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Water-logged documents and photos can be saved if carefully dried, a process that can take some time.  It is best to box and freeze wet documents and photos when they are pulled from the water and defrost and deal with them when you get a chance.

Preserving wet papers

The First 48 Hours after flood or water damage are critical!

Documents should be air-dried flat, as individual sheets or in small piles up to ¼”. Interleave documents prior to drying and replace interleaving materials when they become damp. Do not unfold or separate individual wet sheets.

If items are too numerous for air-drying:

   Interleave documents, by groups or individually, with freezer or waxed paper

   Pack sturdy containers 90% full with interleaved documents that are supported and standing up.


If documents cannot be dried within 48 hours, freeze them until action can be taken. Freezing stabilized collections stops mold growth, ink running, dye transfer and swelling. A sub-zero commercial freezer is best, but a home freezer will work. A refrigerated truck will also keep materials cool enough to slow mold growth.

Excerpt from Emergency Response and Salvage Wheel, ©2005 Heritage Preservation, Inc.

Tips for drying documents and photos and for boxing to freeze are found below.

Northeast Document Conservation Center (1)

Salvage Wet Books

Salvage Wet Photos

Salvage Moldy Books

Freezing wet documents and books

American Institute for Conservation of Artistic & Historic Works (2)

First response for flood damaged objects

Salvaging wet textiles and garments

Click here for a list of professional paper conservators in this area, all members of the American Institute of Conservation.

(1) Northeast Document Conservation Center, Andover, MA

(2) American Institute for Conservation of Artistic & Historic Works

Salvaging Your Wet Stuff