Stabilizing Wet Inorganic Materials

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METALS[edit | edit source]

Facts about metals[edit | edit source]

Many metals will corrode under damp conditions. Iron objects and archaeological metals are especially at risk.


What to expect when metals get wet[edit | edit source]

Corrosion can proceed very quickly in unstable objects. Corrosion such as rust can stain nearby objects.


Drying metals[edit | edit source]

  • Handle with gloves.
  • If water was contaminated and metals are fully wet, rinse in clear water if possible.
  • Blot dry, then air dry in actively moving air (fans and dehumidifiers).
  • A hair dryer, heater, or oven can be used to gently accelerate drying priority materials.
  • If possible, package after drying with a desiccant material such as silica gel.


Salvage priorities[edit | edit source]

  • Any iron object or component.
  • Archaeological metals, especially iron and copper alloys.


CERAMICS[edit | edit source]

Facts about ceramics[edit | edit source]

The lower fired a ceramic object is, the more vulnerable it is to damage from water. Low-fired archaeological ceramics with soluble salts are especially at risk.


What to expect when ceramics get wet[edit | edit source]

Low-fired objects become soft and may disintegrate when wetted. Salt-damaged vessels may lose surface skin. Joints of reconstructed vessels may fail. (This is especially likely in archaeological ceramics that have been repaired with white glues.)


Priorities[edit | edit source]

Ceramics are generally a low salvage priority in a mixed collection. Exceptions are low-fired wares and objects with instabilities such as friable surface due to salt damage, or insecure repairs.


Drying Methods[edit | edit source]

  • Pat and blot dry. Rinse in clean water if muddy or contaminated.
  • Blot dry, then air dry in actively moving air (fans and dehumidifiers).
  • Use a hair dryer, heater, or oven to gently accelerate drying priority materials.
  • Protect broken edges from further damage.
  • Be sure objects are truly dry on the interior before packing.