Drying a wet book

drying a wet book

Whether you’ve spilled your afternoon tea over your favorite book or you’ve been reading in the bath and nodded off, books have a stupid habit of getting damaged in the water. Although you may be shocked at first when you hold your dripping wet book in your hands, calm down. A hair dryer, freezer, or simple blot and air dry will make your book look brand new in no time. Well, at least almost.

Dab the wet book

Shake standing water off the book.

Dab action is best for books that have not been completely submerged in water. If you spilled something on your book, or if it fell into a puddle, pick it up by the binding and gently shake the water off the pages and spine. If you do everything right with the subsequent dabbing, you should be able to minimize secondary damage such as faded or swollen pages.

Remove dirt.

Dirty water can leave its mark on the pages, perhaps fall leaves from a puddle or a candy wrapper from a fountain. Whatever it is, you need to remove any dirt immediately so it doesn’t damage the paper during the drying process. You can use your fingers or tweezers to remove dirt from a book that is only slightly damp. To remove dirt from an already dripping wet book, dip it in the water again. To do this, take a large bucket or tub of absolutely clean and fresh water and always submerge the book very slowly and carefully. Soiling should be removed without damaging the sides, which are very sensitive to moisture, too much.

Gently press the sides with a clean, white towel.

You really should only blot, as wiping can easily tear the wet pages, and you must only use clean cloths or white paper towels. Gently and thoroughly blot each side. If the sides are only slightly damp, you can place a towel between each side. If the book got very wet, you should always treat pages that are stuck together as one page.

Wipe and blot the cover.

For a paperback, dabbing is the safest method, as the cover could also tear if it gets wet. You can wipe a hard cover, but you should also be gentle and careful here. However, the cover can basically withstand a little more than the pages of a book, so you should first take care of the inner workings. Don’t neglect the cover either. When you’re done with the rest, you should also dry the cover thoroughly, because if it stays damp, the binding could be damaged and even mold could develop.

Freeze the book

Remove the water

If the book got really soaking wet, first place it on an absorbent towel and let the water drain out. Change the towel every time it gets soaked. If the book is just damp, you can just shake it out a bit.

Check the progress.

If there is still quite a bit of water left in the sides, you still need to be patient. Put the book back and place paper towels in the front and back of the cover. This should speed up the drying process and ensure that the spine of the book is not damaged. Avoid paper (newspaper, kitchen towels, etc.) with print or designs, as these may rub off on the book.

Put the book in a sealable plastic bag.

The bag should be closed but not airtight because air must be able to get to the book pages and circulate between the cover and the bag. A regular freezer bag should work.

Put the book in the freezer.

Stand it on its back and store it – if possible – at a good distance from food so that the air can circulate well.

Check back in a week or two to see how things are going.

This method definitely takes time, so feel free to wait a few weeks depending on the thickness of the book. A thick book takes longer, a thin one could be finished in four to five days. If you see it’s still wet and wavy, you may just have to leave it in the freezer a little longer. If done correctly, this method shouldn’t tear pages or run ink.

Dry the book with a fan

Remove the water from the book.

This method works best when a book is only slightly damp. Soaking wet books are difficult to dry with a fan. So shake or dab the worst wetness out of the book first.

Open the book at a 90-degree angle.

Set the book upright and open the cover at a right angle so that the pages can be aired through. Blow through the pages as thoroughly as possible and make sure that the air can circulate well. While the sides should always be separate, you should never force them apart. They could tear, or the print could smudge.

Place the book near a fan.

Place under a ceiling fan or in front of a table fan and set it on medium. A low setting will not get enough air movement, while setting too high could cause the book’s pages to curl or swell. If your fan doesn’t have a medium setting, go for the lowest setting.

Place a heavy object on top of the closed book to smooth out curled pages.

Use a weight, a large rock, or even a large book to press the closed book’s pages together. This takes about 24 to 48 hours, but after that most of the waves should be gone. Make sure the book is positioned correctly before placing a heavy object on it. If the binding is warped, it can cause permanent damage. Fan drying won’t eliminate page curl, but the proper weight on the cover can minimize page puffiness and curl.

Dry the book with a hair dryer

Let as much water drip out of the book as possible.

The hair dryer is best for drying books that are only slightly damp, but it works when they’re really wet too. But before you use the hair dryer, you have to get the worst wetness out of the book. If water remains in the pages, it could cause mold and discoloration. +

Set the book upright and place an absorbent cloth under the pages.

This is a great way to blow-dry the sides. Hold the book by the spine with one hand.

Hold the hair dryer at least 6 to 8 inches away from the book so the heat doesn’t damage it like you would your hair.

Set the hairdryer on cold or warm and move the airflow over the sides until they feel completely dry or at least just a little damp. If you set the blow dryer too hot, you can easily damage or even burn the sides. Feel every now and then while blow-drying that the sides are not getting too hot, and it is better to change where you point the blow-dryer from time to time so that they can cool down again in between.

Blow dry a few pages at a time.

Starting at the binding, move the hair dryer towards the edge of the page in a slow downward motion. You do this with a few pages at a time until they dry, and then you move on to the next “package”. Don’t point the blow dryer at the side of the book pages, as this will likely dry them unevenly, which could cause the paper to curl or become brittle. If you try to dry the book too quickly, the pages may warp or curl. Yes, this is the quickest method, but it is also the riskiest.


If the book was on loan from the library or from a friend, you should ask the owner what to do. Some libraries have specific rules about what to do when a book is damaged, and they may want to take care of it themselves. If the book just got a little damp, you might not have to go through all the stress. Instead, you can try simply sandwiching the two covers between two other books or hanging them over the edges of two tables so the pages can dry in the fresh air for a few hours.


While you can draw water out of book pages using the methods above, don’t expect your books to look brand new afterwards. Don’t put your book in the microwave. You risk, in the worst case, the pages bursting into flames. In addition, the glue of the binding could melt. Any drying process can cause yellowing, swelling and color changes. If your book has come into contact with sewage, place it in a plastic bag and dispose of it. In this case, you should definitely not try to save it.

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