If important documents or books somehow get wet, there’s no need to throw them away. There are actually several different methods you can try that will help minimize the water damage to your documents. Some of these methods you can do on your own, but with some you might need the help of a property restoration company.
Removing Mud and Soot
If there is mud or soot on documents that have water damage, you’ll want to get it off the documents before moving on to a drying method.
- Let the mud or soot completely dry.
- Once the mud is dry, place the document on a fiberglass window screen.
- Vacuum up the soot, but make sure to do it through the screen so it does not suck up the paper.
- Once you’ve gotten all you can through the screen, use a soot sponge to lift the remaining residue off the document.
Air Dry Method
If the documents have slight water damage that leave them damp, or slightly wet, then hopefully the air drying method will do the trick. In order to prevent mold from growing on the paper, you’ll want to start this process right away.
- Lay out the papers on the floor, or on a large table. If the water damage is from a fire sprinkler, make sure the floor or table is completely dry.
- Circulate the air with fans. Don’t point the fans directly at the documents; this will cause them to blow away.
- Before you air dry, soak up water by placing a paper towel under, and on top of each document.
- As each paper towel gets wet, replace it with a new one.
- Once the paper towels stop soaking up water, let the documents air dry for two days.
- If you have a clothesline, any durable papers with water damage can be strung up outside. Hang them on the line by the corners with clothespins. No need for a fan because the wind will naturally dry them out.
Documents that have too much water damage might not respond to the air dry method. If the documents aren’t dry after 48 hours freeze them to help ensure that mold doesn’t grow. If glossy papers, rare books, or documents on parchment have water damage, skip air drying and go straight to the freeze method.
- If you’re going to use a household freezer, make sure you have it turned to the coldest setting.
- Before putting the wet documents in the freezer, wrap them in wax paper. You could also wrap the documents with water damage in paper towels, then put them inside a zip-lock bag.
- There’s no need to wrap each document individually, just make sure the stacks are separated with an additional piece of wax paper.
- Leave them in the freezer for two weeks.
- Once the two weeks are up, take them out of the freezer and follow all of the steps in the air dry method.
Vacuum Freeze-Drying Method
If the floors have water damage, and cannot be used as a flat space for the air dry method, ask someone that’s doing your water damage cleanup for a reliable vacuum freeze-drying facility. Bring all the books and documents with water damage to the facility, and a professional will take care of the rest.
How this method works is the papers and books will be frozen, then put inside a vacuum chamber with a temperature below zero degrees. As heat goes into the chamber, the air will be drawn out. Since heat is going into a frozen chamber, the ice vaporizes off the paper instead of melting.