How to Restore Water Damaged Books or Legal Documents
Restoring water damaged books or papers is a delicate and time-consuming, yet simple, process. If the book or document is found while still wet, it might be in a very fragile state and must be handled delicately during the drying process to prevent further, possibly irreparable damage. If the damage is severe, the restoration would be best handled by professionals. If the book or document is found after it has dried, it should be examined carefully for mold, which could require professional attention for safety reasons. If, however, the paper or book is in suitable condition for do-it-yourself restoration, there are some simple, if time-consuming, steps that can be taken to minimize or fix damage.
For books that are still wet, there are a number of drying techniques that could be used. The two methods that are easiest for a layperson to use on a lightly damaged book are freeze-drying and air-drying. To freeze-dry a book, place it in a plastic bag (do not seal the bag) and put it flat inside a no-frost freezer. The freezer will dehydrate the book while it freezes. If a no-frost freezer is unavailable, or if there are only a few wet pages, air-drying is also a good option. To air-dry a book, place a sheet of plain printer paper in between the wet pages, and then lay the book flat to dry. Placing the drying book between two flat boards and putting weights on top will keep the pages flat while they dry, and putting the whole set-up in a room with air-conditioning or a dehumidifier will speed the drying process. If no air-conditioner or dehumidifier is available, a fan can be used as well. Do not put the drying book directly in front of the fan, but make sure the book is still exposed to circulating air.
For a single document or for a file folder full of documents, the drying process is similar to the process for books, but the documents are much more fragile and require more delicate handling, and they need to be separated from each other before drying. Wet papers often stick together, and separating them is a very delicate process. To separate the documents safely, a large, thin sheet of plastic (similar to transparent sheets for overhead projectors) should be used. The plastic sheet should be laid down smoothly on the top page. The top page will stick to the plastic, and carefully and slowly lifting the plastic will cause the top page to separate from the other pages. The plastic and the top page can then be set down on a clean towel on a flat surface to dry, and the plastic can carefully be removed from the top page. Once the pages are separated, they can be dried in the same fashion as a wet book.
If, on the other hand, the book or document has already dried improperly and caused water damage, the do-it-yourself restoration process is to gently and lightly moisten the damaged pages by sponging, and then re-dry everything properly. To guard against introducing harmful bacteria or mold to the water-damaged book, the sponge should be new and clean. The sponge should be moistened in clean water and then wrung out, and then applied gently to the a damaged page. The page should be just moistened enough to re-dry. Once the damaged pages have been sponged, the book can then be dried properly.
Restoring damaged books or documents can be a time-consuming, delicate, and tedious process, for additional information contact a firm that specializes in restoration services for damaged documents.