Water Damage

Procedures for Recovering Print Materials and Air Drying Books 

1.    Books that are thoroughly wet:
  • Place absorbent paper on table or floor where books will be dried (unprinted newspaper works well). Change paper on the table/floor as it becomes wet.
  • Lay book at edge of table with foredge pointing off edge and gently, but firmly apply pressure from spine to foredge, pushing out excess water. Gently open book and insert paper towel every 20-25pp. Change when the paper towels are wet.
  • If cover is bleeding or coming off, remove and put aside to a place where it can be found again. In many cases, the book will need to be rebound.
  • Use fans to generate air circulation in room. Books should be dry enough for the next step: books that are partially wet.



Do not attempt to fan leaves. Do not remove covers unless they are bleeding. Leather and vellum bindings will present problems. When leather gets wet, especially red-rotted leather, it will turn black and take on a slimy consistency. These covers should be removed and put aside (inside to inside) with pieces of freezer paper between them to prevent transfer of discoloration. Likewise vellum bindings will need special attention because they will warp severely upon getting wet. Contact the Bird Library Preservation Department @ 443-4560/1947/9937 for help in recovery.

2.   Books that are partially wet
  • Open book partially (at a fairly shallow angle) and interleave with absorbent paper (paper towels work well).
  • Begin at the back of the book and interleave every 20 or so leaves (i.e., pages).
  • Leave book flat until paper towels have absorbed some of the water–i.e., in about one hour. Change paper towels periodically until book is only very slightly damp, and then go to the next step: books that are damp.
3.   Books that are damp
  • Stand damp books on edge, lightly fanned, and dry in front of fans. If the cover is damper than the text, place absorbent paper between the boards and the book, changing them as needed. When almost dry, go to the next step: books that are almost dry.
4.   Books that are almost dry
  • Lay the book flat, push the back and boards gently into position, and place under a light weight. Leave in this position until book is thoroughly dry.
  • When books are dry to the touch at the gutter, stack from largest to smallest and foredge to spine with a board on top and underneath. Place weights on board to help flatten.
The drying time for a book can range from 1 to 7 days.

Keep in mind that coated paper (shiny paper) is a special case. If this paper is allowed to dry with pages stuck to each other, it will NOT be possible to separate them. For this reason it is important that they be interleaved between every page with paper towel. Change as often as necessary and then follow steps from “Books that are almost dry.” Pages should be carefully separated. If uncertain, contact the Bird Library Preservation Department @ 443-4560/1947/9937 for help in recovery.

Procedures for Air Drying Paper Documents or Pamphlets

  • Hang documents/pamphlets over fish line or clothesline to dry. Lines may be strung close together and items laid across them to dry.
  • Lay out small stacks of documents and/or single leaves on tables, floors, and other flat surfaces. Spread paper towels or unprinted newspaper on tables, etc.
  • Use fans to circulate air in recovery location.
  • Change newsprint/paper towels as necessary, i.e. when towels become damp.

Do not attempt to separate leaves that are very wet or that are sticking together unless you have been trained to do so.
Do not attempt to air dry manuscripts, drawings, or material with water-soluble colors except under the advice of a conservation specialist.
NOTE: Make sure that contents of folders and boxes are not separated from each other.