Mold left after storm can threaten books, artwork
Reprinted courtesy of the Key West Citizen
As Wilma's storm surge inundated thousands of homes in the Florida Keys, the water left behind soaked belongings - including books and artwork.
Conservator Bob Muens says the most important thing to do is get air and sunlight to paper that has been soaked. The best place to do that is outside.
"With a piece of art, like a framed print, you want to take it out of the frame. Remove the window mat and the backboard, if you can get it off, and throw those things away," he said.
Then, Muens said, the artwork should be laid out with the backside facing up so the artwork does not get faded in the sun. Then, flip it over and expose the artwork side to the sunlight for about 20 minutes.
"It shouldn't cause any fading, but it will kill mold," he said.
Afterwards, get the artwork reframed, with new mat and frame to avoid the possibility of having mold survive, Muens said.
The artwork may wind up cockled, or ripply, after the drying out. To avoid that, you can put paper towels down first to absorb the bulk of the moisture and keep changing the towels until the work is dry, then finish it off under sunlight, Muens said.
Books should be stood up on end and have the pages fanned out, with the covers straight out at 180 degree angles.
"Let air circulate in between the pages," Muens said. "You may feel the pages and say OK they're dry now. Leave it out there because the spine where you can't feel will be last place to dry."
Books generally require at least 24 hours in the sunlight, so it might take a few days. If you can set up a fan to blow across the pages, that will also help, Muens said.
"They are going to come out cockled and ripply and there's just nothing you can do about it, unless you get them rebound by somebody," he said.
Even more difficult are books with coated pages - shinier paper, like that used for coffee table and art books.
"That's clay in the paper and it's going to fuse," Muens said. "It's going to become a brick when it dries."
If you can get the pages separated before they fuse, you should put a sheet of wax paper between each page, Muens said.
"It'll take longer to dry, but that's really the only way to do it," he said. "The covers will probably be bleached and stained, depending on what kind of pigments are in the cover."
Most importantly, do not bring or keep any book or artwork with mold inside the house, Muens said.
"It will spread to all the other books, even if they're dry. If you have one wet book, get it out of your house," Muens said. "Do not put your books in plastic bags. Mold loves still, undisturbed air."
Books with mold on the covers can be wiped with a diluted solution of disinfectant, such as Pine-Sol, Muens said.
"Do not do it to a rare book because it may hurt the cover," he said. For a rare book with damage, consult a conservator.
Muens also recommends that everyone in the Keys check their bookshelves and art work to make sure water did not reach them, even if they didn't realize it.
Book shelves can be wiped with disinfectant before books are put back on. Houses should be opened up and fans used to keep the air moving through, Muens said. Muens can be reached at email@example.com