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Disaster time: wet papers, wet books & photos


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Last weekend I had to rescue some books and papers that were soaked with water when an accident happened in my cellar.

Books in cardboard boxes were soaked and I sorted out what was important and what to toss out. When books dry out, two things can or will happen. The covers and pages on older books will warp, may fall apart and depending on how warm the air is, can begin to mold and mildew. Printers ink can smear and pages will tear when turned if the pages are still wet.

Newer books are often printed on cheap paper that is smoothed using clay, then printed using computer type jet printers. When these books dry, the clay from the surface of one page binds with the next page, and you have a solid mass....or in other words, your book is now a solid brick.

There is hope, if you do something while the books are still wet. If the books, papers, or whatever are valuable enough, there is something -you- can do at home, yourself.

Put each book in a plastic bag, then put the bagged book in the freezer. That will give you time to save each book, paper or whatever, one step at a time.

The next step requires time and some patience, but can be done by almost anyone. Take one book out of the freezer, let it thaw a little and then use a HAIR DRYER to warm up and remove all of the moisture from the covers of the book. Then start one page at a time. Raise one page, dry out and remove all of the water/moisture from the page you are working on, then go to the next. Then, one page at a time. If you get tired, or have to quit, take sheets of -waxed- paper that you can buy at a market and use it to separate the wet pages from the ones you've worked on. Then put it back in the freezer until you have time to do more

I've tried this and it seems to work. The warm pages will not lay flat when you turn them, but when the book is closed and there is weight to make them flat again, they will get their flat shape back again.

Freezing also stops the clay page books from turning solid, and can be dried one page at a time.

If nothing else, freezing gives you time to decide what you want to do about each problem facing you. You don't have to toss out books and papers or let warm air turn them into moldy and mildew covered lumps of garbage.

Good luck if you have a problem of this sort in the future, but it's not necessarily a complete disaster. If you have the time, patience, and freezer space, you can save some if not all of the important items soaked with water.

Les

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