my books are wet, help me save them
August 27, 2004 2:27 PM   Subscribe

Please help me save my books. The movers just dropped off several rooms worth of my pretties, which have been sitting in a storage facility in Kansas for nearly two years. I was, needless to say, ecstatic, until I realized that fully a quarter of the boxes show signs of wetness around the bottom. Looks like they've been sitting in an inch or so of water for Logos knows how long. At least the bottom layer of each box is thoroughly soaked, and stinky. What is my best path at this point to dry out/preserve/resuscitate/de-mildew?
posted by gleuschk to Home & Garden (10 answers total)
You might pick up some helpful tips from these pages on Emergency Salvage of Wet Books and Records and Emergency Salvage of Moldy Books and Paper. ("Reduce humidity" seems to be the basic principle, so -- assuming you don't have a vacuum thermal drying chamber in the house -- I suggest you beg, borrow or steal all the electric fans you can find.) Or there may be some useful links on this page, designed for librarians, on Disaster preparedness and response.

In any case, commiserations. I hope the books aren't too far gone to save.
posted by verstegan at 3:48 PM on August 27, 2004

There is some sort of rigged up apparatus that I have seen people do for mildewed books where the books are placed in a big lined trash can with baking soda on the bottom to air them out and dry them out somewhat. I'll try to track it down later/tomorrow. In the meantime, read more disaster recovery documents and clear some space in the freezer and microwave for the big drying out project.
posted by jessamyn at 5:14 PM on August 27, 2004

You need to reduce the humidity, but not dry the books out entirely. Too little humidity will destroy the bindings. What libraries do is open books and dry them with a lamp, usually the portable kinds that they sell in photo shops. They go through each page.

Saving books is expensive. I would get rid of anything that can be easily replaced and focus your efforts on your favourite tomes.

I hate to sound heartless-- I'm a librarian and I love my books-- but mildrew isn't just a biproduct of wet, it is a living organism that can spread. I would get rid of anthing that has mildew spots. Go through and decide what you really want to save, and then dry it under a lamp, page by page.

I feel really bad for you. I can say, however, that I have lost some of my favourite books. Replacing them prompted me to read them again. I was eaten out by losing some first editions, and books I really loved, but what really counts is inside.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 6:10 PM on August 27, 2004

Response by poster: Thanks, all. Upon closer inspection (and after a good stiff drink to calm down a little), it looks like I'm lucky on two fronts. The damage is a little less widespread than I thought, though still multi-box, a few dozen books. Second, it's mostly evenly split between (a) things I love that are relatively easily replaced (John Fante, Ian Stewart) and (b) things that maybe weren't all that big a deal in the first place (I never read S/Z when it was dry, I should get all freaked out now that it's wet?). There are still a few that I need to come to grips with, and I'll look into your links tomorrow morning. If only it were a little less humid....
posted by gleuschk at 7:31 PM on August 27, 2004

What kind of storage facility? Perhaps you can look into obtaining damagement cost replacement from them?
posted by geoff. at 10:09 PM on August 27, 2004

Sue the bastards. You paid, they failed to deliver what you paid for. This is books, man. These aren't boxes of old clothes you don't need anyway.

And what company did this to you? Name names! I'm in the process of moving and my stuff might have to go into storage awhile. My book collection is worth as much as my electronics. At least it will be insured.
posted by Goofyy at 12:03 AM on August 28, 2004

For books that have mildew - this worked for a book I had that was my Mom's and couldn't be replace.

1. Dry out the book
2. Get a freezer bag large enough for it and put the book in there with several pieces of charcoal.
3. Put the book in the freezer for a couple months.

I read about this in one of my book repair books and as a last ditch effort I tried it. I was very suspicious about this method, but it did kill the mildew in this book, and it's been mildew free for three years now.
posted by ugf at 7:20 AM on August 28, 2004

Pretty much every storage place I've ever used made me sign a thing at the start saying they weren't responsible for just about anything that happened to my stuff. I remember in college I had a unit filled with crap that I had to put on top of a wood pallet to keep it off the occasionally moist ground (I noticed dried mud and leaves on the cement floor when I first put my stuff there, and they suggested the wood pallet riser to keep stuff dry.
posted by mathowie at 7:21 AM on August 28, 2004

Response by poster: Yeah, I'm not interested in suing anybody. I knew the risks going in (though I didn't know how long the stuff would be in there).

I clearly need to learn more about mildew. There are lots of books that smell off, but I can't find any visible signs of mildew. Have they just absorbed the smell from being in the same box with mildewed books, or are they infected too?
posted by gleuschk at 8:52 AM on August 28, 2004

Assume anything that smells like mildew has some mildew on it and keep it in the mildew quarantine that you use for your other visibly mildewed books. Or put them in some sort of halway place but don't inetrmingle them with your clean books until you are sure the books are mildew-free. This page has the pail-within-a-pail technique I was thinking of earlier. It's not elegant but it's good at desmellifying books, esp if there's no obvious mildew on them.
posted by jessamyn at 11:32 AM on August 28, 2004

« Older Matching existing vintage tile colors in my...   |   Is her birth control medicine made from dehydrated... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.