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Clean, Dry, Repair and Disinfect Books
By the RestorationSOS Educational Staff
After learning the basic methods of paper salvage, you can now start drying and salvaging your books. However, to successfully dry and clean books yourself you must pay attention to the following issues:
- Environmental conditions must be improved first and the area must be completely dried out. (How to dry out?)
- The amount of books to be dried should be small enough to fit in a home freezer.
- Wet books must be damp or lightly wet to be dried in home conditions.
- The books have no sentimental value, they are not collectibles, not antiques and can be replaced or repurchased.
Refer the books to a conservator if these any of these issues is a concern or if you cannot apply the following techniques.
Step 1 – Cleaning Books
Gently remove the books from the water. Do not open or close them and do not remove the covers. Remember to prioritize salvage order by the book value or by bindings and covers types. For example: leather, parchment and vellum bindings will distort and disintegrate faster and, therefore, must get top priority.
Contaminated or Dirty Water
If your books are damaged by contaminated or dirty water, the cleaning procedure is a little more complicated. First, remove the books from the water. Then, gently rinse the papers in a tub of cold running water.
In case of stubborn mud or debris, gently rinse it away using a sponge. Do not use the sponge to rub mud or debris out as this will further damage the book.
Step 2 – Drying Books
There are three common techniques for book drying. To choose the technique that is best for your situation, you will have to consider the following factors:
- Drying urgency: how important are the books and where do they stand in your list of priorities?
- The book's strength and stability: while some methods can be utilized both for strong and weak bindings, some are good just for strongly bound books.
- Time: how much time can you put into salvaging the books?
This drying method is very useful when time is of the essence. It will allow you start the drying process fast and without putting too much time into it in this phase of the recovery process.
To freeze dry, seal the book in a Ziploc bag, and place it in the freezer. The freezing will stop the deterioration of the paper. Using a frost-free freezer is even better since the fan will accelerate the drying process.
Using this technique, papers can be defrosted, separated and air-dried when you will have more time to do it properly.
This technique is can be performed only if the book is strong enough and bindings are stable.
To air-dry a book, open it gently and place it on the on driest edge to provide support. Be sure to turn the book upside-down every few hours or according to the drying process.
You can speed up the process by using fans to promote faster air circulation.
Drying Using Absorbent Materials
This method is typically used if the book is not stable or as an additional drying technique. This technique can be used in addition to any of the other drying techniques mentioned in this article.
Interleave every 10-15 pages with white absorbent paper. Do not interleave more than 15 pages to prevent damage to the binding. Replace the absorbent paper with new absorbent sheets between different pages every hour or as they become saturated.
Glossy or coated papers that adhere one to another are very difficult to separate. Be extremely careful when treating them.
Pressure is usually the final technique, applied to almost every dried book. Do not attempt to dry a book only by pressing out the water. This may cause the pages to adhere one to another.
It is recommended to utilize this technique when the book is no longer wet, but still cool to the touch. Keep in mind that books will dry best if their bindings are supported firmly to inhibit initial swelling.
Close the book and place it on a solid surface then press it lightly under a weight to allow flat drying. Press the book using light weight to make sure that the spines are not crushed or damaged.
Check the book frequently to ensure that no mold is growing.
Clean, Dry, Repair, and Disinfect Paper
Procedures for Salvage of Water Damaged Library Materials By Peter Waters - The Library of Congress