Smoke damage to books, photos, or important documents can be one of the most frustrating pitfalls a business owner or homeowner can face. Either the smoke’s gases or its soot can do damage. Different types of smoke damage require different cleaning and restoration techniques. Before deciding on a restoration technique, however, it is important to determine the type and extent of damage that has occurred.
1. Wet smoke is a low-heat, smoldering type of smoke that leads to sticky residues and has the potential to warp books and documents.
2.Dry smoke, associated with high temperature, fast-burning fires, is especially hard on older, more fragile books.
3. Fuel oil soot, the last type of common smoke damage, occurs when furnaces and other heat sources give off gritty puffs of soot and can act as an abrasive on books and documents.
Smoke damages books and documents by staining exposed surfaces, mainly covers and paper edges. The extent of damage smoke can do depends on the quality, age, and condition of the documents affected, as well as how they’re stored. Because most people keep books on shelves, damage occurs most to outer bindings and the top edges of the paper.
The quality of the cover, binding, and paper of the books will greatly affect the extent of damage they will incur. Book covers that are treated with a resin-based paste will hold up better against smoke damage than cheap cardboard or paper covers. Quality paper is usually high in cotton fiber and wood pulp cellulose content and low in acidity. Older paper products, ones dated between the 1800s to the mid 1900s, usually contain a higher acid content and are generally more susceptible to smoke damage.
What Can You Do Yourself
1. Use extreme care when handling damaged books. Books may not visibly seem to have experienced much damage, but smoke, especially dry smoke, can ruin the book’s bindings and make pages very brittle. Handling smoke-damaged documents roughly can harm them just as much as the smoke itself. Never handle damaged books by their pages – there is an increased possibility that “fingerprint” damage will occur.
2. Do not attempt to clean smoke and soot damage by using a damp towel or a damp regular sponge. You inadvertently could smear the smoke or soot causing irreparable damage to your books and documents. And excess water could lead to mold.
Call In A Professional
Seek out a professional if your books, photos, or documents have experienced moderate to heavy smoke damage. Restoration companies have a number of state-of-the-art cleaning techniques they can employ to recover your damaged books.
Deodorizing is another common professional restoration technique. Some companies use ozone gas chambers to safely deodorize documents. Because ozone gas is a dry deodorizing technique, there is little chance of books warping, bending, or cracking. It does take a bit of time, usually 24 to 48 hours, but is the safest and most effective deodorizing technique.
Whatever your restoration method, whether do-it-yourself or professional services, Restoration professionals have the ability to make sure the humidity in the restoration or cleaning area is kept low. Moisture in the air can collect on book pages and covers and cause further damage.
Smoke damage can be devastating to business owners, book collectors, or anyone with important personal books or documents. However, with proper handling techniques and state-of-the-art restoration methods, smoke-damaged books can often be returned to near their original conditions.