How Does My Tape Get Moldy?
How Does My Tape Get Moldy?
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How Does My Tape Get Moldy?

By Olivia Harlow

You already know that your old cassettes, VHS tapes, and 8mm videos are outdated. You’ve probably even imagined that there might come a day when technology is so evolved that you won’t be able to access the precious photos, videos, and audio recordings stored on your ancient equipment. But besides time, there is another monster at play, already working to destroy your precious recordings: mold.


That’s right—a common threat to your great-grandpa’s WWII photos and your mom’s prom videos is fungal decay. And once moldy particles get caught in the cracks of your VHS tape and inside the nooks and crannies of your film camera, there’s little hope of repair.


The Cause

The longer you keep photo albums and VHS tapes sitting in your damp basement closet collecting dust, the more likely these items will become permanently ruined. Any exposure to water or moisture can do severe injury to your tapes. Humid climates and stuffy tight spaces (cough, attics, closets, and cubbies) are hazardous.

It might be three years before you want to re-watch that old film of Mom dancing around in a poodle skirt, but by then it might be too late. You’ll dig the cassette from under a cobwebbed shoe box and gasp in horror of the sight: Green blobs of mold mushed between plastic, winding down the cracks like a vine, covering the entire strip of film.

But, it’s not always so obvious. And if you catch signs of mold early on, you might just be able to save your mementos after all!


Signs and Damage

Early signs of mold appear like small spots of white powder. If left untreated, this eventually transforms into a thicker, dusty coating. And if this denser layer reaches the magnetic tape ribbon of your VHS, your VHS cannot be saved.


Can It Be Removed?

If you catch signs of mold early on, it’s much easier to treat. When mold is simply on the outer casing, you can wipe it clean. You can then transfer your film strip to a new case (with professional help). But if mold progresses to the interior and is found along the magnetic strip of your tape, it cannot be salvaged.

While you might find some how-to’s online that offer advice on cleaning intense mold, these methods are generally ineffective or even more damaging to the tape than the mold alone. Equipment and techniques used by professionals are most reliable, but your best bet is to take precautious steps to prevent mold from occurring at all.


How to Prevent Molding

By storing your tapes in a dry and humidity-free setting, with minimal exposure to light, you have a better chance of preserving them. Check in on your tapes at least once a month, so that you can catch any signs of molding early on.


That said, mold is generally inevitable at some point, so digitizing your stuff sooner rather than later is truly your best option. Here at Legacybox, we transform your outdated materials into modern data.

(Please note: If your tape already has progressive mold inside, we unfortunately cannot digitize it, which is again another reason to take this step before it’s too late). Bring your tapes to us, and we’ll make sure your precious memories aren’t lost forever!

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