How to Salvage Treasured Books from Flood Damage

Has your home flooded? Here's how you save your books from flood damage.

Adapted from the Heritage Emergency National Task Force, co-sponsored by FEMA and the Smithsonian Institution. Read this article for more information.


Personal safety is important when working with objects retrieved from contaminated water.


Wear disposable vinyl or nitrile gloves, protective clothing, goggles, and, when possible, use an N95 face mask while working.


If rinsing is necessary, hold books closed and gently rinse with clear, clean water.


If leather, cloth, or paper materials are tacky or sticky, place wax paper between them. 


Pack books, spine down, in a single layer in sturdy containers. 


Stack documents so as not to crush them. 


Place the containers in a freezer, preferably with a frost-free setting, and set it to the lowest possible temperature. 


Expect this drying process to take from several weeks to several months, depending on the freezer temperature and the extent of damage.

FEMA and the Smithsonian Institution co-sponsor the Heritage Emergency National Task Force, a partnership of more than sixty national service organizations and federal agencies created to protect cultural heritage from the damaging effects of natural disasters and other emergencies.