If you've had a basement flood, a roof leak, or a pipe burst, the first thing you think about after you get the water stopped is how you're going to clean up the mess. You also want to know what you can salvage. If you've had books, papers, and family documents damaged, don't automatically assume they're ruined. Read more, and learn what you can do to save your books and papers after water damage.
What To Do After The Water Stops Flowing
When you are dealing with water damage, time is your enemy because bacteria and mold will start growing in the water damaged materials, and it will eat away at any wood, wood fiber, or fabric.
Right after you get the water stopped, you need to take the following steps:
- Call your insurance company and report the damage.
- Call a water damage restoration company like Flood Damage Restoration to have an assessment of the damage and to have the remaining water removed.
- Have the restoration company remove carpets if you have any, and install drying equipment, including high powered dehumidifiers and fans.
- Have the restoration company apply an anti-microbial to surfaces. This will help slow down the growth of mold and bacteria while you rescue your papers and books.
Your goal is to remove as much moisture from the area and the things in it as quickly as possible. This will speed drying and aid recovery of everything you own, including your books and papers.
How To Salvage Your Books And Papers
Ask the restoration company to set one up for you in another room that you can work in. The dehumidifiers will help pull moisture out of your books.
You will also need a few strong fans, but keep them pointed away from your work area, toward the ceiling. This will keep the air circulating and speed up drying. You will need the following supplies:
- tables (card tables, or any other kind)
- plastic zip lock bags
- a food storage deep freezer (if you don't own one, borrow one or rent one)
- plain white paper towels (as absorbent as possible)
- uncolored cloth towels (cloth baby diapers are ideal)
- a tub of clean, room temperature water
Handle each piece of paper and book one at a time. Take the following steps:
- Sort items into 2 piles: damp to slightly-wet, and wet to soaked.
- If you have too many items to handle drying at once, put the wettest items into plastic storage bags and seal them. Put the sealed bags into the deep freezer. This will stop mold growth and buy you some time to work.
- Set up your tables. Cover the tables with the clean cloth.
- If you have books with ink that is not water-soluble, rinse the books in the clean water before starting to dry them. This will remove dirt and other grime deposited from the water that came through your pipe, floor, roof, or other source.
- Set books on the tables vertically, pages spread open as far as the book's cover and spine will support.
- Use paper towels to gently blot pages where ink has bled a little. If need be, press the paper towels gently against the wet pages and leave them there until they are dry enough to remove without blurring the ink further. Dry them the same way you are drying the books.
- Blot each piece of paper between two pieces of paper towel. Lay the paper flat to dry.
- Turn each piece of paper and rotate books every 8 hours, examining each as they dry.
- Only after the papers and books are fully dry should you attempt to stack them to press out wrinkles and creases.
- Once you have the less wet items dealt with, you can move onto any items you have in the freezer.
It's also possible to allow particularly wet items to actually dry in the freezer, through the process of sublimation.
If you want to do that, instead of putting wet items inside plastic bags, use wax paper or freezer paper to separate the items and loosely stack them on top of each other in the deep freezer. It can take weeks or months, and you cannot remove them too soon, but they will eventually freeze-dry.
Allow the professionals to handle the basic repairs: floor, ceiling, carpets, drywall, while you handle the salvage of your books, papers and family documents. Water damage doesn't have to be the death of paper items. Many are salvageable, with a little time and proper care.