A white fungal infection is sweeping through our nation and destroying videotapes. Archivists and collectors are calling for you to quarantine your mouldy tapes and fight the spread of fungus decaying our beloved videos.
Although it’s not as dramatic as the current pandemic we’re enduring… mouldy tapes are certainly something to worry about if you have not converted your videos to digital yet. Mould decays your tapes and causes heavy video distortion, audio to drop, or in the worst-case scenario, will snap your tape when playing.
How do I know my tapes are mouldy?
A fungal infection may have been an exaggeration on my part to worry you into thinking your tapes are infested with an incurable disease. Thankfully the actual diagnosis is much simpler to determine.
A fine white powdery substance will coat your videotape. There may be tiny pores leaking from your magnetic tape, or the whole reel may be covered with dusty white crystals. If you dare to open the video, the inside may be dusty, or if the mould is still alive(!!), the white substance will smudge if you touch it. In this case, I strongly advise you to wash your hands after handling your tapes.
What causes mould to grow?
To put it bluntly, poor storage conditions. Tapes are more prone to mould if stored in an attic, shed, cellar or garage. Basically, anywhere that could expose the videos to dampness, dust, humidity, or dramatic temperature changes.
Unfortunately, mould can spread among videotapes as well and one infected tape could destroy your whole collection if you do not quarantine it.
If you want to prevent mould from growing or spreading, I advise you to:
📼 Store your tapes in a dark place away from direct heat. Perhaps, a cupboard in your house that maintains the same temperature year-round.
📼 Isolate any infected tapes.
📼 Do not let the mould dust touch other videos, and do not play mouldy videos on your VCR (this will only pass the infection to the machine and other tapes).
📼 Wash your hands after touching.
Can I fix my mouldy tapes?
Depends on what type of videotape is mouldy and how mouldy it is.
VHS tapes are easier to fix than camcorder (Hi8, Digital8, Mini DV). You can wipe the magnetic film with an alcohol wipe and a cotton swab. But this may take time if you have seven hours of footage to clean.
As for camcorder tapes, removing the mould becomes trickier. Mould growing on these smaller tapes causes the more delicate magnetic tape to snap when played. Alternatively, you can simply remove the mould by cutting off the infected sections and sticking the tape together again. It is a short-term solution but recommended if you want to preserve your videos digitally.
Another option is sending your videotapes to Digital Converters to clean and convert your videos to digital. We have professional cleaning machines that our technicians use before the tape touches our high-end digitising equipment. Cleaning is included in the service, and we refund any unplayable videotapes destroyed by the nasty fungus.