Put water damaged documents on ice

Recent Australian Flood victims worried about what to do with precious mementos damaged by floodwaters were advised to look to the power of the family freezer to help keep their keepsakes.

Anyone of us may incur water damage to precious articles so this basic first aid could be useful. Take some simple steps before throwing out damaged photographs, books, papers, videos and cassette tapes. The key to salvaging as many items as possible is “don't panic” and start with the most valuable. It can be an emotional time, and people may throw out cherished and irreplaceable possessions damaged by water. However, in some cases they can be saved by washing mud and silt off with clean water, and careful drying.

A Salvaging Water Damaged Collections fact sheet http://www.slq.qld.gov.au/services/pres/advice offers simple, home based solutions for preserving books, documents, photographs, films, tapes, and digital media. Often all you'll need is a kitchen table, pedestal fan, some absorbent paper, a clothesline and following the basic process in the fact sheet.

It's important to prioritize based on deterioration time. We recommend people start with photographs and film, and move on to any paper documents and digital media. Wet paper can be held over for recovery just by popping it into a freezer, in a plastic bag, within 48 hours. Freezing is the best way to buy time as it reduces the risk of mould outbreak. If no electricity is available, you may have to reassess your priorities based on the documents you feel most attached to. The key to recovering most of these documents is to get them dry as quickly as possible. Tips for drying include pegging film & paper on an internal clothesline, using pedestal fans, lying loose papers flat on paper towel, & separating pages of books, & magazines. Badly damaged precious items may require professional conservation treatment.