How to Safely Pack Photos for Long-Term Storage

by Samantha Stanfill

From weddings to school photos, family reunions to ancestry records; some of our most treasured memories are found in photographs. When circumstances require that these tangible memories get packed up and relocated in a storage facility, it's a good idea to know how to do it safely so the photos are not damaged over time.

Let's look at a few tips on what to do, and what not to do when it comes to packing your photos for long-term storage.

Related Blog: Top Tips for Storing Valuables in Storage Units

Remove Tape and Staples

One of the first things you'll want to do before packing up your photographs is to remove anything on them that may cause discoloration or deterioration as time goes by. Staples, for instance, may corrode or rust, leaving unsightly markings; and tape may grow brittle and flake off, leaving yellowed adhesive on your photos.

Avoid Adhesives

What's wrong with adhesives? Most of them contain acids and chemicals that can discolor and damage your photographs. If your photo albums have sticky pages that hold your photos in place, it might be a good idea to remove them before long-term storage. Also, avoid any other close-contact storage materials that contain acidic elements.

If there is already adhesive residue on the backs of your photographs, you can try gently scraping it off with a knife or even your fingernail. If gentle scraping doesn't do the trick, you can try some of these other methods.

Protect the Photos

You can purchase plastic sleeves designed for photos at hobby stores, or a safe and simple choice is plastic freezer bags. This creates a non-acidic storage environment that can easily be labeled and placed in a box or tub. 

Label Liberally

You may not always remember what box your photos are in, who is in the photos, or when and where were they taken. In other words, label your photos well and you'll be thankful you did.

What are some of the best options for labeling photographs? It's easy to grab the closest pen, pencil, etc, and start writing away, but your choice of writing tools makes a difference.

  • Ball Point Pen - These can leave indentations and smears, so avoid using them.
  • Soft Lead Pencil - This is a great option if your photo paper responds well to the pencil lead (some glossy paper doesn't take to it very well). Write gently so indentations aren't visible on the front. An upper corner on the back is a good place to label.
  • Felt Tipped Marker - Yes and no. Yes to a waterproof non-acidic marker, no to a washable marker that will bleed through, or smudge easily on the photo paper.

And then, when you've labeled your photos well, label the box or tub that you put them in! 

Choose a Climate-Controlled Facility

Humidity and heat can cause big problems with photographs; the slightest amount of mildew will discolor and warp your precious pictures beyond repair. Even Ziploc freezer bags will eventually let humidity through.

Sustained heat and excessively dry air can also cause the paper of old photographs to become brittle. The best place to store your photos long-term is in a climate-controlled storage unit. This prevents extremes in both temperature and humidity, preserving the color of the ink and the flexibility of the paper.

Once you are able to, remember to get those photos out of storage and put them out where they'll be appreciated; in photo albums and frames on the wall, etc. After all, storage isn't meant to be forever, but your treasured memories are!

Looking for a great place to store your possessions? Blue Mountain Self Storage is a thoroughly modern indoor storage facility that keeps your items secure. And the climate-controlled environment also protects your belongings from extreme temperatures and humidity. Contact us today, and see what we can do for you!

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