How to Get the Musty Smell Out of Old Pictures


Old photos are often stored inside flimsy boxes or adhesive photo albums that easily ruin with moisture, and provide little ventilation for old pictures. As a result, old pictures acquire a musty smell due to the moisture inside the box or album, as well as the chemicals used to print the pictures. Get the musty smell out of old pictures without the use of chemicals, and display old photos around the home. Preserve additional pictures in a place that prevents old photos from damage, allowing others to enjoy the old pictures in the future.

Things You'll Need

  • Butter knife
  • 16-by-20 in. sheet of cardboard
  • Storage container
  • Wedge a butter knife between the old pictures and the adhesive page of the photo album. Gently wiggle the knife to separate the edges of the pictures, and then slowly lift the pictures up from the page's surface to remove. Set the photos aside on completion. Remove photos stored inside a photo box as well, and set aside.

  • Place the sheet of cardboard on a table or desk located in a ventilated area of the home. Avoid placing the pictures in area exposed to moisture, to prevent damaging the pictures. Lay the photos out over the sheet of cardboard, ½-inch apart from each other. The cardboard surface will absorb any moisture on the photos, as well as the smell.

  • Leave the pictures on the cardboard sheet to ventilate for a period of five days, to remove the musty smell from the pictures. Sustain from spraying perfume, room spray or odor repellent over the pictures, since the chemicals in these products may damage the photo paper.

  • Display old photos inside a clean picture frame, and place the picture in an area of the home with indirect sunlight. Old photographic paper is very photo sensitive, and may fade easily with direct sunlight. Store additional old pictures in an airtight storage container, and place the container in a moisture free area of the home.

Tips & Warnings

  • Seek the assistance of a professional archivist to remove pictures stuck on photo album pages.


  • Photo Credit Thomas Northcut/Photodisc/Getty Images
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