How to Rescue a Water Damaged Book

Leave the book out in the rain? Throw in the bathtub? Don’t worry, you can fix this if you act quickly.

This video from conservation experts at Syracuse University Libraries shows you how to put this wet hardcover back into reading form. To get started, you will need a lot of paper towels, a fan, flat boards, something very heavy, and a little patience.

Start by placing a couple of paper towels, place the book on top, and then place a few more paper towels on top of the cover. Press down gently on the book to remove excess water from the outside. Then insert two fresh paper towels into the book every 10–20 pages, about a quarter of the page — as if they were huge bookmarks. Then, gently press down on the book to squeeze out some moisture. However, do not open the book more than 90 degrees when doing this. Otherwise, you risk damaging the fragile spine of the book.

After you have read the entire book, gently prop it up and fan the pages. Point a large fan at the book and set it to minimum. Let it air dry overnight. The book is completely dry in the morning, but you still have to straighten the pages. Slide a book between two boards and place some very heavy objects on top to flatten it. Wait 24 to 48 hours and it will be as good as new! But if you don’t have time to fix it right away, they recommend putting it in a plastic bag and freezing it so you can repeat the process later. Time matters, dear reader.


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