How To Clean, Dry, Repair And Disinfect Paper

By | January 9, 2013

Sadly, paper items such as books, photos, framed items and paintings easily succumb to water damage. Even without direct exposure to water, these items can be destroyed by humidity. The first aid for water damaged paper items is thorough inspection for wetness or dampness, and drying the items in order to prevent mold growth. The next thing is to transfer these materials in a dry area, or to let them dry in a box with baking soda, keeping the items separated.


Gently remove the books from the water, prioritizing books with parchment, leather and vellum bindings because they get damaged easily. If you’re salving books out of dirty water, gently clean the pages with tap water. In case of residual mud and debris, scrub carefully with a sponge.

The next step is drying the books. You can air-dry stably-bound books, or you can freeze-dry them by placing them in zip-lock bags and leaving them in the freezer for a couple of hours. You can place absorbent papers every 15 pages, or apply pressure to the book. Do this method only on “cool to touch” books, and not wet books because the pages will surely stick together.


Prior to restoring your snapshots, you first need to have a low-humidity, dry room. You then need to work on the more important photos first, such as those without negatives or extra copies. Hold the photos by their edges and take them out of the water. Clean them in a basin of water, change the water as needed. Gently separate the photos from each other. Dry the portraits with white absorbent paper. Change hourly until the images dry out.

Framed items

The first thing to do is to gently remove the picture from the frame. If this is not possible, remove the cover of the frame and dry on the table, glass side down, with the picture still inside. Dry the framed items with the use of a fan, or place an absorbent paper on the wet items with the face up. Avoid using printed papers to prevent color contamination. Change them every hour until the items completely dry up.


As with restoring photos, you need to perform the salvaging process in a dry room with low humidity. Next you need to classify the paintings as to which has minimal damage and which has extensive problems such as lifting, flaking, and fading paint. For paintings with minimal problems, dry them with the use of blotters and absorbent paper. Put the painting, facedown, on top of the blotters. Cover the back part with several blotter papers to dry both sides. Dry out paintings with severe damage by placing them horizontally, with the face up. Seek the help of a professional restorer for best results.

With cleaning, drying, repairing and disinfecting paper items, time is of the essence. Remember to pay attention to the important papers first (land titles, birth certificates) before books, photos, framed items, and paintings. Lastly, exert much care and effort in these processes, as they can be tedious and time-consuming.