Document Drying Techniques: Salt Water vs. Fresh Water Damage August 15, 2017 – Posted in: Blog

As a water damage restoration professional, you know that water damage is absolutely devastating, no matter the source. But salt water damage is different than damage caused by fresh water, and it requires different approaches and techniques during the restoration period — including the specialized drying and restoration of documents.

If you are dealing with clients who have been affected by damage to a hurricane, tropical storm or another natural disaster, here’s a look at how to dry wet documents, quickly and effectively.

The Effects of Salt Water vs. Fresh Water on Documents

The biggest threat to documents and other paper items during a fresh water flood is the development of mold. Mold and other bacteria can begin to appear on paper as soon as 48 hours after damage via fresh water. Mold, of course, is a serious health hazard, but it can also leave yellow, messy stains on documents. In addition to the staining, fresh water can also lead to paper items warping as well as pages sticking together.

Salt water’s effect on paper items is just a little bit different. Warping is a far greater threat due to the presence of salt, which dries out documents and pages in books more than fresh water alone. This intense drying leads to warping that’s far more intense than what you will see or experience with fresh water. Also, the corrosive power of salt poses a particular threat to photographs and films. When the salt water dries, it leaves behind crystals, which can irreparably damage photographs and films if not properly removed.

Mold can also appear on documents and book pages after salt water flooding, which can damage documents and photos in the same way that mold from fresh water can.

Document Drying Methods

When you work on projects after fresh water flooding, you have two options for starting the restoration process:

  1. Freeze: Let the water drain out of each document, then stick them in plastic bags and freeze them. If you have the space to work with, you can also place paper towels or butcher paper between each page and stick them upright in a crate.
  2. Dry: If you do not have access to a freezer or if the freezer available to you has no room for damaged documents, you may air dry them instead. Place paper towels or butcher paper between documents and pages, and then place them upright in crates. If you don’t have the materials for that, you may instead hang them from a clothesline. Also, try to run a ceiling fan in the room if there is one, and use a commercial dehumidifier, too.

If your client has films and photographs damaged by fresh water, they may be stuck together. Fill a container with clean water and submerge the stuck photos and films to get them to come apart.

If your client has documents damaged by salt water, you will want to follow the same tips as above with one additional step: Before you do anything, rinse all items with clean water to ensure all the salt is removed. Be especially careful with films and photographs, as salt crystals can act as an abrasive that delivers even more damage.

Deliver Professional Results

When you work as a water damage restoration professional, you know that flooding and other water damage events can be emotionally distressing for your clients. This is especially true when documents, photographs, and films have been damaged — items that have immense personal value. These clients are counting on you to be the voice of experience and guidance, and they are trusting in you to restore these items to like-new condition.

Just be sure you fully understand the differences between fresh water and salt water damage. You might live in a coastal area that is more prone to salt water damage, but it can occur even in areas that are not as close to the coast.