Saving damaged heirlooms

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By The Staff

Restoring heirlooms damaged by Hurricane Florence can be an inexpensive, but time consuming, process, say experts from the Smithsonian Institute.
The Smithsonian team of Miranda Summers Lowe and Nana Kaneko was in Cheraw last week with tips to help restore items such as treasured photographs, books, fabric items and even furniture.
“Flood water is never clean,” Summers Lowe said. “It can have chemicals, sewage runoff.”
Left unchecked, flood waters produce mold and mildew.
Because of the possible toxicity of flood waters, the team stressed using basic safety items such as plastic gloves, safety glasses, and, specifically, a “N95” rated mask.
A “N95” mask is designed to filter out at least 95 percent of the dust and mold in the air.
In some cases, the simplest treatment to save items is soaking them in distilled water, which contains no chemicals.
After soaking, the items need to be air dried  – don’t use heat as it usually causes damage – and then be brushed or vacuumed to remove residue or mold.
Items that can’t be dried within 48 hours should be frozen to stop the growth of mold and treated later.
The team stressed the procedures are a first step. Sometimes professional help will be needed.
They also stressed the need to prioritize. Everything may not savable. Owners are encouraged to focus on what is most important to them, whether it is for historical, monetary or sentimental reasons.
Soaked photographs and paper items 
The process works well with photographs that are stuck together and items printed on a superior grade of paper such as a diploma or marriage license.
- Soak items in distilled water. They can be soaked for several days
- Gently separate items.
- Create drying racks from plastic window screen mesh. Put the mesh over small baking plan and allow the items to dry naturally, or by indirect air from a fan.
Restoring books is a time-consuming process.
- Deep freeze method. “Gift wrap” the book with freezer paper or a plastic freezer bag. Carefully wrap the book and seal all seams with painter’s tape. Put the book into the freezer for three to six months to stop mold growth. 
Open the package, vacuum each page to remove the mold. A plastic window screen over the vacuum intake will capture the mold.
- Manual method. Stand a book on its end and fanning out the pages. Place a paper towel about every five pages and then put the book on its back cover. Change the paper towels as they absorb moisture from the book pages.
Textiles must be handled correctly. Don’t grab them by the corners as that could stretch and damage the fabric. Gather some of the interior fabric into a bench and gently lift the item, they said.
- Soak or spot-treat textiles with distilled water. To dry small items put them between layers of a small towels and cheesecloth. Using a small paint roller to squeeze the water from the textile into the cheesecloth. Change the cheesecloth as needed.
- Allow furniture to dry on a porch, carport or garage. Direct sunlight can warp wood. Use make-up sponges with distilled water to clean intricate part of the furniture. Avoid rubbing, which can grind in the dirt.