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Clean, Dry, Repair and Disinfect Paper
By the RestorationSOS Educational Staff
Paper is extremely sensitive to water exposure and can be damaged even without direct contact with water. Humidity is enough to start the growth of mold and cause deterioration.
Water damaged paper is usually fragile. Depending on the extent of the damage, paper may begin to distort, swell, and cockle. Ink and pigments may fade and coated papers may begin to adhere to one another.
If you suffered from any kind of water damage, be sure to inspect your paper items for dampness. Keep in mind that paper humidity may be invisible so touching the paper is important for proper damage detection.
As with other water damaged materials, a quick reaction will assure a successful and cost effective recovery. However, if reaction is delayed more than a few hours, rebinding and expert conservation will be required. If salvage processes are delayed for too long, you may have to discard damaged paper.
The first step towards successful recovery is drying and improving environmental conditions to prevent mold. Mold will develop within 24 to 48 hours, starting at the gutters and spines of bound materials, and spreading quickly thereafter.
While air drying and dehumidification are the most recommended dry out techniques for environmental improvement, freezing is recommended for paper salvage.
Different cleaning methods can be used to salvage paper items, depending on the type of item, type of water (i.e., clean or contaminated), importance of the item, and its value. You will need to prioritize what you can salvage and in what order. For example: irreplaceable documents must be salvaged before valuable books and pictures and, finally, books and other replicable items.
After drying, paper tends to suffer from a residual musty odor. Increased air circulation will help to eliminate odor. Allow dry paper to "breathe" in a cool, ventilated dry place for a few days. If you cannot utilize this method, place the dry paper in a box with an open box of baking soda to absorb the odor. Make sure there is no physical contact between the baking soda and the paper. Supervise the process daily to prevent the growth of mold.
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