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How To Clean Old Photos Before Scanning In 9 Steps

Scanning and digitizing delicate photos is the best way to make them last forever.

However, most people don’t realize that even a small amount of dust can get in the way of an otherwise high-resolution scan. This is especially important if you’re looking to enlarge an old photo. That’s why photo technicians recommend removing dirt from the surface of your photo before converting it to a digital image.

But can you get rid of stains and dirt at home? Read on to find out how to clean old photos before getting your photos scanned.

On the other hand, if you’ve already cleaned your photograph but are just looking for a professional photographer to restore it, you can order below.

Our Recommendations

Falcon Dust, Off Compressed Gas

Ultra-Soft Detailing Brush Set

PEC-PAD Lint Free Wipes

Microfiber Dusting Gloves

Why You Should Clean Photographic Prints Before Scanning

While scanning a dirty old photograph is completely fine, you probably won’t be as happy with the resulting image once it’s on your computer. Whether you’re scanning film negatives, glass slides, or actual paper photos, residual dust and dirt can cover up important details and complicate the restoration process.

How To Clean Old Photos: A Step-By-Step Guide

Are you ready to fix your glass slides, film negatives, and pictures up for use with a scanner? Follow these nine simple steps to have your photo primed and ready for digitization.

Supplies That You’ll Need

  • Canned air usually used for computer keyboards
  • A very soft brush
  • A lint-free cloth
  • Professional cleaning wipe or spray
  • Editing gloves
  • Lots of patience

Step 1: Make Digital Copies Of Your Old Photos

While it might seem redundant, the first thing you should do is boot up your scanner and make a few backup copies of your photographs. Each cleaning method has its risks, and you may end up damaging the surface of your photo during the process. Once you’re done with the initial scan, you can proceed to the actual cleaning.

Step 2: Find Out As Much As You Can About The Old Photographs

All photo prints are a little different, and understanding their history may determine the steps you take. Older photos might be printed on flimsy material that requires professional attention, while newer photos might need a different lint-free cloth for wipe-downs.

Step 3: Lay A Soft Cloth Or Towel Out On Your Workspace

When you’ve found a safe and dry environment that you’re comfortable with, lay out a soft towel over your workspace. Be extra careful to handle your picture by its edges, and try not to scratch up the surface or get even more dust on the photographs.

Step 4: Wear Lint-Free Gloves

Even though it may seem excessive, wearing gloves can save you a lot of grief when cleaning photos. That’s because a stray finger or a slippery palm can leave natural oils on a photograph, which may attract dust or leave your scan looking blurry and smudged.

Step 5: Use Compressed Air Or A Soft Brush To Remove Dust

The next step to getting your photographs scanner-ready is removing dust and dirt. While you might be tempted to blow on your picture, we recommend using compressed air for the best results. If you’d instead use a soft brush, apply light pressure and gently push all the dust off the photo’s edges.

Step 6: Gently Remove Dirt With Cleaning Liquids

Next, carefully gather your specialized supplies (photo liquid, PEC-PADS) and gently apply them to your photographs according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Avoid cleaning the image too roughly, and take your time during this step. After all, you could rub off the emulsion, which can cause irreparable damage.

Step 7: Allow Your Picture To Dry

Once you’re done with clean-up, give your photographs some time and space to dry off. We don’t recommend using a hair dryer or fan to speed this process up since that may introduce other factors such as heat and humidity to your image.

Step 8: Take Note Of Any Residual Dust And Debris

Sometimes your photos might have stubborn stains that just won’t budge no matter what you do – it happens. Take note of all these spots so you can have them professionally removed or digitally restored later.

Step 9: Gently Wipe Dust Particles From Your Scanner’s Glass

Use an eye glass cleaner or diluted isopropyl alcohol to gently clean your scanner’s glass and ensure no residual specks of dust before proceeding.

Your Scanned Photos Deserve Professional Restoration

Deciding what to do with your old photographs can be tricky, but cleaning them before scanning is an essential step to preserving their condition. If you’re ready for a transformation and would like help restoring your lost memories, drop us a message to find out how we can help you.

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