Blog – Document Recovery, Temporary Climate Solutions

Mold on Your Documents? When to DIY or Hire a Professional

When you discover mold on business documents, it’s natural to consider remedying the problem in-house. There are times, however, when professional document recovery is the best solution. By knowing what you can salvage on your own and what needs professional attention, you can make an educated decision about how to achieve the best results and minimize losses.

Organisms that Affect Documents

Mold and mildew are types of fungus that thrive in moist areas and on a variety of surfaces. While the two seem similar, they have some prominent differences that make them easy to identify.


Mold is often black or green in color, but can have a variety of colors. It generally becomes visible when there is a larger infestation. It can appear fuzzy, hairy or slimy. When mold grows on documents, it will likely penetrate the page, from back to front. The toxins in mold stain documents and give off a musty smell. Certain types of mold produce toxins that cause serious health problems.


Mildew is generally grey or white. Rather than penetrate an item, like mold, it lies on the surface. It might seem powdery in appearance. Mildew produces a musty smell.

Considerations before Handling Mold on Documents by Yourself

  • Organism identification: Before you begin, determine if the document has mold or mildew growth. It is not uncommon to see both. If the documents only have mildew, you may be able to clean them on your own. Unless you know how to identify the types of mold spores on a document, it may be best to let a professional document recovery service clean it, particularly if the damage is extensive and the document is irreplaceable.
  • Proper equipment: When cleaning mold, protect yourself by wearing a mask and gloves. In some instances, you might be able gently brush mold off affected documents and wipe them down with a cloth dampened with denatured alcohol. (Test the alcohol on an inconspicuous area first.) If the alcohol would damage the document or the document is important to operations, let the professionals take over. Specialists use dry cleaning techniques during the restoration process that won’t cause further damage.
  • Extent of damage: A bit of mildew dust on the outside of a book is something that you can handle on your own. However, if mold has penetrated the pages of an important or irreplaceable document, or there is widespread mold growth on several items, it’s best to call a professional service.
  • Document type: Always hire a document restoration service when mold affects items made on delicate materials, have ink that could run, or are critical to your operations. Keep in mind that the professionals can also restore records like photographs, films, antique books and blueprints, depending on the extent of the damage.
  • Water damage: If documents have mold because of recent water damage, you might be able to dry and clean them on your own if only a few items were affected. When the water damage is extensive, it’s a race against the clock to dry the items and mitigate further mold growth. In such a scenario, call a document recovery service as soon as possible. Document recovery specialists use special equipment to dry and clean large quantities of documents at once in a manner that prevents warping, blistering and other types of damage.

When you find mold on your business documents, take quick action to remove and quarantine the affected items if it is safe to do so. When the damage is extensive or mold infested important documents, call Polygon right away, even during non-business hours. The restoration specialists will give you instructions regarding how to salvage and secure the affected materials. When the professionals arrive on-site, they’ll review the restoration options with you so you choose the one that’ most appropriate for your operations. While there are steps that you can take to remedy mold growth on documents, sometimes it’s best to let dedicated specialists do it for you.  

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