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How can I dry out a book that falls into a sink of water (or similar) and gets soaked?

I've tried:

  • Using a hair dryer to blow the pages back and forth until they're dry

It wasn't that great an idea, because it left the pages wrinkled/warped, and some stuck together.

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Air drying the book is probably your best bet to avoid any structural damage. Find a cool and dry room with good air circulation, and use a fan to keep the air circulating.

This description from the University of Delaware Library below provides a great step-by-step. Another great description with pictures was produced by the Cornell University Library.

When a Book is Saturated

  • Stand the book on its head [the top edge of the book] with absorbent paper [preferably a paper towel] beneath it
  • Open only the covers slightly to allow the book to stand. If the book cannot stand alone, support it with bookends.
  • Place absorbent paper inside the front and back covers (between the text block and covers)
  • Do not try to separate the pages while they are very wet. Wet paper is very weak and is likely to tear at this stage.
  • Change the absorbent paper undeneath the book, and inside the covers, as soon as it becomes wet
  • Turn the book alternately to rest on its head and tail each time paper is changed
  • When most of the water has drained, follow the procedure for a partially wet book

When a Book is Partially Wet

  • Interleave absorbent paper every 20 pages or so, with the interleaving extending beyond the head (or tail) and fore-edge
  • NOTE: Fora damp book with coated paper, interleave between EVERY page with waxed paper
  • Lay the book flat
  • Frequent changes are better than too many interleaves, which cause further distortion (except that with coated paper, interleaving
    between every page is necessary even if it causes distortion)
  • Change the interleaving as soon as it becomes wet (depends on conditions, so check progress at least every half hour)
  • When books are only slightly damp, follow the procedure for damp books

When a Book is Damp

  • Stand a damp book on its head or tail, fanned open a little bit, and position a fan so that the flow of air circulates into and around the book.
  • If the covers are damper than the text block, place absorbent paper between them
  • When almost but not completely dry, go to the final air drying step

Final Air Drying Step

  • When almost dry, lay the book flat
  • Place absorbent paper between covers and text block
  • Reform the book into its normal shape if possible, and place a light weight on top of it
  • Do not stack drying books together. Leave the weight in place until the book is completely dry

Clarifications:

  • I think 'head' and 'tail' are bookbinders jargon. What are they in everyday English? – Qsigma Jan 9 '15 at 16:11
  • By 'absorbent paper' do you mean blotting paper, kitchen towel or a specialist material used by book conservators? – Qsigma Jan 9 '15 at 16:13
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    @Qsigma: I added clarifications in the quoted text. Let me know if that helps. – JSW189 Feb 18 '15 at 13:48
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    I don't have a wet book to test it on, but it seems much clearer now. – Qsigma Feb 18 '15 at 14:28
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Place the book vertically in sunlight so that the water can drain out and the book can dry up. Flip the pages at regular intervals to ensure uniform drying.

If the pages still seem wrinkled when the book is almost dry (depends on the texture of paper), place a tissue on the wrinkled page and lightly iron it at a low temperature. Do this to straighten all the pages which seem wrinkled.

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You can put blotting paper or white paper towels between the pages to get the water out again.

  • True - that will get some, but it will itself become damp, and can't get most of the moisture that soaks in. – J. Musser Dec 10 '14 at 20:38
  • It will be really hard to get the book back undamaged. Libraries even use freeze drying in such cases. – Dawnkeeper Dec 10 '14 at 20:42
  • Understood. in some books, ink smearing is also to be expected. – J. Musser Dec 10 '14 at 20:43
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For thinner books - you can dry them with a hairdryer as described in the question, and then iron individual pages, if they are very wrinkled. It takes only a couple seconds per page.

You should then have it stand open, at the widest angle possible, to help the binding dry out well also.

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