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Early Recovery Methods for Water-Damaged Books


  1. Stand books on their heads (or use support to keep them standing)
  2. Interleave absorbent paper every 50 pages (toilet/tissue, paper towels, or blotting paper will do; just replace every now and then)
  3. Use fan to keep air circulating, never expose books to dry under the sun.
  4. Keep temperature below 65 degree F (if air conditioning is possible)
  5. When completely dry, lay books flat but not stack up together
  6. Books should be sorted out based on the amount of salvage work neededas well as level of priority
  7. If the book is only damp, it can stand upright with covers and pages fanned in a cool, dry place to air dry.
  8. Use running water for cleaning

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 Initial Response Guidelines for Water-Damaged Materials


1. Open or close books

2. Separate single sheets

3. Press water out of wet books – the paper is too fragile when wet.

4. Wipe off mud or dirt

5. Remove book covers or separate materials

6. Disturb wet file boxes, prints, drawings or photographs

7. Use brush or sponge to clean books

8. Rub the books.  (The water should do almost all of the cleaning.)

“Such handling may result in extensive and irreparable damage to

materials that otherwise might be salvaged” (Peter Waters)


Saving Water-Damaged Books

Initial steps to take in salvaging wet books:

  1. Do not attempt to salvage books that can be replaced
  2. If the books are underwater, pick up each one with both hands and place it in a non-paper container
  3. Keep the book closed while you move it.
  4. Dry books with cool, dry, circulating air. Never use hair dryer or iron.
  5. Decide which books can be dried lying flat or standing up.
  6. If the book is very wet, place it flat on a clean table that is covered with absorbent material ex. paper towels, uninked newsprint, etc. between pages. Change the sheets as they become wet. Be gentle: wet paper is very fragile.
  7. If the book is partially wet, stand it upright on its driest edge with its pages fanned open.
  8. Once the book is dry but feels cool to the touch, close it.  Check regularly for mold growth.
  9. For books with coated paper, the pages tend to stick together.  You can try to dry them as above (see #6).  Use waxed paper instead of absorbent sheets.
  10. Freezing may also be an option. Before placing them in the freezer, wrap them in waxed paper and pack them tightly, spine down, in a sturdy container. They can be defrosted later for air-drying.  If you have a large quantity of wet books to freeze, you should consult a conservator for advice on how to proceed.


Learn HOW TO DRY WET BOOKS IN 7 STEPSclick here.

Read How to restore flood-soaked books by Angie Mohr (Manila Bulletin, 10 Oct 2009).

CPR for drowned books by Jessica Zafra (PhilStar, 11 Oct 2009).

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FEMA: Saving Water-Damaged Books.” Federal Emergency Management Agency. 6 Oct. 2009

“How To – How to Dry Wet Books in 7 Steps.” The Restoration Resource. 6 Oct. 2009

Waters, Peter. “Procedures for Salvage of Water Damaged Library Materials.”Conservation OnLine. 6 Oct. 2009

links provided by: Mrs. Jane Diaz, Mr. Emman Villaverde and Mrs. Sarah Elizaga

*actual photos of damaged books from library users affected by typhoon Ondoy.


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