How to Clean Black and White Photos

Written by heather montgomery
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How to Clean Black and White Photos
Keeping your black and white photos clean will preserve them for future generations. (Jupiterimages/ Images)

Over time black and white photos can become worn and dirty. The photo paper can become dirty from improper storage or neglect. Often photos are the only records of times past and keeping the photos in good repair is important. Fingerprints, dirt and oil residue from hands can cause the pictures to appear dull. Storing photos in photo albums with acid free paper and protective covers will keep the pictures from becoming dirty and worn after cleaning.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Towel
  • Clean cloth gloves
  • Compressed air can
  • Lint-free nonabrasive cloth
  • Non-water-based emulsion cleaner

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  1. 1

    Place a clean towel on a flat surface; choose a surface in an area without excess dust, such as a table in a clean kitchen.

  2. 2

    Put on cloth gloves before handling the photos. Place the photos face up on the towel.

  3. 3

    Spray each photo with the compressed air to remove any loose dirt. Hold the corner of each photo while spraying the air to avoid having the photo come off the towel.

  4. 4

    Wet a lint-free cloth with emulsion cleaner. Do not saturate the cloth; excess solution may damage photos.

  5. 5

    Use light to medium pressure to wipe the dampened cloth over each of the photos. Make sure to cover the entire surface with the solution. Allow the solution to evaporate. Repeat the process if the photo has not come clean. Place the photos in an acid-free photo album and store in a dry place.

Tips and warnings

  • Storing photos in garages or basements may subject the photos to excess cold or hot temperatures and the possibility of water damage.
  • This method may also be used to clean negatives or colour photos.

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