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Your Home Environment Resource - University of Nebraska Cooperative Extension in Lancaster County

Household Hints & HELP!

Preservation of Paper Items

submitted by Lorene Bartos, Extension Educator
This article appeared in the February 2, 2003 Lincoln Journal Star Newspaper.

Do you ever wonder what you should get rid of or what you should save? Knowing how to preserve items will help in selecting what you keep.

Clippings from newspapers, programs and other important papers often take up space that could be put to better use. Paper items can be harmed by paper clips, candle wax, oil, adhesive tape, mold, pollution and people. Paper quality varies from flimsy, short-lived newsprint to durable ledger papers suited for storage and archives. Light, temperature, moisture and pests effect the deterioration of paper items. Some problems and suggestions for preserving paper items include:


Strong light sources can cause paper to fade. Damage from light is not reversible. Store books and paper items out of direct sunlight. Valuable papers, such as deeds, diplomas, etc. can be kept in acid-free folders and stored in a low lighted area. Valuable documents can be mounted on acid-free boards.


Adequate ventilation and less than 55 percent relative humidity is recommended for a storage area. Forty-five to 60 percent relative humidity is acceptable for papers. If relative humidity is too low it can cause drying out and brittleness.

Remove mold from dry paper buy brushing off the mold with a soft brush and exposing the paper to an hour of sunlight and circulating air to kill or reduce mold.


To reduce pests use moth crystals.


The ideal recommended temperature is 60 to 70 degrees F.

Damaged paper items can many times be saved with careful steps.

Water soaked paper can be dried by placing the wet paper items between layers of clean white blotters, or on top of the blotter to air dry. Do not weight down. Also do not iron wet paper.

Adhesive tape many times leaves a residue or stain after the tape falls off. There is usually no remedy for the dark brown stain left from the tape. Be cautious when taping important papers.

Acid-free and buffered cardboard or all-rag board should be used to mat or mount valuable keepsakes. Ordinary mat board and cardboard are acidic and will transfer chemicals to the paper mounted on it, resulting in stains and possible disintegration.


Store books upright on shelves and loose enough to be easily removed without damage to the cover. Paper storage should be well ventilated.

Special problems and questions regarding valuable paper documents may be directed to the Assistant Director for Preservation, Administration Department, Library of Congress, Washington, DC 20540.



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