Published: May 23, 2022

Hillary Morgan, conservator with the University Libraries is no stranger to repairing books damaged by any of the elements. In this video, Morgan will teach you how to save a book that’s suffered soot or smoke damage from a fire.


“Have books in your personal collection been damaged by fire? They might be salvageable.
“I'm Hillary Morgan, conservator with the University Libraries and today we're going to learn how to treat books with soot and smoke damage.
“The first step you can take is to surface clean the item. For this you can use a vulcanized rubber sponge and a soft bristle brush.
“Use your sponge, brushing from the centre of the page outward at a diagonal. As you use the sponge, it will collect all the dirt and soot on its surface, making it less effective over time. 
“Use a pair of scissors to trim off this top dirty layer as you go along. 
“Finally, use the soft bristle brush to remove any extra dirt from the surface and gutters between the pages.
“Now we'll work on removing the smell of smoke from your damaged book. Place the book into a homemade air tight chamber, along with an odor absorbing compound. You can use volcanic rocks, unscented clay, cat litter, charcoal brackets or baking soda. 
“Place the odor absorbing compound at the bottom of the container. You next need a barrier layer between your books and the odor absorber so that they do not touch. However, the barrier layer should allow air to flow through freely. 
“Next, fan your book out on top of the barrier layer. You can change the book's position over time, such as flipping pages, to help reach tricky spots where smell may be trapped. 
“Seal the lid of your bin so that it is air tight and leave for a couple of days. The smell of fire smoke in particular is so strong, so this process may need to be repeated to achieve the desired results.
“If you need more help, you can always reach out to me at Good luck!”