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Recovering Wet Documents or Books: A Few Things You Need to Know About Freeze-drying

Want to watch some paper dry?

Of course not. Unless maybe you’re dealing with something particularly unpleasant at work today.

But in all seriousness, when your business or organization is dealing with important wet documents or books—and the potential related process or legal costs, or historical losses—paper drying suddenly becomes very interesting. So understanding how your documents can be salvaged may save you from a lot of fingernail biting while you wait for the process to play out.

This blog post provides an overview of the document freeze-drying process. And gives you some critical things to consider before you ever need help.

Refrigeration Trucks to the Rescue

After you call a document restoration provider about wet books or documents, their goal will be to freeze them as fast as possible because freezing slows the disintegration of paper. That’s why the first stop for your wet or moist documents or books will most likely be a refrigerated truck. Once the documents are frozen, the water needs to be removed as fast as possible to help minimize overall damage.

The Magic of Freeze-drying

When your documents and books arrive at a facility, your restoration provider will typically use freeze-drying (the scientific term is lyophilization) to remove water before completing any other necessary restoration steps.

The freeze-drying process uses a combination of low temperatures and low pressure to transform water from a solid to a gas. Condensing coils in the freeze drying chambers attract the gas and remove water from the chambers.

Most freeze-drying chambers can complete a job in 14 – 28 days, but newer technology has reduced the average drying time to just 5 – 7 days.

It’s important to understand that freeze-drying can be taken too far, in which case it may result in dry or brittle paper. So limits should be applied to prevent this from happening.
 
Three Things to Consider

Your document restoration needs can be time-sensitive and involve confidential or even priceless fragile materials. Damaged or lost documents can also set off a chain reaction of process or legal-related scenarios that can quickly grow very expensive. That’s why we recommend planning ahead whenever possible. If your organization has important documents or books that it could not afford to lose, be sure to:

  • Consider how fast you would need them back, if something happened
  • Evaluate your document restoration vendor options ahead of time
  • Learn how to prevent and prepare for emergency situations

Resources:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freeze-drying

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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