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Yes, That’s Probably Mold on Your Film Reels
Moments Blog by iMemories
April 5th, 2022

Yes, That’s Probably Mold on Your Film Reels

Your long-awaited family reunion is approaching, when aunts, uncles, grandparents, cousins and more will arrive in your childhood hometown for a full day of catching up and making new memories. In planning for the big event, you’ve checked off almost everything on your to-do list ­– secured a location, ordered catering, planned fun activities and designed keepsake t-shirts. The only thing left to do is dig out all your old family photos and home movies for a nostalgic trip down memory lane. However, when you pull out all those old 8mm film reels from the cardboard box they’ve been stored in for years, something doesn’t look right. They’re covered in white and green spots.

Chances are, those are mold spores. Humid environments such as basements, crawl spaces and attics are ideal breeding grounds for mold — where you’ve likely been storing those old film reels that date back decades. It doesn’t help that mold growth happens easily on camera film, which is made of plastic and has a coating that mold spores seem to love. The presence of mold on your film reels is unfortunate because the enzymes that mold spores produce eat away at the gelatin and cellulose in the film, causing extensive damage. However, there is a way to clean your film reels and salvage those precious memories from past generations.


How to Clean Moldy Film

  1. The first step to cleaning those moldy film reels is to gather all the supplies you’ll need. This includes:
  • Cotton gloves
  • Film cleaner
  • Microfiber cloth
  • Reel-to-reel film viewer
  • Empty take-up reel
  1. Once your gloves are on, place the first moldy film reel on one take-up reel on the film viewer, carefully unwind a small section of the film, and wind it onto the empty take-up reel. 
  2. Pour a small amount of the film cleaner onto your microfiber cloth, gently wrapping it around the section of the film between your two take-up reels. Hold the cloth in place while you slowly wind the film onto the clean take-up reel. The goal is to coat every inch of the film reel with the film cleaner solution, killing the mold spores in the process. Rewet the microfiber cloth as you go, to ensure every section of the film is getting the solution.                         
  3. Be sure to clean the ends of the film as well, and thoroughly clean the film reel canister it was stored in — as that likely has mold spores as well.                                                                                                                                                            
  4. Once you’re done, let it air dry and then store it back in its now-clean container. Don’t return the film reels to the basement, crawl space or attic. Instead, clean out some space in a closet on the main floor of your house, where humidity and moisture aren’t a factor. Mold regrowth can happen quickly, so proper storage the second time around is critical.



Ensuring Mold is Never a Problem Again

Digitizing films is the only surefire way to prevent mold from destroying the irreplaceable memories on your film reels. Now that they’re cleaned, consider a professional digitizing service such as iMemories, a best-in-class company that will take your analog memories ­– including 8mm and 16mm film reels – and digitize them for lifelong preservation. Even in the absence of mold, film reels and photo prints slowly degrade over time, putting your precious memories at risk of being lost forever. There is unfortunately no magic solution to ensuring your analog memories will last forever, except converting them to a digital format. Not only are you ensuring they’ll be preserved eternally, you’re also making them readily available to share with family members anytime, anywhere through the iMemories Cloud. Their app allows you to store, stream and share those precious memories instantly, bringing smiles to family members across the miles and allowing everyone to enjoy their family history in a modern format.

To learn more about the iMemories process, visit https://www.imemories.com.

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