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How to Properly Store Film Reels

by | Feb 8, 2018

How to Properly Store Film Reels

We live in a digital age, but many people still have their old film footage from earlier years. Whether its 18mm, 16mm, or 35mm, you want to preserve your precious memories or protect valuable art or historical assets. Here are some tips to properly store film reels.

Why Do I Need to Store Film Reels with Care?

Film is made up of delicate layers of materials that decay over time. The chemical structure is extremely sensitive to temperature, light, moisture, dust, dirt, and even handling. This means that if you store film reels in your basement, attic, or garage, the material is susceptible to environmental damage. You’ll want to find a safe haven for your collection.

Proper Storage Practices

  • Store film reels in climate controlled environments with consistent temperatures below 70 degrees. The exact temperature ranges depend on the type of film. And some, like nitrate, do better when frozen.
  • Humidity levels are important too, and depend on film type. Most store well in a humidity range of approximately 20 to 40 percent. Too much humidity creates a good environment for mold growth.
  • Properly label all reels. Unlabeled film is more likely to get misplaced or thrown out.
  • Use moisture-proof canisters and store them horizontally in short stacks. Acid-free containers made of inert plastic are best.
  • Keep reels away from direct light, vents, and heat sources. But make sure there is good air circulation.
  • Always have clean hands when handling the reels. Better yet, use special gloves. And always handle by the edges.
  • Make sure reels are wound neatly, not too tight or too loose, and with the emulsion side out.

Don’t Do This!

  • If you decide to transfer the film or make copies for safe keeping, never get rid of your originals. Keep them as backups.
  • Never store reels in attics, basements, sheds, garages, or anywhere that has temperature changes, moisture, and the possibility of pests.
  • Don’t store reels near chemicals, like paints or cleaning supplies.
  • Never seal the film reels in plastic bags or other non-ventilated materials.
  • Don’t touch the film material itself unless absolutely necessary.

Bring Your Valuable Film Reels to an Expert

No matter how carefully you store film reels, your collection slowly degrades over time. The best way to preserve the film is to transfer it to a digital format. Call Disc Hounds at 610-696-8668, and let us help you enjoy your precious memories or valuable archives for years to come.