Can You Clean Negatives?
Can You Clean Negatives?
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Can You Clean Negatives?

By Shelby Burr

We are all photo lovers. Let’s face it! We all have that stack of photos sitting somewhere in our home. Whether that be your basement, in a tub under your bed, or up in the have photos that are just sitting.

It’s in our human nature to cling to the old, to admire “the good ole days” and to reminisce on our memories because they were once in a lifetime moments.
For those photo lovers, you might find yourself with some old negatives. Yes, the old rolls of negative film that captured your grandpa back in his hayday, the picture of your aunt when she was just a little kid and that one family photo that everyone loves to look at at every family reunion. 


Those moments are precious! One question we have heard a lot is, “Can you clean your negatives?” GREAT question! Yes, these tangible pieces of your memory are fragile, but you can most certainly clean them! You'll want to follow each of the steps below on how to clean picture negatives.

Wear Gloves

When handling your memories, it’s important to keep them as safe as possible. So, let’s start off by wearing protective gear! Gloves will prevent fingerprints and natural oils from your skin smearing your negatives. Additionally, it will help prevent from any scratches during the negative cleaning process. Be sure to wear either clean cotton or clean nylon gloves and avoid any kind of dust or lint from your gloves!

Antistatic Cloth

Avoid static at all costs! Static can attract dust and lint, so it’s very important to avoid any other kind of cloth when wiping off your negatives. Additionally, the cloth should be soft and clean. Protect your negatives from scratches by using a clean cloth!

How to Properly Clean

Take hold of the cloth in your dominant hand and drape it over your palm and fingers. Hold the negative in your other hand and gently rub the negative over the cloth until it’s free of dust. See image below!


Photo Negative Cleaning Spray

Yes! There is cleaning spray that you can use for your negatives. You can find cleaner spray for your negatives at your local photography supply store. If the antistatic cloth didn’t do the trick, spray a little bit of cleaner onto a non abrasive antistatic cloth. Gently clean the negatives by moving the cloth over the surface of the negatives. By using back-and-forth strokes, you will remove dust, watermarks, and fingerprints! And don’t worry, the cleaner will dry immediately. 

Other Cleaning Solutions

If you don’t feel like making a drive out to your local photography store...if you can find one, you can purchase 98% isopropyl alcohol at your grocery store instead! Just avoid regular rubbing alcohol from the medicine cabinet...this will leave streaks on the surface and we don’t want that!

Make sure the product is free of additives, which could also damage your negatives. To clean, wet a cotton ball or a static-free cloth with the 98% isopropyl alcohol. Lightly wipe the negatives with the cotton ball and allow the negative to air dry.

After your picture negatives are clean, remember to place them in a weather proof container, such as tupperware! Make sure your memories are in a dry, low light area as well. Avoid bright sun, hot and cold temperatures, moisture and any environment that animals or insects might inhabit. 

Your clean negatives will look brand new and they will be ready to enjoy! Just remember, although they may be clean, your negatives are still at risk from natural causes. Since your negatives are so clean, why not finally have them digitized? Your photos will be preserved for generations to come when you digitize them with Legacybox. It’s easy, it’s quick and it’s something you won’t regret!

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