Books can get wet in many ways- being left out in the elements, spilled food or drinks, or flooding. But even if books get wet, you can still keep them! There’s no need to throw them away without trying to revive them first. Whatever the cause of the dampness, the steps should still be relatively similar. So, what does it really take when professionals clean up water-danged books?
The power of cold
One of the best ways to preserve a water-damaged book can be by freezing. Of course, when water turns to ice it becomes solid, which slows the damage process. It also stops the growth of mold and mildew which can further damage wet or damp pages. However, this only works to preserve the books if the water itself is clean- from something like a burst pipe or sprinklers going off. Sewage or contaminated flood water shouldn’t be frozen into books because you will be trapping the dirt within the pages.
Books that are going to be frozen for recovery are packed carefully, spine-down, in cardboard boxes. The boxes are also lined with compactor grade trash bags to prevent any damage to the cardboard. From there, they are sent to freezers where they will be left for several days to several weeks. At negative ten to negative fifteen degrees, tightly packed to maintain their shape, and untouched by anyone, the books remain until the freezing process is over.
Finally, the books are run through a vacuum freeze drier. Why a vacuum after being frozen? Because this process draws out the moisture from the pages and leaves them dry, ready for any needed touch-ups before they are fully restored. The process varies in time and intensity, but overall, it is fully possible to repair a wet book even if it has been thoroughly soaked. You can try a version of this at home if you’re up to it, by first freezing a book and then standing it upright on an absorbent surface. Paper towels should be layered throughout the pages to absorb moisture as the book thaws and the water begins to melt. Not as glamorous as the industrial version, but it can still work!
If you have any concerns about home flooding, water, or sprinkler damage, please contact the Flood Medix! Our expert team will be happy to answer any of your questions and get started on restoring your home.