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Removing Mold from Your Old Film Reels

By Katy Sommerfeld

If you’re preparing to send in your film reels to Legacybox for digitization and have noticed white or green flecks on your films, we have some bad news: you’ve got mold.

Film reels stored in dank, humid environments are very susceptible to mold and mildew growth. Films can quickly become overgrown with mold spores, and once a layer of mold has settled on a film’s surface, the spores create enzymes that break down the sensitive cellulose, gelatin, and polyester in the film and destroy its image content. If you have a serious mold problem in your film collection, you could potentially lose all or most of your footage. 

If your film reels have been affected by mold growth, don’t lose hope just yet! It is possible to remove mold and successfully salvage and digitize your films, as long as the damage is not too extensive.

An uncleaned film reel will appear distorted and discolored after digitization, so in order to avoid this, make sure you clean your film reels well before getting them digitized and remove all visible signs of mold, dirt, and dust!

Here are the supplies you’ll need in order to safely and thoroughly clean your film reels:

  • Film viewer that allows you to wind the film into an empty take-up reel. 
  • Microfiber cloth
  • Film cleaner
  • Cotton gloves

First, put your film reel on one side of the viewer, and a take-up reel on the other side. Carefully unwind a bit of the film while wearing cotton gloves and wind it onto the take-up reel. 

Next, pour a small amount of the film cleaner solution onto the microfiber cloth. Wrap the wet cloth around a section of the film between the two reels and steadily hold it in place as you wind the film into the take-up reel. This will make sure that every inch of film is coated with the cleaning solution, killing mold spores. Don’t forget to clean the ends of the film, also!

Once you have cleaned the entire reel, store the film in a dry, cold space. This should prevent further mold growth from occurring. 

Of course, this cleaning method is not always foolproof. In many cases, the mold damage is too great to completely salvage the films, and sections of the viewable film may appear damaged, distorted, or dirty. Cleaning films in this way, though, is your best bet in saving your films from further mold damage. 

After cleaning your film reels, you are now prepared to send them in for professional digitization! 


The best way to preserve your films after cleaning them is to convert them to digital video. The older films get, the more susceptible they are to light, temperature, and humidity damage, and these factors can cause irreparable damage to films. Digitizing films prevents these damages from occurring entirely, and you and your family will be able to enjoy your films for years to come. Digitization services like Legacybox offer fast and affordable high-quality digitization that you can trust. Knowing that your films are susceptible to all kinds of environmental damage, why risk it? Get your film reels digitized today. 

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