Restoring Water-Damaged Documents

Water-damaged medical records, deeds, birth certificates, maps, legal files, company registers, drawings, archival documents, newspaper articles, photographs, tax forms, wedding albums, yearbooks, scrapbooks, and much more (even money) can be restored.

Some wet or damp articles may be dried to “usable” condition, while other, more valuable papers and books may be returned to pre-loss condition by more advanced means.

We have seen the contents pros use simple, common sense methods and plans (including many recommended by the National Archives and Records Administration) for restoring valued documents and books. But the one that seems to surprise many observers is their decision to freeze most wet papers and books as their initial protocol.

The reason for this is that mold can begin to grow in as little as 24 to 48 hours after paper becomes water- damaged, but freezing it stops any further degradation.

Of course, contents workers have other ways of “making whole” the loss of paper items. Some of our readers may recall the article that told of a contents pro who avoided a threatened law suit against an adjuster by the “grumpy grandpa” who demanded that his sodden collection of old mystery novels be restored to pre-loss condition (the adjuster felt that they were barely worth garage sale prices – grandpa was sure they were collectibles). A contents specialist went online and found a vintage collection by the same author for just pennies on the dollar and the case moved forward.

The fact is that many paper objects can be restored to pre-loss condition, sometimes by labor- intensive methods, sometimes with remarkable, almost futuristic machines. Freeze-drying chambers turn all the water into ice, then before it can melt and turn to water again, it is vaporized under pressure and removed without damaging the valued articles.

From a single document to a warehouse full of corporate and legal records, the contents specialists have returned boxes of paper archives, fragile artifacts and more to their amazed owners.

The contents pros have several levels of service for wet documents and a track record of success, but as with many cases, time is never on their side. The sooner you call them, the more they can restore.

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