How To Repair Water Damage On Books

You have 48 hours to save water damaged books if you know what to do.

You love your books and photo albums and always take the greatest care in storing your valued treasures. You never store them near windows, notorious wet areas or plumbing. You never store them on the floor or under a potentially leaky roof and never in damp areas like a garage or a shed. If they have to be packed up you use a watertight box and wrap each book individually in polyethylene bags.

You do all that, right?

If not, there is always a chance your prized book or album might get wet. If it happens there are things you can do to prevent permanent water damage to your books.

The first thing you will need to know is what you can and can not accomplish in resurrecting a wet book. If you do not get to the water-damaged book quickly there is little you will be able to do. Mold and mildew will set in and ruin the book or the shrinking pages and warped covers will render the book unrecognizable. If the book sports glossy or coated pages they will stick together and it will be beyond the capabilities of even a professional conservator. (As it is, a book with glossy stock is best referred to a conservator).



Before embarking on your home conservation project, make certain you have abundant flat spaces on which to work. As for materials, you will need absorbent paper such as paper towels or blotting paper. Uninked newsprint is a very absorbent paper. A fan will be required to circulate cool air and flat heavy weights such as particle board or bricks should be at hand.

If the book is sturdy enough, stand it on its edge and fan open the pages. Allow the book to air dry or dry the pages with the fan until they are only slightly damp. Place the paper towels in between groups of pages, about every ten pages. This is known as interweaving. Do not interweave too many paper towels into the book as it may damage the binding in the spine.

Change the paper towels about every hour or more often if they become soaked. If the book itself is thoroughly soaked you will need to interweave every page and replace the towels often. If more than one book is being worked on, spread the books out and keep air circulating around them with the fans directed away from the drying volumes.

To help the book dry flat, lay it on the flat surface and place the board across the book so that pressure is applied evenly. Do not try to dry the book by pressing the water out. To prevent damage to the spine, allow it to stick out from beneath the board. If you are drying your water-damaged books in a sunny area, shield them from direct sunlight as this can cause yellowing and uneven drying.

If the water damage is too severe or you are unable to achieve satisfactory drying a wet book that is discovered within 48 hours can be frozen until it can be brought to a conservator.

© High Speed Ventures 2011