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Cleaning Possessions and Valuables After a Flood

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We won't go into how to clean every little thing here. Instead, we'll discuss how you can rescue, and hopefully save, some of the things that are most likely to be damaged in a water-related disaster.

For best results, work in a cool space with low humidity and circulating air. This will help items dry out gradually and keep mold growth down. Use what is necessary to create these conditions: fans, open windows, dehumidifiers, air-conditioners.


Around the House

Be sure to keep all soggy books closed until you're ready to work on them. Wet books are very fragile—you don't want to risk further damage by opening them up. The weight of the pages will also help keep them from curling.

A Fine Mess

Never speed-dry books—not any you care about, anyway. Using an oven, hair dryer, iron, or even a microwave can cause irreparable damage to delicate papers and bindings.

In the Nick of Time

If you have more books than you can get to within a day or so, freeze them. Wrap them in wax paper, then pack tightly in a sturdy container with their spines down.

First, go through what you have and decide what's worth keeping. Use both hands to pick up any books that were submerged. This will stabilize the spine and binding. Place the books in a ventilated, water-resistant container, such as a milk crate or a wire or plastic basket. Plastic clothes baskets also work well for this. Take the books to a dry area where you can work on them.

Lay the soaked books flat on a clean table or bench covered with absorbent material such as paper towels, towels, blotters, or newsprint (not news-papers; ink can stain the books).

Place sheets of absorbent material between small groups of pages. Don't use too many sheets—doing so might warp the binding. Change them when they get wet. Be careful with this—wet paper is very fragile. Each time you replace the sheets, put them in a new location. This will speed up the drying.

Coffee-table books and others printed on slick, coated paper are extremely difficult to save as the coating on the paper usually makes the pages stick together as they dry out. If you decide to try to save them, use the previous approach. Instead of blotters, put sheets of wax paper between the pages.

Books that are damp or partially wet can be dried by standing them on their driest edges with their pages fanned open. Keep the pages from drying out too fast by facing them away from fans if you're using them to keep air circulating. If necessary, place blotting material between groups of pages as before.

You want to get the books to the point where they're almost dry. If they feel cool to the touch, you're there. Close them up and place them flat on their sides. Weight them slightly, and leave them be. Check periodically for mold growth.

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Excerpted from The Complete Idiot's Guide to Common Household Disasters © 2005 by Paul Hayman and Sonia Weiss. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit Amazon's web site or call 1-800-253-6476.


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