- What should I do if my collections get wet or moldy?
- How can I get rid of a musty or mildewy smell from my collections?
- How do I get rid of bookworms and bookbugs?
- How do I get rid of the smell of smoke smell from my collections?
- How do I remove soot from collections?
- How do I find a conservator?
Take necessary human safety precautions if the water is contaminated with sewage or other hazards or if there is active mold (looks wet or furry) growth.
Most objects cannot withstand being wet for more than a day or two without sustaining serious, potentially catastrophic, damage. To prevent mold growth, set out objects to dry immediately upon getting wet and control the ambient temperature and relative humidity.
If there is active mold (looks wet, moist, or furry) visible, follow the instructions for setting out objects to dry and, only when thoroughly dry, for removing mold.
If there are mold stains only, ensure ambient relative humidity stays between 40-65% to prevent regrowth; check items regularly.
If there is active (wet or furry) or dried mold, follow the procedures outlined above: What should I do if my books get wet or moldy?
Over time, musty odors will decrease when items are stored with air circulation/exposure (i.e., not enclosed in a box or other packaging) in cool environments with a relative humidity between 35-55%.
Additionally, you can: Maximize the surface area of the item that is exposed to air; Place the item in a closed container with activated charcoal or baking soda (prevent the item from coming into contact with the charcoal or baking soda and check often to make sure there is no mold growth) for several days; Briefly expose the item to sunlight, but only if the possibility of fading/discoloration/yellowing is acceptable.
Isolate the book in a ziplock bag with as much of the air evacuated as possible.
Kill insects by freezing [PDF: 562 KB / 4 pp.] ("An Insect Pest Control Procedure: The Freezing Process," National Park Service).
Reduce the likelihood of future infestations:
- Identify and seal entry points
- Maintain appropriate temperature and relative humidity
- Practice good housekeeping -- keep the environment clean, dusted, and free of food or trash.
For further information, see:
- Integrated Pest Management (University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign).
- 'Bugs' Are Eating My Family Treasures! [PDF: 20.3 KB / 6 p.] (Bishop Museum in Honolulu, Hawaii)
- Controlling Insect Pests: Alternatives to Pesticides [PDF: 953 KB / 4 p.] (National Park Service)
- Integrated Pest Management (Northeast Document Conservation Center [NEDCC]).
Smoky odors can be difficult to eliminate, but the following measures may help:
- Carefully dust the object or remove surface dirt with a clean soft cosmetic brush or magnetic dusting cloth.
- Expose more of the object's surface area to air (e.g., stand hardcover books on end and allow the pages to fan open; place a single sheet of paper on an elevated screen so both sides of the paper are exposed to air).
- Place the object in a closed container with activated charcoal or baking soda (prevent the object from coming into contact with the charcoal or baking soda and check often to make sure there is no mold growth) for several days. If possible, maximize the surface area of the object that is exposed to air in the container. Note: there is a heightened risk of mold growth when enclosing the object in this way when the ambient relative humidity is high.
Soot can easily penetrate paper and other collection materials and can have an oily component that will not come off readily by dusting, dabbing, vacuuming, or other air movement. Furthermore, handling the object often worsens the condition. If the object is of particular historic, monetary, or collecting value, consider consulting a conservator, especially since the nature of the soot can vary widely from dry to oily.
Loose soot particles can be reduced with a HEPA vacuum on a low suction setting. Use a brush attachment on the end of the hose and move the hose in a direct up-and-down motion -- do not drag the brush across the surface of the object. Cover fragile objects with a flexible screen (like a plastic window screen) while vacuuming to reduce the risk of damage.
There are commercially-available products that conservators may use to further reduce soot. These products (e.g., kneadable rubber, vulcanized rubber sponges, powdered rubber) generally work by picking up the soot particles and are also used in an up-and-down motion -- never by dragging the material across the surface of the object. These products are not considered perfect solutions and there is ongoing research into other methods for removing/reducing soot.
For more information, see:
- The Fire at the Royal Saskatchewan Museum, Part 2: Removal of Soot from Artifacts and Recovery of the Building (Sarah Spafford-Ricci and Fiona Graham, Journal of American Institute of Conservation)
- A Comparison of Two Soot Removal Techniques: "Dry Ice Dusting" and Rubber-based Chemical Sponges [PDF: 329 KB / 4 pp.] (Seth Irwin and Randy Silverman)
Two main options for obtaining conservation services are with a conservator in private practice or at a regional conservation center. The website of the American Institute for Conservation (AIC) features information on How to Choose a Conservator and How to Find a Conservator by region, specialty, type of service, etc. The Regional Alliance for Preservation maintains a list of U.S. regional conservation centers by geographic area (note: not all RAP members, such as the Library of Congress, offers conservation services to the public).