Stabilizing Wet Paper

From Wiki

Facts about Paper

Paper is made from a variety of fibers such as bast, cotton, hemp and wood. Fibers can be good or poor quality, coated, calendared, sized and unsized. They all react differently to water depending on their composition, use and past storage conditions.

  • Paper expands and contracts
  • Surface texture can be very smooth to very rough
  • Fillers are added to increase weight, density and strength
  • Paper has a “grain direction”
  • A variety of media can be present on any given artwork
  • Paper objects can be composites and very complex
  • Paper is 90% air and is very absorbent


What to expect when paper gets wet

  • Old mends will release where adhesives are water soluble
  • Paper can be very heavy and difficult to pick up without support
  • Media may run or bleed
  • Capillary action will wick up moisture and create tidelines
  • Mold growth is possible
  • Coated papers will block if not frozen immediately
  • Items in a container may swell and be difficult to remove


Drying paper

  • Air dry actively moving the air with fans
  • Freeze to buy time if necessary
  • Use carrying supports for large items or weak papers
  • Blot off excess water, be careful of sensitive media
  • Air dry in a single layer on blotting paper or screens


Salvage priorities

  • Unstable paper items first
  • Composite constructions
  • If media from one part of an artwork is bleeding onto other items, remove it first.
  • All very wet to slightly damp paper materials are prone to mold.
  • Freeze as soon as possible if drying space and resources are limited