How to Clean & Store View Master Reels

The earliest reels date back to 1938 and are made from Kodachrome slide film.  Great care is needed when storing photographic film. Improper storage can result in fading, mold, scratches and dust. Kodachromes color if stored properly can last for up to 100+ years. Kodak recommends cool, dark and airtight containers. 




  Supply List:
  • Hi-Polymer eraser sticks
  • Soft Brush (from photography supply chain)

1. Hi-Polymer Sticks are great investments and can be used for a multitude of projects. These erasers remove wear marks and scuffs easily yet do not harm printed text on the surface. Older reels develop a dark ring along the outer edge, this is easily removed with the Hi-Polymer stick. Gently work the stick back and forth, rubbing off any visible marks.

Dark Ring Removed

2. Dust off any debris  from the reel with the soft camel brush. These best brush varieties are found in photography supply stores. Brush from the inside of the reel out. Work with each image square individually and carefully.

Degraded paper sleeves can shed paper fibers over time. Replace them as needed.

3. Please note that mold growth (looks like spider webs) will permanently scar the image and can not be removed. If stubborn dirt or smudges remain on the image after dusting there is one last option. A Microfiber Cloth.  You have to be positive that there is nothing abrasive remaining on the film or you will scratch it.  Take the cloth and carefully rub the image on both sides, this should remove stuck dust and debris.

There are photographic emulsion cleaners on the market like PEC-12.  Technically this could be dabbed onto the microfiber cloth and used the clean the film.  It could also damage to the surrounding paper reel. This is very risky and should only be used as a true last resort!

I hope that you find this website useful and informative. Please feel free to leave your comments and suggestions.


  1. You have done a GREAT job explaining w/excellent visuals the entire procedure of dismantling, cleaning and assembling my vintage View Master!
    What a pro!
    I'm a 67 yo artist, collector, chef and entertainer who will place this refurbished gem in my living space for all guests to enjoy.....such glee!
    THANKS so much ......Mo in Michigan

    1. Thank you so much! Good job on fixing your viewmaster, they look great once the optics are cleared. You're a Chef? I have a post coming up next month on cast iron skillet refurbishing. Also another on restoring Italian Moka Pots / polishing aluminum. You may like those post.

  2. Found your article on cleaning the View Master very informative but can you tell me how to unstick the advance lever? It goes down okay but does not automatically go back up; I have to give it a nudge to do so. If you can give me a tip I would really appreciate it.

  3. I purchased an auction lot of reels, hoping to fill in some gaps in my collection. Sadly, when they arrived, the reels were all too bowed to fit and function in any of my viewers. Any suggestions on the best method to flatten them? Anything NOT to do? Thanks in advance!

  4. Like to know what type of glue to use on an old reel that has separated to the point you can see exposed film... Also I wouldn't want to start a fire because I use some of my reels on the 300 watt deluxe projector from time to time..


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