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Tips for Salvaging Water Damaged Books & Papers

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Marriage licenses, birth certificates, favorite books, letters, old tax returns and other paper-based items can usually be saved after a drenching. The key is to remove the dampness as soon as possible, before mold sets in.

The simplest approach to salvaging water-damaged papers and books is to lay the damp items on blotter paper, which will absorb moisture. Paper towels are a good option, as long as you stick to the plain white ones without the fancy prints. Newspaper should also be avoided because its ink may run.

Saving Water-Damaged Papers & Books
As with photos, most papers, documents and books can be cleaned and air-dried using the following steps:

  1. Carefully remove the papers from the water.
  2. If the damage is from dirty flood water, gently rinse the papers in a bucket or sink of clear, cold water. If they are especially fragile, trying laying the papers on a flat surface and rinsing with a gentle spray of water.
  3. Lay the papers individually on a flat surface, out of direct sunlight. If the papers are soggy, lay them in piles to dry out a bit before attempting to separate them. If space is a problem, try stringing fishing line across the room and use it like a clothesline.
  4. Use an oscillating fan in the room where your papers are drying to increase air circulation and speed drying.
  5. For water-logged books, the best option is to place absorbent paper between the wet pages - "inter-leaving" - and lay the books flat to dry. You don't have to place blotter paper between every page, just every 20-50 pages or so. Change the blotting paper every few hours.
  6. If you have wet papers or books that you just can't deal with right away, then seal them in zip-loc type bags and stick them in the freezer. This stops the deterioration of the paper and, if it's a frost-free freezer, the fan will pull the moisture right out of the materials as well.

When cleaning up after a flood or water leak, remember that books and papers don't have to be directly in the water to suffer damage. The extra humidity from all of the water in the vicinity is enough to trigger the growth of mold. It is important to remove these books and papers from the wet location as soon as possible, moving them to a location with fans to speed air circulation and lower humidity.

After your papers and books are completely dry, they may still suffer from a residual musty smell. To combat this, place the papers in a cool, dry place for a couple of days. If the musty smell still lingers, put the books or papers in an open box and put that inside a larger, closed container with an open box of baking soda to absorb odors. Be careful not to let the baking soda touch the books, and check the box daily for mold.

If you have important papers or photos that develop mold, have them copied or digitally scanned before throwing them out.
 
* Information above was gathered from www.genealogy.com written by Kimberly powell.

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