HOW TO DRY A WET BOOK
These procedures are for drying one or a few wet books, and should be used in the evenings and weekends when the Preservation Department is not staffed. When the Preservation Deparmtent is staffed, bring wet or damp books immediately to the Conservation Lab for drying under controlled conditions. If there is a disaster incident in the library, such that more than a few collection items are, or could be, affected, follow the Disaster Response Instructions for All Staff.
Ensure Your Safety - If there is a possibility that a wet book was contaminated by sewage or dirty water, do not handle it. Wearing plastic gloves, put affected items in a plastic bag, and notify the Preservation Department. It is more important to ensure your own safety than to save a book!
Mold Growth is a concern with wet and damp books and other paper-based materials. Wet and damp books should be dealt with immediately because mold can grow within 24 to 48 hours once materials become wet, or in a warm and very humid environment.
Coated Paper - has a shiny or glossy surface, such as the paper in Newsweek Magazine, as well as in many illustrated books and journals. If coated paper gets wet, and pages then dry together, they usually will be permanently stuck together. When air drying books with coated paper, each page must be interleaved with waxed paper.
Rare Materials - These procedures are not for rare materials, which should be handled by a professional conservator. See the Disaster Plan, Emergency Resources Outside the University of Delaware Library.
Air Drying Procedures
Find a space that is as cool and dry as possible, and with good air circulation. Use fans to keep the air circulating in the drying space.
When a Book is Saturated -
- Stand the book on its head with absorbent paper beneath it
- Open only the covers slightly to allow the book to stand. If the book cannot stand alone, support it with bookends.
- Place absorbent paper inside the front and back covers (between the text block and covers)
- Do not try to separate the pages while they are very wet. Wet paper is very weak and is likely to tear at this stage.
- Change the absorbent paper undeneath the book, and inside the covers, as soon as it becomes wet
- Turn the book alternately to rest on its head and tail each time paper is changed
- When most of the water has drained, follow the procedure for a partially wet book
When a Book is Partially Wet -
- Interleave absorbent paper every 20 pages or so, with the interleaving extending beyond the head (or tail) and fore-edge NOTE: Fora damp book with coated paper, interleave between EVERY page with waxed paper.
- Lay the book flat
- Frequent changes are better than too many interleaves, which cause further distortion (except that with coated paper, interleaving between every page is necessary even if it causes distortion)
- Change the interleaving as soon as it becomes wet (depends on conditions, so check progress at least every half hour)
- When books are only slightly damp, follow the procedure for damp books
When a Book is Damp
- Stand a damp book on its head or tail, fanned open a little bit, and position a fan so that the flow of air circulates into and around the book.
- If the covers are damper than the text block, place absorbent paper between them
- When almost but not completely dry, go to the final air drying step
Final Air Drying Step
- When almost dry, lay the book flat
- Place absorbent paper between covers and text block
- Reform the book into its normal shape if possible, and place a light weight on top of it
- Do not stack drying books together. Leave the weight in place until the book is completely dry.
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Last modified: March 16, 2009