How to Keep Moisture Out of a Picture in the Bathroom

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Several precautions can help keep moisture out of pictures hung in your bathroom. Although it's generally a bad idea to display framed prints and artwork in spots generating excessive humidity, many people will be tempted to do it anyway. If you're one of those determined souls and just can't abandon your plan to hang that special flea market find or your favorite art class creation on your bathroom wall, you'll need to know what steps to take to deal with the moisture problem. You may as well protect it if it's important enough to hang.

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Causes of Moisture Damage

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Prints and photos framed behind glass and hung in bathrooms are at risk of moisture damage for several reasons. Bathrooms are most often small spaces where lots of water use raises humidity levels and possibly without the aid of conscientious attention to venting. That can spell trouble for paper prints and photos held between glass and poorly chosen backing materials, especially when there's nothing sealing it in back that's sufficiently protective.

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Also, the choices you make about where to hang a picture in a moist bathroom can compound the problem. Hanging a framed work flush against the wall robs it of breathing room, welcoming mold growth and allowing condensation from the wall to transfer into the framed piece. It's worse to place it flush against an uninsulated outer wall that experiences even greater condensation-promoting temperature changes.

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It's also important to avoid hanging prints in spots that are hit even briefly by direct sunlight during the day. This can heat the glass to over 50 degrees if the picture contains dark colors.

What You Can Do

It's best to have things professionally framed or reframed, being sure to explain where it will hang so the framers can take any necessary extra measures in the backing and sealing of the framing job. You can also decorate with inexpensive, mass-produced art, such as unframed works on canvas or framed "throwaway" prints you don't mind replacing once they've been affected by moisture.

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If you have a new or old print that's already framed and want to bolster its moisture resistance by opening it in the back and changing materials, create a moisture barrier by adding a sheet of extra-strong aluminum foil between the mounted picture and the backboard. Any old backing materials or newer materials whose makeup you're unsure of should be replaced with products that are formaldehyde-free and acid-free.

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To help create an air gap between the wall and the frame, do not use plastic bumper pads on the back of the frame. They're not thick enough. Instead, slice 3/4-inch-thick pieces of a bottle cork to attach with PVA adhesive at the bottom corners.

Remember that if you decide not to deal with moisture-damage prevention measures, you can choose entirely different decorating options for your bath, such as baskets or decorative shelves that can hold ceramics and pieces of small sculpture.

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Got a Fan? Use It!

If you're going to take all the precautions necessary to protect the framed items in your bathroom, it makes sense to get into the habit of leaving your bathroom fan on for 15 or 20 minutes after you've drained the tub or shower. If weather permits, open a window during your shower or bath and keep it open for 15 minutes afterward.

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To ensure that your fan can continue running if you won't be around to turn it off, consider buying a fan with a timer or an automatic humidity sensor that activates and shuts off in response to detected humidity levels. Being conscientious about clearing out the steamy stuff will go a long way toward protecting framed pieces in your bathroom.

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