House Cleaning in Mesa, AZ 85207, Tips on dealing with wet books, Maid Services

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How to Clean and Sanitize Wet Books

Aileen asked: I have some cookbooks that got wet from a leaking waste pipe in my house. I’m concerned about possible bacteria in and on the books. The books have varying degrees of wetness. On some, just the cover got wet, and on others, the pages got wet too. Is there any way that I can sanitize them so that I can still use them?

Table of Contents:

  1. Air Drying Wet Books
  2. Blow Drying Wet Books
  3. Dealing with Mold Growth
  4. Additional Tips and Advice

When books get wet, prompt action is the key to restoring them and bringing them back to life. There are professional services that will do the task for you, or you can dry the books out at home. It takes time and patience, but if you’re willing to put forth the effort, you can get the same results as the professionals. Here’s how to dry your books and remove any mold that may have started growing.

If you are starting with frozen books, allow them to come to room temperature before proceeding with the drying methods below.

You Will Need:

  • White paper towels and/or Non-printed newspaper
  • Plastic sheeting
  • Sponges
  • Electric fans

Steps to Dry Very Wet (Dripping) Books:

  1. Begin by covering the work area with plastic so the water does not damage it.
  2. On top of the plastic, spread out several layers of white paper towels or non-printed newspaper. These will be used to help absorb the moisture from the books.
  3. Keep the book closed so that pages will not become damaged.
  4. With the book closed, stand it up on edge on top of the absorbent paper.
  5. Place a sponge under one corner of the book to prop it up slightly. This will allow water to drain out of the bottom.
  6. Allow the book to stay propped up until no more water drips from it, and there is no water pooling on the pages when they are opened gently.
  7. Once the book reaches this point, you are ready to move onto the steps for drying a moderately wet book.

Steps to Dry Moderately Wet (wet, but not dripping) Books:

  1. At this point, it is safe to gently open the book.
  2. Cut the non-printed newspaper or paper towels so they are just slightly larger than the book.
  3. Open the front cover and place a paper towel or paper between the cover and the front page.
  4. Lift about ¼ inch stack of pages and insert another sheet of absorbent paper or a paper towel.
  5. Continue placing an absorbent paper or paper towel every quarter of an inch throughout the entire book.
  6. Place a final sheet between the last page and the back cover.
  7. Lay the book on top of some paper towels. Keep it lined up so that the binding does not lose its shape.
  8. Change the papers as needed.
  9. When you change the papers, insert dry sheets between new pages to allow for more water removal.
  10. Once the book is just damp, you can proceed to the steps for cleaning damp books.

Steps to Dry Damp Books:

  1. When books are just damp, they are not as fragile as wet books.
  2. Stand  the book up and fan open the pages.
  3. The book should only be opened about 60 degrees so that the binding is not stretched.
  4. Keep fans running in the room, but not aimed directly at the book. You don’t want the pages to be flapping with the air movement.
  5. Allow the book to stay open until it is completely dried. This can take time, up to several weeks.
  6. Once completely dry, close the book and press it by laying several books or a brick on top. This will help to flatten out rippled pages.

Blow Drying Wet Books

This method is offered by a disaster recovery expert who claims it will provide professional results at home.

You Will Need:

  • Plastic Ziploc bags
  • Waxed paper
  • White paper towels and/or Non-printed newspaper
  • Blow dryer
  • Freezer

Steps to Blow Dry Wet Books:

  1. Pull out a sheet of waxed paper and wrap it in a “u” around the book. If there is no waxed paper available, place the book in a plastic bag.
  2. Place the book in a freezer. If it’s possible to have them commercially frozen, you will have better results, but home freezing will work.
  3. Once frozen, you can remove it when you’re ready to work. You’ll only work as long as the book is still frozen. Once it begins to thaw, you will return it to the freezer. (While you wait for it to refreeze, you can work on the next book if there is more than one.)
  4. Lay the book flat and turn on the blow dryer. Use the high heat and air settings.
  5. Keep the air moving around the cover. Work up and down and side to side.
  6. Lift the cover carefully and allow the air to flow inside. If any pages are stuck to the cover, gently loosen them so they don’t tear.
  7. When the cover is dry, move to the inside pages.
  8. Start with the first page, blowing air on it as you smooth it out with your hand.
  9. When the pages begin to feel wet when you touch them, the book is thawing and it’s time to refreeze.
  10. Place a blank sheet of paper to mark where you were and rewrap the book.
  11. Place it in the freezer and allow it to freeze again.
  12. Move onto a second book or wait for the first.
  13. When frozen again, remove it and begin working again, using the same drying methods as before.
  14. Keep working in short amounts until you have worked through the entire book.

Dealing with Mold Growth

You Will Need:

  • Spray bottle
  • 97-99% isopropyl alcohol

Steps to Remove Mold from Wet Books:

  1. Fill a spray bottle with the isopropyl alcohol. Normal rubbing alcohol is only 3% alcohol. To get these higher concentrations, see your drug store or pharmacy.
  2. Spray all areas of the book that have mold starting to grow. The book is already wet. The additional moisture will not cause more damage, but leaving the mold definitely will.
  3. Once you have sprayed all of the moldy areas, cover the book as described earlier and freeze. It is best to wrap these books several times and place them in well sealed bags. The taste of alcohol will be absorbed by the other foods in the freezer if left exposed.
  4. Once frozen, continue with the drying method described above.

Additional Tips and Advice

  • If you have a large number of books and don’t have time to get to them right away, keep them in the freezer (use the steps found in the blow drying section). This also applies if you are having them professionally cleaned. Freezing the books prevents further damage and mold growth until you or a professional are ready to dry them.
  • Run an electric dehumidifier in the room to help remove moisture from the air and speed up drying times.
  • If the pages are glossy, it requires a different cleaning method. The glossy pages are made from a clay that causes them to become sticky and adhere to each other. Placing waxed paper between the pages and freezing them immediately will help restore this successfully. Be prepared to put in extra time and effort on these glossy books.
  • Professional book restorers have access to chemicals and drying methods that may produce better results. If the book is valuable or you don’t have the time to dry it yourself, they will do it for you, for a fee. Be sure to keep the books frozen until they can come and assess the damage.
  • If there is dirt on the books, leave it alone until the book is dried. Once dry, most dirt will brush off. If you try to remove it while wet, it will just spread the mud around and cause a larger stain.