So my husband and I stopped by the final minutes of an estate sale today and found these really great old prints! I guess sometimes the late bird does catch the worm! They were published by Vanity Fair (these are obviously prints of originals) in the late 1800s and are of prominent political figures of the time. They’re called “Men of the Day.”
Anyway, since it was the final minutes they were in a great bargaining mood! So we got 3 prints and a silver tray all for $50! One of the prints was originally $65! We’re super stoked on them, but now need to clean them up and hang!
Two of them have some mold damage, it’s mostly on one. Not sure how to get rid of the mold though? I’ve heard that you can put them in plastic bags and put them in the freezer and then brush off the mold. Want some feed back before I ruin them in one foul swoop! Has anyone dealt with mold on paper before? Any successful ways to get the mold off before re-matting and framing?
Contact your local insurance company. They have resources that would be local to you to have them professionally cleaned. Its not just about removing the mold on the surface. If the mold is not properly removed and the paper sanitized even the slightest amount of moisture will have it come back in a jiffy. Before you spend any money have someone appraise them as well. If they are worth any effort or for just your own personal decoration will determine how much money you should spend on this removal.
You can do a search for professional art restorers in your area (or ask your insurance company for a referral, as mentioned by @Woodbridge Environmental Tiptophouse.com above). It may be pricey, but at least you won't ruin the paper. If you REALLY want to take a gamble and are OK with possibly ruining a print, you can try gently swabbing the mold with hydrogen peroxide on a Qtip or cotton ball and letting it dry. Be sure to keep it out of strong sunlight while it's drying. Use as little liquid as possible and a clean swab on each spot. The hp will kill the mold but if you aren't careful it can bleach the paper or create water stains.
If you still want to try this yourself... venture off to some book sales/garage sales/goodwill store and try to find a similar mold situations to practice with. Mold can be a tricky thing to kill. If the cost of repair exceeds the purchase/value of the prints then you really have little to lose. Reframe what you have left of it and display it as a damaged original. I would think the display would last longer if you can rid the mold so it doesn't continue grow (carefully with bleach on a cotton swab?). Even if it degrades the piece a bit more. If you discover you really have an "Antiques Roadshow find" then go the restoration route but I like the history behind these and not afraid of showing results of the age.
I just thought of this: Most of the mold damage in your prints seems to be on the mats in the prints. I don't see where the mats add much to the value of the print,but what does it matter if you are just keeping them for yourself to hang in your own home? I would look for similar mats at other yard or estate sale or even thrift shops(not new ones) and just replace the mat for a quick fix. Just hang on to the old mats if you ever want to sell and the person wants the original ones. I have the same problem with a print I found in a frame underneath the print I bought it for. It was such a nice surprise and a beautiful print but I cannot find an info on it as to the artist or year. Are there books or web sites out there where you can look up by describing the picture to try and find the one you have? If it's not worth it I can't afford to spend a lot of money on removing the mold since I am on a fixed disability income.
If you aren't interested in spending a lot of money on restoring them, you might just test a mold remover/neutralizer on one of them. I can't remember the name of the compound, but I know it is used for flood and fire restoration. If there is a local company that specializes in this, you could call them and ask the name of the spray. We used it in our home to kill mold spores after it was flooded in Hurricane Isabel. I never tried it on paper, but it might be worth a try...
There are products on the market that will kill the mold. I would copy the back of the frames that have the Vanity Fair info, remove the prints and put them in new frames with new matting. The frames don't look as though they warrant redoing, not sure if there is extra value by keeping as is. You will also get a fresh look.