When water fills your basement or home, speed is of the essence to save what can be saved. While most homeowners are focused on the big picture -- ensuring the home and furniture are quickly dried out and mold is prevented in them -- saving the small things can sometimes be overlooked. A collection of books, for example, can easily be overlooked or dismissed as not salvageable in the face of such a disaster. But is it really?
What can you do to your books -- either expensive or of sentimental value -- when your home is flooded?
Do This First
First, examine the books to determine if they can be air-dried. Air-drying is best for newer paper books which do not have water-soluble inks and other materials. Sort through the books to separate those that will benefit from being dried out naturally. If your books have leather or vellum bindings, water-sensitive inks, photographs or drawings, you should take them to a professional restorer as soon as possible.
Soaked books that can be air-dried should be tended to quickly. If you can't immediately begin the process of drying them, place them in a sealed plastic bag and put them in a food storage freezer to freeze their condition until you can dry them properly. Do not use your home freezer, as it doesn't cool the materials fast enough to prevent crystallization problems.
Take the books to an air-conditioned room or an outdoor space. Do not use a heated room, which is often more humid than one with air-conditioning. Fight the urge to fan through the books, instead placing them vertically (standing on the top or bottom, never the side) on newspaper over a hard surface in this dry place. Layer paper towels between the covers and title pages if possible. Place circulating fans around the books to help facilitate drying. Change the newspaper or paper towels regularly.
What Comes Later
Once your books are damp but no longer sopping wet, place some additional paper towels about every 20 pages or so. Lay the book on its side in order to add its own weight to the drying process and switch sides occasionally. Continue to change damp newspaper and paper towels as needed and use fans to keep the air circulating around the books. Look for signs of mold in your books as they become dry. Separate moldy books for professional restoration, since mold or mildew can spread to your other books.
Once the books are thoroughly dry, stack them with weight on top to help straighten out wrinkled or warped pages.
To protect and restore books that have been damaged, it's vital to work as quickly as possible to start the drying process. If you have any concerns about your ability to save wet books, take them immediately to a professional restoration service (such as Flagship Restoration). Delays will result in permanent damage. But between a professional service and your own DIY efforts, you can save what's important to you even in the direst of situations.