Damaged Photos {Insert Curse Words}

After a blissful Long Overdue Girls Day with my Isabelle, let’s flash forward to Sunday. My lovely weekend was about to take a complete 180. I had to face damaged photos!

The girls were watching old VHS tapes they found in a storage bin, when it occurred to me that they hadn’t seen the REALLY old ones from when I was a teen. They loved the suggestion that I fetch these tapes and we snuggle in and watch them before I made dinner.

So, down to the basement  I go, knowing the box was underneath a shelf in the laundry room. Dark and cluttered {wish we had a bigger space there!}, I stuck my hand beneath the shelf and started to grab the small beverage cooler that was on the box, to move it out of the way … Something gooey.


I brought my hand closer to my face and immediately recognized the scent of the ‘goo’ – liquid laundry soap.

“What the hell?”

I looked above the shelf to another, where all my extra bottles of laundry soap sit. I stood on a camping cooler, picked up the first bottle I see and it’s almost empty. It has a little puncture wound on it’s side {did someone throw something on it?}.

I pushed aside a couple more bottles to discover that the soap had leaked all over that shelf, rivered down to the next and covered coolers and extra serving bowls. Then, it drained down the wall, right to all those cardboard boxes which lay on the floor. Damn you, Costco size laundry soap!

ok – deep breath. VHS tapes…

OMG, some photo albums are in one of those boxes!

Sure enough, I pulled out a box which I knew had OLD photo albums….

not sure

pssst, this is the part where you insert those choice curse words. I know I sure did.

Hit by the blue river of doom were the 2 photo albums from my childhood, from birth right to age 10. The ONLY ones that exist.

I tried wiping off some of the liquid but it seemed like it doubled the more I wiped. Do you know how hard that stuff is to clean up?! They dont’ say ‘100+ washes’ for nothing!


At this point I didn’t cry {though I did swear, a lot}. I left the laundry room in shambles and played with the kids for a while. I just needed to get away, to feel dumb. I needed an out.

After a while, and a trip to the store to get extra storage totes, I went back to the mess. Here’s where I realized a couple things;

  1. I may smell like ‘Tide plus Downy’ for the rest of my life
  2. Don’t store anything of importance in cardboard boxes. Ever. Seriously, don’t do it.
  3. THANK GOD I put the albums in the box, SPINE-UP. Most of the liquid covered the outside of the album and ran to the bottom. If the exposed pages were facing up, it would have been much worse. Mostly the edges of the albums were ruined and I could salvage about 85% of the photos.

It took hours, but I managed to clean up the spill. Worst. Mess. Ever. {even compared to the time the twins had a poo party. Just ‘sayin}. I took the remaining photos and transferred them to new albums and they are safe {for now} in sturdy storage bins.

Yet, one particular photo was ruined – the most precious photo of all.

This was the one and only photo of my parents, myself and my 6 siblings. The ONLY photo ever taken of us all together.


This is the point where I did break down in inconsolable tears. I apologized to my parents, and
wished they were here. Wishing I had made a copy. Why? WHY?

I have to keep the gratitude in mind, that so many photos of my childhood were salvaged. But I think of this one photo, taken when all my family members were alive and we were all together. All I had left of ‘us together’ was this one photo, and unfortunately I can’t say that I still have the memories, since I don’t.

Let it go and move on. What’s done is done.

But, obviously I still need to work on this ‘organizing the chaos’ thing. 🙁




    1. Hi Beth!
      Not sure if it can be, the ink has been wiped away clear to white gloss paper…

  1. Yes — see if a professional photo restorer can help you out. It may not turn out exactly like the original given the damage on the right, but it would certainly be close. I’m so sorry this happened. Thanks for the reminder to safely protect those things we cherish most!

  2. So sorry that this happened. It is such a hard thing to lose a precious photo memory. i too hope it can be touched up. If not, I hope that you can emblazen the image of the photo in your mind and be able to describe it to your kids for many years to come. Family is so precious. familyfoodtravel.blogspot.ca

  3. Oh man…I am so sorry! I can understand how devastating it must feel, and I’ll bet most of us would name this very sort of situation as one of our worst nightmares (aside from bodily injury to ones we love and other true tragedies). AND I remember the poo party!! But the photo restoration idea is great! It would never have even occurred to me that such a service might be able to help in a situation like this. As awful as it is, the tiny glimmer of hope is that you have certainly learned a few valuable lessons through it. And so have we, your readers! I will make a point of scanning, copying, saving, etc. all of our photos immediately. And I probably need a few new plastic totes. 🙂

    Fingers crossed that you are able to have some suitable restoration done to your precious photos!

    1. Yes Heather – do it!
      I would love for this post to save someone elses memories one day, You just never know what could happen.

    1. Thanks Deborah, I’m looking into it but it doesn’t look good.
      Lessons are always learned the hard way, right?

  4. I’m so sorry… Photos are the one thing that can instantly stress me out if I think they’ve been deleted or my memory card has gone missing (it happens more than I’d like since my husband and I share a camera…).

    Do you have the negatives for that photo??? If you can find the negatives I’m sure that there are still (some) photo places that will develop pictures the old school way!

  5. You should really consider scanning all the old photos and saving them to a website like Snapfish or Shutterfly. That way if anything else happened again (say God forbid a house fire)you would ALWAYS have them and not risk losing them. Keeping a disk of your photos just isn’t safe enough in the case of natural disasters.

    1. I started doing that months ago Nicole, but haven’t gotten too far in the process. After all, I have a ton of photos and scanning each one? Gah – takes forever!!
      I wish there was a service to scan for you – I’d be all over that one!

      1. Tammi,
        I just read your post now, and maybe this would help:

        A friend just did it to archive her family photos. It’s pricey, but sometimes time is money and with how busy you are it may be worth it to pay Blacks to do it for you? Mother’s Day is gone, but perhaps you could ask for it for your birthday or another holiday?

  6. Since the photo is already wet, I would soak it (to try to get the detergent out as much as possible) and then line dry it. The full instructions are online if you google saving water damaged photos. Drying it on the line will help avoid buckling, but it can be dried flat (dry it in a container with rice or cat litter, but not sitting directly on it) if necessary.

    It may retain some staining/fading, but that can be digitally retouched, or some of a photograph is better than none.

    I am sorry for the loss though, I can imagine how painful it would be.

  7. Aw, I am so sorry this happened to you and your precious pictures-It’s always horrible when something like this happens, and honestly, it’s a complete freak accident. There is no way you could have done anything to prevent it short of going back in time and storing those bottles somewhere else.

    Something similar happened to me where a VERY precious photo was accidentally thrown away-Even thinking about it now, months later, It reduces me to tears. It hurts. But like you said, what’s done is done and you have to pick up and move on.

    I’m very glad you got to save a majority of the pictures though! There is always a silver lining to every situation if you look hard enough.

    1. Freak accident, yes. But, there’s always self-doubt with everything. We are always the hardest on ourselves. Trying not to think about it – yep, what’s done is done… 🙁

  8. What a shame 🙁
    Old photo’s (or any photos, for that matter) are very important to me too. I feel for you.

  9. Oh No!!! 🙁 That’s my worst fear. Photographs getting ruined. I have a bunch of my Dad’s scanned to DVD, but not my Mom’s albums. I should do that.

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