How to Restore a Water Damaged Book

water damaged book

Has one of your favorite books suffered water damage in a freak accident or flood? Don’t worry, we can help you save it from the trash pile! Even if your book is thoroughly soaked, following these instructions should save it from permanent damage. It won’t come out in pristine condition, but it won’t be stuck with huge water stains and stuck together pages either. The following method will show you how to restore a water damaged book.

Please note:

This article is for informational purposes only. We do not restore individual books.

On the other hand, if you ever need help with water damage restoration for a whole room or building in San Diego, we’re happy to help.

What Kinds of Books Can You Recover from Water Damage?

With these methods it’s possible to recover a wide variety of books, including textbooks, yearbooks, paperback and hardcover novels, religious texts, and more. If your book is unusual in terms of size, thickness, or materials used, consider calling a professional instead.

Preparing Your Workstation

Preparation of the drying area is essential for a good, thorough drying of a book. You’ll need a large table space, a dining room table or folding card table is about enough space for one book. If you have multiple books that need to be dried check out our section on multiple books at the end of this article. Lay out your drying media – this can be parchment paper, towels, wax paper or any other absorbent media that the book can rest on – on your drying table. Next, grab some copy paper and tin foil. You’ll need this for drying the interior of the book later.

We are going to assume that your book is thoroughly waterlogged for the purposes of restoration. If your book is just wet in some places and not completely soaked through, move down to the section on drying wet books.

Restoring a Book Damaged by Contaminated Water

If your book has been damaged by flood water, black water or grey water, you must first protect yourself from the bacteria that may be present on the book. Don a pair of nitrile or rubber gloves before handling your book. If you’ve already touched it, go and wash your hands and then put on the gloves.

  • Fill your kitchen sink with clean water and slowly run the book through it in one fluid motion. Don’t shake it back and forth or try to get all of the debris off on the first go. This is just to remove the surface dirt. Hold the book tightly so you don’t introduce extra water into the binding or pages.
  • Immediately bring the book to the drying station and remove the dust jacket (if there is one). The jacket should come off with little to no problem.
  • Lay the jacket flat on the drying surface.
  • Stand the book up on end and allow the water to drain from the book. Do not fan out the pages as this will result in more surface area available for the water to wick into. Let the book dry like this for at least 30 minutes.
  • Lay the book on its back and check for cover color bleeding. If there is bleeding, place tinfoil sheets between the covers and the textblock.
  • Turn on a fan to keep air circulating through the room. Do not aim it directly at the book or you risk curling the pages from drying the edges prematurely.
  • Change the drying medium beneath the book every hour until the book is no longer saturated. This will be when the drying medium is not wet after one hour of the book sitting on it.

At this point your book will now be considered a ‘wet book,’ and you can move on to the next stage in the drying process.

How To Dry a Wet Book

A wet, but not soaked, book will not drip when it is lifted up off from the surface where it is sitting. If your book is to this point we will proceed with the interleaving process.

  • Open the cover of the book and change the drying material placed between the textblock and the covers.
  • Open the first 10 to 20 pages of the book in a single section and place a piece of drying material in between the pages. Do this every 10 to 20 pages to help wick moisture out of the book. Do not do every page because this will put undue strain on the binding and result in a warped spine.
  • Change the interleaving every hour. At this time you can change where the drying material is placed, usually it is advised to place a piece halfway between the existing two sheets before removing them.
  • Don’t forget to change the drying material beneath the book when you change out the interleaving.
  • Continue using a fan to circulate the air in the room. If you have a dehumidifier, this is the perfect time to use it.

Drying Out a Damp Book

When the book is in a damp condition – it no longer dampens the interleaving materials in an hour – it is time to call it a damp book. Stand the book on end and gently fan out the pages. Allow the fan to continue circulating air around them for 24 hours to dry the book completely.

Repairing Several Water Damaged Books

If you have several water-damaged books that you are looking to save, your freezer may be your best friend. Mold and mildew can start to grow in as little as two hours after water has penetrated the textblock. Immediately dry the book to the wet stage. Once the book is in the wet stage, place it in a zipper type freezer bag with drying material on the top and bottom of the covers. Place the books in the freezer to slow the onset of mold and mildew. When you are ready to restore your books, pull one from the freezer and let it thaw. You can now dry it individually according to the methods shown above.

How to Fix a Wet Book that Has Dried

What should you do if your book’s pages have already dried?

Fixing books that have already dried can be tricky. Your best bet it to spray a fine mist from a water bottle and iron out the page by setting your clothes iron to a no-steam setting. Be sure to fold the paper flat and use a piece of parchment paper as a backing. Depending on how badly the pages are warped, a shop press and a hair drier can also help.

If you need more help, you’re always welcome to speak with one of our San Diego water damage repair specialists.

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