Most likely, if you’ve taken the time to click on this article, you have at least a few books that have taken a swim. But in the chance that you’re a book-lover, you may be facing an entire library of soggy books. How do you even begin to take care of and save your special collection? 

Featured image for "Saving Your Water-Ravaged Library: A Step-By-Step Guide"

Today, we’re going to walk you through a step-by-step guide for saving your water-ravaged library. Our goal is to save as many books as possible, in as few steps as possible. Let’s get started!

1 – Throw your books a life preserver

First things first, you need to get your books out of the water as soon as possible. The longer a book sits, the more water it will soak up. And as a rule, books left in water for long periods of time will generally start running ink. You definitely don’t want that kind of disaster, so grab your books from their swim as quickly as you can. 

To give your books a chance to start drying out, find laundry baskets or plastic crates to put them in. Putting them in these straight out of the water will give them a chance to “drain.” This is a better option than letting them sit in the water they’ve soaked up. 

2 – Freeze your library

We understand that this sounds like a rather ridiculous idea. But it’s quite the opposite, actually. Many suggest that taking your soggy library and freezing it (-20℉) is the best way to put your drying out on hold until you can determine what to do first.

Freezing wet books will keep them in the same condition they are currently. Without freezing them, they may start drying and reshaping improperly. Or, if you live in a warm, humid place, they may start growing mold. Mold and/or mildew may begin growing on books within 24-48 hours of water exposure. Freezing your books will ensure you can properly take care of them once you’ve made a plan. 

3 – Set up a drying station

Open books on top of each other

If you couldn’t get to drying your books right away and stuck them in the freezer, now’s the time to start getting ready to begin drying. A conducive environment for drying books is no warmer than 70℉ and about 65% humidity. If the conditions are right, drying your books outdoors is a wonderful option. If not, any room, or numerous rooms, in your house should work. 

Set up a table (or improvised table such as a board on cinder blocks) for sopping wet books and another table for damp books. Separating the very wet and not-so-wet books should help you keep track of drying speeds. 

There are a few different options for speeding up the drying process. We would suggest using a few fans to circulate air. Also, you may want to use a dehumidifier to keep the humidity in the room to a minimum. 

Think about it: the moisture/water coming from the books has to go somewhere. And if it’s not headed for a dehumidifier, it’s going to hang in the air. This means your books will be sitting in a soggy environment. Which is definitely not what you want when you’re trying to dry your books out. 

4 – Set your books out to dry

Now that your drying stations are ready for guests, it’s time for setting your books out. 

Very soggy books

Your extremely soggy books should not have all their pages fanned out. That would cause warping. Instead, stand the book upright on a paper towel, with the covers open very slightly, and let it drain. You can even place it on a sponge to encourage maximum drying. Once your very soggy books are only damp, you can follow the instructions for less soggy books.

Less soggy books

Various books arranged together

Your damp books can be set out with the pages fanned open. Place a piece of paper towel in between every 20-30 pages. Most importantly, do not place unneeded stress on the binding of your book. Some books may need to be rebound after drying out. Protect your book by remembering to open it only as much as you need. 

Your books may dry in a week. Or they could take up to two weeks to completely dry. Therefore, this process requires plenty of patience. Don’t try to rush things, or you’ll end up with bent, sorry-looking books. 

It’s book-o’clock

The truth of the matter is this: some books will dry properly and nicely, and others simply will not. There’s no rhyme or reason to it, it just happens that way. Depending on the reason for water damage, you may be able to put in an insurance claim on your ruined books. Otherwise, don’t stress, and take time to slowly buy books and build your library back up. And if any rugs in your house also got wet during the water disaster, check out our tips for drying out your water-logged rugs.