Blog – Catastrophe Response, Disaster Recovery, Document Recovery, Mold Damage

Processes for Removing Microbes from Damaged Documents

As the world goes digital, books and documents continue to hold their value as they hold vital parts of history in their pages. When documents and books receive water damage, document recovery doesn’t stop when the pages are dry. It also involves ensuring the longevity of the items in question by removing microbes. Of the microbes that may accumulate in documents and books, mold is one of the most damaging because it deteriorates paper and may spread to other documents. By taking the right steps to clean and dry documents as soon as possible, you’ll destroy and the microbes and prevent permanent damage.


Document Recovery: How to Clean Mold and Microbes from Books and Documents

1. Dry the documents. Before cleaning microbes and mold on damaged documents, ensure that they are dry. Depending on the amount of damage and the types of documents in question, it may be best to hire a professional document recovery service to collect and dry the books.

To dry paper documents on your own, wear gloves and interleave books and individual documents with acid-free paper. If the documents are photographs, separate the prints while they’re still wet and then place a sheet of acid-free blotting paper between them. Air-dry the documents, replacing the blotting paper as it becomes saturated, in a dry room with proper ventilation and protection from the sun.

Another DIY solution is to place wet documents in a freezer. After the water in the pages freezes, use the highest and hottest setting on a hairdryer to dry the documents. When the paper or book feels damp, place it in the freezer again until the moisture freezes and repeat the drying process. Bear in mind that this process may not be suitable for photographs or fragile documents.

If you are not able to dry documents within 48 hours of the initial water damage, interleave them with acid-free paper and place them in a freezer to stall the growth of microbes.

2. Clean the documents. In general, document recovery experts use dry methods to clean documents, even when mud is involved. Equipment used includes vacuums with HEPA filters, erasers, sponges, soft brushes, and soft cloths. Use the tools to gently wipe or brush away debris from the pages.

3. Remove microbes and mold. Professionals use special desiccant driers to safely dry documents and kill microbes. Techniques that you can use to kill microbes and mold include:

  • Brushing away mold and debris with a soft brush
  • Wiping off mold and debris with a dry soft cloth
  • Placing a thin cloth over the end of a vacuum hose attachment and then vacuuming the document
  • Wiping or spot-cleaning a paper document or book with a soft cloth that you slightly dampened with denatured alcohol or hydrogen peroxide


If the damaged documents are historical, antique, or heirloom items, or items that require special care (e.g., photos or books with leather covers), it is to your advantage to call a professional document recovery specialist, like Polygon. The same is true if a large number of documents need drying. Polygon uses the latest and most effective techniques to dry and restore damaged documents to their original state as best as possible. Call us today to learn more and request a complimentary consultation.

[Photo from Enokson via CC License 2.0]

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