By Daniel Jeffries
Water damage to documents creates unique challenges for the home or business owner. The information contained within the papers often is otherwise unavailable, making restoration of files and records crucial. Removing moisture from papers, books, pictures, and other documents is a job for experienced restoration professionals, as it is rarely as simple as blotting the pages dry.
Industry practices recommend a lyophilization process for the best document restoration results. Lyophilization is more commonly known as freeze-drying. The procedure uses a series of steps to remove water vapor while retaining the integrity of the paper, vellum, parchment, card stock, or any other material upon which writing, printing, or graphics appear. Freeze drying is less likely to promote disintegration than air or heat-only drying, making lyophilization the current trade standard for this type of restoration.
Fast action leads to the best outcomes with wet papers. Long term soaking of documents before starting lyophilization increase the risk of microbial growth and decomposition of the materials. A highly qualified restoration company moves the damaged documents off site to freezers as soon as possible. Within the freezer compartments, restoration specialists generate the conditions that lead to reaching the triple point of water. Achieving this requires controlling the pressure and temperature, resulting in the point where liquid water, solid ice, and water vapor all coexist.
Trained technicians create the necessary pressure by applying a vacuum to the freezer chamber. The water vapor then moves out of the documents through a reaction called sublimation, without the vapor returning to the liquid state. Most of the moisture reduces through the combination of temperature and pressure, but the careful application of heat boosts the desorption process in some cases.
The use of this effective but complicated process clearly requires trained and experienced professional restoration staff. A comprehensive inventory of the documents receiving treatment is a vital step and one with which qualified technicians are familiar. Communication between the customer and the document restoration company is also key, as only the owner of the damaged items know which documents demand restoration.
Water damage need not result in the loss of relevant and essential documents. An experienced and reliable restoration company has the skills and equipment necessary to recover papers, pictures, files and other fragile items through the process of lyophilization.
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