Did your documents get wet? LA Flood Clean-up

Mindy Rathe
October 15, 2016

Another terrible storm has crossed our paths in Southern Louisiana for 2016. We have some experience and expertise in dealing with these types of disasters.

Document and Media Disaster Recovery

Our home office is located north of the New Orleans metro area, so we know a thing or two about hurricane and flood disaster recovery for documents and film. We have assisted many courthouses in rescuing their records. We partner with one of the largest disaster recovery centers in the world and they restore everything from fire and flood damaged buildings to computer systems to paper files. This means we can rescue your records and stop the destruction of mold in its tracks.

Document Disaster Recovery Experience

In August of 2005, we were called upon to assist in rescuing the documents and records at the courthouse in St. Bernard Parish.  St. Bernard Parish is a close suburb to New Orleans.  It is located in the coastal marshes just northeast of the city.  Hurricane Katrina brought havoc and disaster to this parish of hardworking individuals.  Floods inundated the parish with over 20 feet of water. (You can read more about the unbelievable story about the parish at:

Books and files dating back to the 1700’s were packed out of the courthouse and brought to our warehouse on the Northshore.  We were able to stop the molding process by putting the water soaked records in special reclamation chambers where, over time, they were preserved using a combination of freeze-drying and heat sublimation.  

Are you in need of document or media disaster recovery? Contact us at 985-893-4606.

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How to deal with wet documents

If your documents, books or photographs are wet following an accident or flood, immediate action needs to be taken to prevent mold growth and physical distortion of the paper. Although flood damage to some items may be irreversible, following the steps below can give your collections a good chance of survival. Most small or medium-sized private home collections can be easily and cheaply treated by airdrying. In the event of water damage to larger or valuable collections, or if in doubt about the best course of action, consider contacting a trained library and archives conservator for advice.

Mold growth

Immediately remove wet items from flooded or damp places, as mold will begin to grow within 2 to 3 days. Mold spores flourish in warm, damp, stagnant conditions, and in the dark, so make sure the items are moved to a suitable environment before starting the drying process. First place blotting material, such as unprinted newsprint paper, paper towels, rags, etc., underneath the drying documents to absorb excess moisture. Circulating air will dry most materials and fans can safely be used as long as the airflow is directed away from the documents. See the table below for guidance on air-drying.

Paper distortion

Paper-based collections will immediately begin to show signs of physical distortion, which makes the paper extremely fragile and easily torn or damaged. As no drying method can completely restore a collection, some cockling should be expected.


The following handling precautions should always be observed:

Wet Books:

  • Do not open wet volumes or close those that have fallen open
  • Do not separate covers from text blocks Handle one item at a time
  • Do not press water out of wet books

Unbound Documents:

  • Keep all documents in order
  • Do not blot surfaces of documents that have water-soluble inks

Photographic Material:

  • Do not allow wet photographic materials to dry in contact with one another
  • Do not touch the emulsion (print) side of photographic materials
  • Seek assistance from photographic conservators for further salvage and recovery advice

How to air-dry

  • Saturated Books- Stand on head on absorbent paper with covers open slightly; place absorbent paper between text block and covers; change absorbent paper as soon as it becomes wet and turn books alternately to rest on head and tail each time the paper is changed.
  • Partially Wet Books- Interleave absorbent paper every 20 pages with interleaving extending beyond the head (or tail) and text block; lay book flat; change interleaving when wet.
  • Damp Books -Stand on tail fanned open in a current of air; when almost dry lay book flat and place absorbent paper between covers and text block; reshape if possible; place light weight (covered in clean paper to prevent marking) on top until completely dry.
  • Bound Coated Papers/ Glossy Magazines- Interleave between each page with waxed paper; damp books should be stood on their heads and fanned open; fan through pages frequently to prevent sticking.
  • Unbound Coated Papers- Every sheet of coated paper should be separated from each other before drying; spread documents on table or floor and change absorbent paper beneath as it becomes wet.
  • Saturated Documents- Spread documents on table or floor and change absorbent paper beneath as it becomes wet.
  • Damp Documents- Flatten by placing between two sheets of absorbent paper and applying even pressure with weights until dry.
  • Photographic Prints- Remove from frame or mat; place on absorbent paper with face up and change paper when wet; if print appears to be stuck to glass do not remove and dry intact with the glass side down.
  • Photographic Negatives (roll or strip)- Dry emulsion side up on absorbent paper (change when wet) or hang carefully on a line with plastic clips.