The methods you use to fix damaged items in your collection depends on what has caused the damage.
Smoke and soot damage
You can recognise different types of damage from smoke and soot by the residue they leave.
- Smoke leaves an acidic film and odour that causes discolouration, corrosion and damage.
- Soot residues from plastics and synthetic textiles are typically a black residue that smudges easily.
- Burnt protein matter leaves a yellow-brown greasy residue.
- Residues from burnt wood and paper are typically grey and powdery.
Many materials, including furnishings, construction materials and plastics produce toxic off-gases and odours.
Ozone, which is often used by commercial vendors to get rid of the smell of smoke, can damage organic materials and will accelerate the rate of deterioration of your collections. Ozone treatments should not be used on valuable or unique items.
Salvage following fire
Fire and water damage are often linked. In many cases, air-drying is used to rescue damaged items. Make sure you use:
- only cool circulating air — this reduces the risk of mould
- vacuum cleaners with High-Efficiency Particulate Air (HEPA) filters.
If you need to remove dirt or soot, use dry-cleaning or chemical sponges, but keep books tightly closed to prevent soot entering the text block.
S-Factor: safety, smoke, smell, soot, salvage and supplies (pdf, 176KB) — more detailed information, including suppliers of specialist equipment, and sources of salvage and response training
Contamination from sewage presents a serious health hazard. Even if they've been air-dried, any items that have absorbed contaminated water are a health risk and should be disposed of.
Before disposing of them, record key information for an insurance claim.
Many moulds are allergenic and produce chemicals that can irritate the throat and lungs, or lead to illness. If you're handling materials that show evidence of mould, always:
- wear a dust mask that is rated for use with mould, and
- latex gloves.