DIY Water Damage Repair

There are so many little details to consider when cleaning up after a flood. Smaller items, such as shoes, books, or photo albums can all be easily swept away in the chaos.  If you have a beloved item that was destroyed in the flood, never fear, as you may be able to repair it yourself.

DIY water damage repair tips:

Air Drying

Air drying is most effective in a controlled environment, with an option to plug in fans.  You need to have clean towels or clean plastic screens, un-printed paper towels, and as many fans as you can find.

TIPS: Keep temperature cool and humidity low. Lay out clean towels on clean, stable, flat work surfaces OR set up clean, rigid, plastic screens (if possible, elevate screens on blocks for increased air circulation). Use fans to increase air circulation, but do not aim fans directly at the drying collections.

How to DIY:

  • Lay items flat on clean absorbent towels/un-printed paper
  • Make sure to change the absorbent towels regularly until item is just dam
    • When items are just damp, sandwich between new paper towels and lightly weight overall to flatten
  • Do not attempt to separate soaking or very wet sheets; instead, break the sheets apart so they are in approximately 1/4 inch stacks. Once they are just damp, try to separate the pages more.
  • If media is not water soluble, use a paper towel to blot blot excess water off the surface
  • Do not air-dry glossy (coated) paper, parchment, instead, these items should be frozen
  • Photographs and Negatives:
    • Prioritize drying prints before films
    • Do not allow prints or films to partially dry before setting up to air-dry; if necessary, keep waiting items in clean, cold water
    • If items are stuck to glass or to each other, freeze them
    • If items are soiled with wet mud, gently rinse in clean, cold water, before setting up to air-dry or freeze
    • Items will curl upon drying; leave flattening to a conservator
  • Hard drives:
    • Remove from computer shell, place in zip plastic bag or plastic container, and send to a recovery company


Freezing buys time when the number of wet items makes it impossible to air dry within 48 hours. Frozen items can be thawed and set up for air drying in more manageable batches. For certain types of materials, immediate freezing is the only option available to prevent total loss.

  • Freezing is recommended for leather, parchment, and rare books
  • Freezing in a household freezer is an option, but adjust to the coldest possible setting.
    • Note: household freezers may not reach cold enough temperatures to prevent the formation of large ice crystals in the items, which can cause damage.
  • A freezer with a “frost-free” setting can, over months, dry out items (“freeze-drying”), which can be preferable to air drying.

Dealing with Mold

It may not be possible to fully recover items from a mold outbreak. If the mold-affected collection item is considered a replaceable item, replacement often requires the least amount of labor, resources, and time and is therefore generally recommended. If the item is not considered replaceable, first stabilize the environment, isolate the item and stop the mold from continuing to grow, then consult a conservator

Take necessary human safety precautions when dealing with mold.  Active/growing mold looks fuzzy or slimy; do not disturb active mold; first stop mold growth by controlling the environment, by cleaning it and drying it out.   Dormant mold is dry and powdery; follow appropriate human safety precautions when dealing with dormant mold (mask, gloves, etc.).

These tips were collected from  the Library of Congress’s website.  Visit the original article to learn more!

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