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Can Water Damaged Collections Be Saved?

We all have those items in our home that mean more to us than the rest of our possessions, and for those of us who like to collect things, we may have an entire room or rooms full of items and pieces that we cannot bear the thought of losing. In the event of water problems, these items, if not destroyed, may be seriously damaged. Is it indeed possible to salvage these water damaged collections?

Air drying is the single most common method of trying to salvage a valuable item, as it is not a hands on approach, but rather allowing the item to sit unmolested and letting the air dry the piece out, hopefully with no ill effects.  You may also wish to aim fans or other air moving devices at the item. You can also absorb excess moisture using a clean sponge or bath towel, taking care not to blot hand written ink or fragile surfaces. Do not use newsprint for blotting as the ink may transfer.

Paper documents, maps, and posters are especially difficult and must be handled with care when drying.  Blot away the excess water and refrain from trying to separate items while they are very wet. If pages can be separated, then place absorbent materials such as waxed paper between them to keep them from drying together.  Use a flat screen or other porous material to allow the paper product to rest on and provide adequate air circulation. As they dry, place a weight on them to keep them nice and flat. Remember that too much weight on a wet surface may result in mold.

Books can be dried out by standing on the top or bottom edge and separating as many pages as possible. Alternate edges every few hours. Once the book is no longer wet, place it on a solid surface with a slight weight in order to keep distortion to a bare minimum. Make sure there is no mold growing on the book or within the pages.

Photographs are probably the hardest to save from water damage. Many older photos are particularly susceptible to water and may not be salvageable.  Prints, negatives, and color slides can be air dried. Make sure the emulsion is face up.  Do not touch the surface of these photos while they are drying. If you are unsure about any procedure for drying these materials, contact a company that specializes in photographic recovery and salvage.

If the collection you are working with has mold, it may be removed through exposure to sunlight and proper air circulation. Low drying temperatures are highly recommended.  Remember that water damage to some items may be irreversible, and the treatment of items with a high monetary, historic, or sentimental value should be entrusted to a qualified conservator.

Restoration Local is a certified water damage repair company.

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