Document freeze-drying is a technique that professionals use to dry and restore books and documents that receive water damage. The process involves using a special chamber that has a high-pressure vacuum. When the chamber reaches the optimal temperature and pressure settings, the moisture in the documents sublimates. The sublimation process turns liquid water into a gaseous state. Freeze-drying eliminates moisture, prevents or halts mold growth, and avoids complications such as sticking, staining, warping, curling and over-drying. While freeze-drying is an effective solution, it is not the answer for all wet documents.
The Best Materials for Document Freeze-Drying
- Paper records and documents: Medical records, legal files, ledgers, architectural plans and blueprints, certificates, transcripts, and catalogs
- Artwork: Watercolor paintings, acrylic paintings, and line drawings
- Heirloom pieces and keepsakes: Scrapbooks, cookbooks, photos, newspaper articles, leather and greeting cards
- Collectible and historical documents: Maps, currency collections, stamp collections, archival documents, and rare documents
- Books and manuscripts: Books with leather covers, parchment, clay-coated paper, manuals, textbooks, reference books, antique books, drafting linen, catalog-bound volumes, and pulp paper
- Textiles: Tapestries, silk, embroidery, and needlework
Document Freeze-Drying is Right for You When:
- You need to dry a large number of documents or books
- Documents with coated paper receive water damage
- Wet documents are dirty with mud, dirt, or soot
- Documents or books are at risk of distortion
- The water-damaged documents are irreplaceable or more expensive to replace than restore
Document Freeze-Drying Considerations
It’s vital to control mold infestations after the freeze-drying process because the remaining spores are dormant. A reputable document restoration specialist keeps freeze-dried documents in a controlled environment that’s between 50 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit with a relative humidity level of 35 percent or lower.
When using document freeze-drying services, avoid returning the documents or books to their original locations until you’re certain that the service provider sterilized them to treat and prevent mold growth. Failure to treat mold may lead to an infestation that spreads to other books or documents, causing irreversible damage. In addition, do not accept books or documents that have a water content that exceeds 7 percent by weight. This amount of moisture in documents puts them at risk for developing post-drying mold, which will spread to uncontaminated materials.
After receiving the dried materials, store them unboxed and on open shelving units in a well-ventilated, temperature-controlled room that’s 65 degrees Fahrenheit or lower and has a relative humidity level of 30 to 40 percent. Because mold spores aren’t always immediately visible, monitor the dried items daily for the next year to identify mold growth in its early stages.
Successful document freeze-drying restores books and records and stops the development of mold after the drying process. Keep in mind that the quality of the restoration depends on the materials in question. At Polygon, we are proud to have the latest, one-of-a-kind vacuum freeze-drying system with a large capacity (up to 2,000 cubic feet), variable settings, and computer monitoring capabilities. We, however, provide custom document recovery services based on the media in question and the type of water damage to deliver the best results. If you have water-damaged documents, act fast and contact Polygon to begin the restoration process before more damage occurs.
[Photo from darkday via CC License 2.0]