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Aethelwine's avatar

How can I clean cat spray off of old photographs?

Asked by Aethelwine (42961points) March 9th, 2013

Is there a safe way to wipe off my photographs without ruining them? Some of the photos can’t be replaced.

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14 Answers

glacial's avatar

I think at best, you could dab them carefully if they’re still wet – but they’re probably pretty much spoiled.

Could you take high-res photographs (or scans) of the photographs, and keep those?

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar


Traditional photography is a wet process. Just put them in the sink and rinse them off. Don’t be afraid to run your fingers over the surface until you feel all the “spray” gone.

Set them on the countertop, and squeegee. Make sure the squeegee is wet.

Hang them up on a string, clothes line style, by the edges with clothes pins.

Basically, all you’re doing is repeating the wash process at the end of the developing process. It is a myth, that water hurts photographs. It doesn’t. What hurts them is a drop of water, smeared with a finger, or left without being squeegeed and hung out properly to dry.

I’m a 30 year self employed photographer that grew up in parents photo lab. Been working with color and b&w prints since I was ten years old.

Attn: Do this before the cat spray eats into the emulsion of the image. There is a lot of acid in urine. Get it off immediately.

You may find it too late, if the urine has been there for a bit. When washing, you may notice discoloration. Don’t try to rub that out or you’ll rub off the emulsion, and that’s it for good.

Worst case, the urine can be removed, prints dried, then photocopied professionally and digitally restored.

Good luck… gonna be nerve racking, but it’s not too hard. Relax. Use water between 70 and 90 degrees. Do it with one image first, to test… the one you least care about. Then proceed with others. Can put all in sink at once and rotate. Can also leave them in to soak for hours if needed. But the longer they soak, the looser the emulsion becomes. Try and get it them in and out of the water within 20 minutes max.

jaytkay's avatar

What @RealEyesRealizeRealLies said.

I used to run a photo lab making museum-quality photo reproductions. The prints spent most of their time underwater.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Cool! Maybe Cat Spray prints will be the next museum collector craze!

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

If you find, some prints stuck together… don’t try and separate them until they’ve soaked underwater for a bit. Peel them apart very gently, or the emulsion may transfer to the back of the other. Warm water for these. Let em’ soak longer.

Aethelwine's avatar

Thank you so much everyone! I was afraid they might be ruined. I better get busy.

@glacial I just bought a scanner and was in the process of selecting photos to scan. I pulled out the oldest pictures first and set them on a dresser, then left the room for a bit. When I came back I noticed the smell. ugh

Aethelwine's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies I don’t have a squeegee. Is there anything else that I can use?

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Sure, just wipe them off with your damp palm.

Wipe the front, lift from counter.

Wipe counter dry with towel.

Lay print face down, wipe/dab the back with towel. Lift from counter.

Wipe counter dry with towel.

Lay print face up, wipe with wet palm (like squeegee-ing).

Hang to dry.

They may curl when drying. Let them. After drying, they can be pressed back to flat by stacking them with paper in between, and laying a book on top… or just put them in a new photo album and close until flat.

No big deal… just a time consuming hassle. But your prints should be fine… unless that acid has eaten some emulsion. But even then, acid is one of the chemicals in the photo process. It might stain, but the emulsion should be ok.

Good luck!

Aethelwine's avatar

Thanks again!

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Don’t forget to kick the cat.

Aethelwine's avatar

Mission accomplished. It looks like all my pictures will be fine. Just a few of the pictures have curled. Not bad considering I just cleaned 2 dozen pictures.

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RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

hey awesome hurray!

Dutchess_III's avatar

WOW! I did NOT know all this! Thanks @RealEyesRealizeRealLies!

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