Dear Tom,

Re the moldy tape decomposition you witnessed in Harrison:

Have you ever read Richard Eberhart's poem, "The Groundhog"? If not, you
should. There are some interesting parallels.



On Sun, Mar 1, 2015 at 6:17 PM, Tom Fine <[log in to unmask]>

> Hi Eric:
> I have encountered a few moldy tapes over the years. I also watched (over
> a few years, because it was fascinating) mold literally eat away a couple
> reels of acetate tape in a damp part of my parents basement. This was
> really interesting because, in the end, all that was left was a pile of
> brown powder in and around an empty metal reel. The boxes completely
> decomposed later. I would say this process took 10 years, but this was
> decades ago and who knows how damp the tapes had been before I noticed the
> mold and kept them in place to watch the decay over time.
> In the times I have been given moldy reels for transfer, I gathered this
> wisdom to share:
> 1. ALWAYS WEAR A MOLD-BLOCKING MASK. You never know exactly what kind of
> mold is on a moldy tape and how it will react with your respiratory system.
> I'm very allergic to mold, so I know right away when it's present because I
> get sneezy/coughy and my eyes get watery. WEAR GLOVES, TOO. And change
> clothes and wash up when you're done mitigating the mold.
> 2. In my experiece, isopropynol alcohol will remove the molds I've
> encountered on reel tapes. I use it liberally on the mold spots. It has not
> damaged the tapes if I wipe it and the dislodged mold off quickly. I wonder
> if Naptha will do the trick, too? Have not tried it. You'd think that
> Naptha would be deadly to mold.
> 3. If mold is well established on acetate tape, good luck. It's probably
> eaten away some of the acetate, and it's unlikely that the tape will play
> correctly. If you're lucky and it's just on the edge, isopropynol will work
> but now I'm thinking Naptha is better for the tape. I'm not a chemist so I
> might be all wrong on that!
> 4. throw out moldy plastic reels and moldy cardboard boxes. Re-package the
> cleaned tape on clean reels in clean boxes.
> 5. thoroughly clean the heads and tape path after transferring a moldy
> tape. I'm sure spores fall off and get stuck on things.
> 6. if you accept for a transfer a box of moldy tapes, be fully mindful of
> EVERYTHING in the box. Where there's mold there's liable to be mice.
> Hantavirus is nothing to fool with. It's not just out west, it's turned up
> in lean-tos and other places all over the northeast. Mice carry all kinds
> of other nasty diseases. They are filthy vermin. Rats and other rodents are
> just as bad and are just as likely to be around an old box of tapes that
> got moldy.
> By the way, I had good luck cleaning mold off LP records with isopropynol,
> too. I cleaned the mold and connect chunks of sleeve material that way,
> then ran them through my VPI machine and they turned out pretty much
> un-scathed. This was a pile of classical and jazz LPs I saw dumped by the
> road after Sandy. DO NOT use isopropynol on shellac records because it will
> melt them.
> -- Tom Fine
> ----- Original Message ----- From: "Eric Jacobs" <
> [log in to unmask]>
> To: <[log in to unmask]>
> Sent: Sunday, March 01, 2015 5:28 PM
> Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Distressing data point for upcoming ARSC tape
> playback workshop
>  Hi Tom,
>> Thank you for starting this excellent thread.
>> I wanted to chime in with two brief points that I think havenąt been
>> covered yet:
>> 1.  When encountering a moldy tape, you need to weigh the cost of mold
>>    removal against the risk of VS when segregating and storing moldy
>>    tapes in sealed bags (with or without a desiccant like silica gel).
>>    As noted by others, VS seems to be a function of storage temperature,
>>    therefore moldy tapes that are stored and sealed should be stored in
>>    a łcold˛ environment to minimize the risk of VS.  If you can afford
>>    to do it, it is still best to remove the mold.
>>> Another distressing datapoint ... This is the second batch of late 1950s
>>> Audiotape acetate-backed
>>> tape I'm dealing with that has become very brittle, like most of the
>>> plasticity has dried out of the
>>> backing. I suspect this is made worse by over-dry storage conditions
>>> intended to somehow "prevent"
>>> or "mitigate" sticky-shed in later tapes (and remember that there is no
>>> proof that dry storage does
>>> either). I wish some scientists would do some chemistry on acetate tapes
>>> and come up with better
>>> storage recommendations. There are millions of acetate tapes and films
>>> being stored under the same
>>> "keep it super-dry and cold" mandates that are imposed on polyester media
>> 2.  I have had reasonable luck łde-brittling˛ acetate tapes by placing
>> them
>>    in a cool humid environment.  For example, I use a clear plastic
>>    container and place a tray of distilled water on the bottom, and then
>>    suspend the brittle reels above the tray.  The container has openings
>> that
>>    I can adjust to roughly control RH - I target a 60-70% RH.  I do this
>> in
>>    a room that is in the low-60s F and dark.  I monitor and check the
>> tapes
>>    daily - I worry about activating any potential mold spores. The tapes
>> will
>>    slowly become more pliable over the course of 1-4 weeks (every tape is
>>    different, some do not respond).  Once reasonably pliable, I remove
>> the
>>    tapes and let them acclimate to the RH of the studio for about a week.
>>    Certainly not a production method because it takes time and
>> monitoring,
>>    but it generally helps.
>>    I do not humidify tapes that have known mold exposure.
>>    From a chemistry point of view, this doesnąt seem like it should work,
>>    so Iąm not sure what mechanisms are at play.
>>    The suggestion by John Schroth of using camphor is very interesting,
>>    and I may try this - although I need to find the right container.
>>    Would love to hear if anyone else has tried łhumidifying˛ acetate
>>    tapes - intentionally or otherwise.
>> ~ Eric
>> _________________________
>> Eric Jacobs
>> Principal
>> The Audio Archive, Inc.
>> 1325 Howard Ave, #906
>> Burlingame, CA 94010
>> tel: 408-221-2128
>> [log in to unmask]
>> Disc and Tape Audio Transfer Services and Preservation Consulting
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