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Document Restoration: What Every Business Owner Should Know About Wet Documents

You just discovered that important business or historical documents or books are moist or wet. Now what? Hopefully you will never be in this situation. But if you ever are—or are now—it’s important to know what to do. First, don’t panic. Freeze drying and restoration processes can save your documents. This blog post explains three things to keep in mind if you discover moist or wet documents. 

Assessing the Damage 

Water damage to documents and books can occur in several different forms. The consequences of each of the below scenarios are bad, if you don’t act quickly, but it’s possible to fully salvage documents or books from each set of circumstances. 
  • Trapped water—your documents are books are submerged, which means there is likely water between pages and throughout the entire structure.
  • Sorbed water—a leak or some other event has resulted in water making its way into the paper fiber of your books or documents.
  • Humidity—high moisture content in the air has led to pages curling or becoming discolored and may be supporting mold or mildew growth.
If you’re dealing with any of these circumstances, what should you do? Ultimately your document restoration specialist will make the call on how to best recover them, but before they arrive, here are three things that will make your and their life easier. 

1) Leave Documents Where They Are

After discovering wet or moist documents, your first instinct may be to start cleaning things up and assessing damage. The best thing to do is wait for professionals for three reasons:
  • Depending on the circumstances, damaged documents may have been exposed to toxic materials.
  • Wet or moist documents can be very fragile, so moving them unnecessarily can lead to further damage.
  • It’s not uncommon for boxes to break and documents to spill out of them, creating additional headaches. 
2) Know What You Need Ahead of Time

The faster you act to save documents, the more successful the outcome will likely be. A good recovery specialist will have systems in place to carefully catalog your documents and identify where they need to be returned. You can streamline how quickly this process begins by knowing the following:
  • Do you need to take care of any legal agreements before handing over the documents and will you require any special security? 
  • Are you required to maintain original documents, or would a copy suffice? And what state do the documents need to be in (for example, as clean as possible or just legible)? This can impact the types of procedures used in recovery and the overall costs of restoration processes.
  • Do you need the restoration specialist to use specific types of folders, binders or other supplies?
3) Understand Your Recovery Options

Whenever possible, it’s best to establish a relationship with a document restoration specialist before you need them. That way you can begin recovery processes without delay. Either way, it’s important to understand your provider’s capabilities and technologies to make sure they match up with your needs. For example, without the right tools, freeze drying processes can sometimes go too far, leaving paper overly dry and brittle. Here are three good questions to ask a potential vendor:
  • Can you handle our security requirements?
  • Do you have technology that can prevent over-drying of paper?
  • How long does your freeze drying process take?
Congratulations: You’re Now Ahead of the Game

Understandably, document restoration is one of those things that most of us don’t think about until the need is staring us in the face. If you need help now or have questions about other things you can do to protect your important documents and books, let us know. 

In future posts we will provide some additional information about document storage to help you avoid potential damage, along with thoughts on how to avoid and recover from other types of document damage. 


About the Author: Brian Wooley
Brian is the Director of Restoration Services at Interstate and has led our national response efforts through numerous area wide events (including Tropical Storm Irene, Hurricane Sandy, the Joplin tornado, etc). As a 14 year industry veteran, Brian has expertise in all aspects of our restoration services, and serves as our “quarterback” when disaster strikes.

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