Mold is a four-letter word. It can destroy your documents and it can make you sick. What do you do when you discover that great-grandpa’s Civil War letters or the family Bible has mold on it? Here are some tips to help you when you discover mold.
You can’t tell who will be affected by exposure to mold. Common reactions to mold exposure include runny nose, eye irritation, cough, headache, fatigue, and aggravation of asthma. Anyone with asthma, serious allergies, respiratory problems, diabetes, compromised immune systems, or taking steroid therapy should avoid moldy materials and the area where they are.
Take steps to protect yourself. Mold spores can enter your body through your breathing and also through small breaks in your skin. Here are some ways to help prevent mold exposure:
Mold thrives on moisture. If the item is wet, you’ll need to dry it before you can attempt to remove the mold. Store it somewhere away from people, perhaps a garage or a dry shed. If you have something with multiple pages, like a book or magazine, you may need to put paper towels or blank copy paper between the pages. Here’s how I recently dried out a book that landed in my bathtub.
After the item is dry, use a clean paint brush to lightly dust off the mold. If there are stubborn spots, you can try gently wiping with a slightly damp cloth or sponge. A better solution is to use a non-chemical natural dry sponge. These are often advertised as “soot sponges.” (Absorene is one brand name.) They are available in many home improvement stores. What’s nice about them is that they are designed to be used dry, so you’re not introducing any moisture to the item.
When you’re using a sponge, remember to be gentle. This isn’t like rubbing out a stain from your shirt. Rub too hard and you might end up tearing the paper or erasing the print!
If you’re not comfortable working with a moldy item or if the job is too big for you to handle, contact a professional conservator. Many historical societies and archives maintain lists of conservators and preservationists in your area.
Here you will find informational, and sometimes fun, posts from the folks behind the scenes here at Ancestry.com. We hope you’ll notice just how passionate we are about family history and about the products we’re building to help connect families over distance and time.Visit Ancestry.com