soft cloth under the weight or clamp to protect the finish To speed up drying, remove all drawers and shelves. You want to expose as many surfaces as possible to the air.

Finished and/or painted furniture often develops a white haze or bloom when damp. It's unsightly, but it can be repaired later. Don't worry about it now.

Upholstered furniture can be tricky to restore. Start by rinsing it off. If you can remove the covers from cushions and pillows, do so and hang them up to dry. Wrap the piece with towels or sheets-this will soak up water from the frame and other immovable parts-and let it dry.


Heirloom and antique pieces should be assessed as quickly as possible by a restoration expert. It's best not to attempt to dry or clean these yourself.

All other artwork should be taken out of their frames and allowed to air dry. Paintings on stretchers should remain on them.

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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Common Household Disasters © 2005 by Paul Hayman and Sonia Weiss. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit Amazon's web site or call 1-800-253-6476.

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