You don’t have to throw away the family Bible and other cherished books damaged by waters from floods, hurricanes, or leaky pipes. See four simple steps on saving wet books from Heritage Preservation’s award-winning Field Guide to Emergency Response and Emergency Response and Salvage Wheel.

Rinsing Dirty Books

If the books are dirty, hold them firmly closed and rinse them in cool, clean water baths to remove mud.

Drying Damp Books
  1. Stand partially wet or damp books on edge on clean absorbent material.
  2. Open to a 90 degree angle and let them air dry.
  3. Provide good air circulation, but aim fans away from the books.

Drying Wet Books
  1. Place wet books flat on a clean surface.
  2. Insert white paper towels or other absorbent sheets every 25-50 pages.
  3. Don’t strain the binding.
  4. Replace the towels when they become wet.
    Note: If books are soaked, freeze them first. See below.

Freezing Books to Gain Time

Too many books, too little time? Freeze the books to prevent mold and air dry them in batches later.
  1. Separate damp books from wet ones because the drying methods are different.
  2. Wrap the books in waxed or freezer paper.
  3. Pack them spine down in sturdy containers.
  4. Freeze.
Safety First! With any disaster there may be health risks. Wear long sleeves, sturdy shoes, plastic or rubber gloves, and splash goggles. If there is mold, a fitted NIOSH-approved N100 mask is recommended.
General Tips:

Prioritize. Save first what cannot be replaced.
Don't delay. The goal is to prevent mold.
Handle with care. Wet materials are fragile.
Work patiently. Air drying is slow but sure.
Call in a pro for very valuable or fragile items.
Want more expert advice? Click here for additional resources.

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