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Restoring Smoke Damaged Books Part 2

December 10, 2002
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Well, let’s see where we are. In Part 1, we discussed processing options for books, how to inspect them for damage and how to pack and transport them for processing off site. Now let’s examine actual cleaning and deodorizing options and procedures.

In light-to-moderate soot damage situations, books may be satisfactorily restored with cleaning only. This includes dry-sponging page edges and covers, followed by damp-wiping covers with mild detergent solutions.

In moderate-to-heavy smoke damage situations, insureds may be skeptical about your restoration capabilities. When this is the case, simply have insureds select a few books from different locations on the bookshelf or within the room. Apply the following techniques and return them to insureds for their evaluation. If they are satisfied, continue with cleaning and deodorization; if not, coordinate another option for restoration (rebinding or replacement).

In moderate-to-heavy smoke damage situations, total restoration includes:

Dry Soot Removal
Remove all the soot possible in a dry state to prevent staining, particularly on page edges.

Restoring Page Edges
There are several techniques for restoring page edges. When residues are light, dry-sponge cleaning is all that is necessary. As residues get slightly heavier, an art gum eraser might be all that is necessary for the extra abrasive action required to remove residue. If residue is heavier still, a hard rubber eraser might be required for more aggressive stain removal.

Some restorers resort to light sanding of page edges in an attempt to remove all of the stain. Simply open covers and clamp pages tightly together using appropriately sized plywood and C-clamps. This allows you to sand pages lightly and evenly.

If some smoke staining on page edges is impossible to remove, a last-resort restoration technique might include the use of felt-tipped markers to recolor page edges. Some restorers go so far as to clamp pages together and apply gilding (gold paint available from hobby shops) to page edges to cover slight smoke staining.

Cleaning Covers
Covers are, of course, much more durable than unprotected, highly porous page edges. Thus, they may be cleaned with mild detergent solutions applied by means of a damp (never wet) towel or sponge. Aggressive detergents or aggressive scrubbing almost inevitably removes title printing as well as causing loss of resins, color and gloss. Be gentle!

Deodorizing
As with any paper product, the deodorization of books is limited to one of two techniques, or a combination of both. First, ozone gas is safe, gentle and extremely effective, even though it may take a little time. Because there is no moisture involved, distortion or staining of pages is eliminated. Simply stand the books on their bottom edges on the floor of an ozone vault, with covers open and pages fanned out. Ozone is heavier than air and accumulates at the floor first. After 24 to 48 hours, the books should be completely deodorized.

Of course, dry solvent-based deodorants may also be used. Simply stand the books on the floor of a confined room and fog using an electric thermal fogger. This has the added advantage of adding fragrance to books while removing the unwanted odor. Actually, a combination of both methods is the best bet, with ozone deodorization followed by thermal fogging.

Polishing
When heavily smoke-damaged books are subjected to aggressive restoration, covers may lose some of their original appearance or gloss. This surface dulling may be corrected to some extent by lightly applying an oil-based furniture polish. In fact, additional deodorization may be accomplished simultaneously by mixing four parts of an oil-based polish with one part of dry-solvent deodorant and applying the solution lightly with a soft cloth.

Never apply the solution directly to covers; apply it to the cloth and then work it into the cover. Immediately you will see that color is enhanced and the book looks and smells better. Allow the polish to dry thoroughly before delivery.

If you are in doubt about your ability to restore books, clean and deodorize a few of them and return them to insureds for evaluation. If your results are satisfactory, proceed; if not, coordinate another option.

Use specialized restoration companies when quantities of books and documents are involved. The following companies specialize in document and book restoration: For wet books, documents, electronic media (computer disks, etc.), Document Processors, (800) 4-DRYING. For smoked damaged books, Re-Oda Chem Engineering Co., (216) 247-4131.

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