What can be done about wet files and documents? Once safety clearance has been
given to enter the premises, one of the first concerns is to determine the state of
client and office files. The successful recovery of water-damaged documents requires
drying of the document as quickly as possible. According to experts in document
restoration, in any weather mold will appear within 48 hours in unventilated areas.
Unfortunately, time is not on your side. The lack of air circulation, dehumidification,
daily rain storms, and in some cases the deteriorating effects of light will have all
destabilized the office environment and encouraged mold and mildew growth.
The most effective way to restore water damaged documents is through ‘true’ freeze
drying utilizing sublimation. Sublimation changes the frozen water in the documents
(ice) to a vapor, bypassing the liquid state. The vapor is removed by vacuum
pressure in the freeze-drying chamber.” Freeze drying can also reduce stains and
odor. Sterilization procedures and a fungicide can help resist future mold growth.
Freezing and storing documents at a temperature of minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit
can buy you time to finalize arrangements for proper drying procedures. The main
drawback to freeze-drying is cost. However, for non replaceable items it will be
worth the expense.
Where the office has been flooded or rain-damaged because of a missing roof, cold
storage in a commercial freezer will provide time to organize operations and plans
for an orderly assessment or for building repairs to be completed. Freezing stops
further damage caused by diffusion of water, but it does not kill mold spores and is
not a drying process. If the decision is made to freeze documents in order to buy
time, the documents, to the extent practical, should be separated by wax paper or
freezer paper. Remember, however, that documents in this condition should be
handled as little as possible.