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Post flood Action plan

by Juliet Allan on November 23rd, 2012

Having a disaster recovery plan may seem extreme but if you live in a flood risk area you shoud be prepared for the worst case scenario. You can minimise damage by following these simple steps:

Rugs and Carpets

Never fold a rug or carpet – always roll
  • Promptly remove from affected area.
  • If impractical to move, keep unfolded.
  • Keep as flat as possible, preferably on a dry hard surface in sunlight. Alternatively, hang over a wall to let the piece air.
  • Avoid rubbing the item as this can spread any colour run.


The key is to control the drying process, and hence increase the prospect of a successful restoration.
  • Promptly remove from area; if impracticable, raise up on blocks or bricks.
  • If the item is very wet, remove any drawers (and clear out contents) to lighten the load as joints can distort and fail when saturated.
  • Be gentle, dirt is an abrasive.
  • If the piece is veneered, try to keep the veneer in place by using weights or clamps. Make certain to separate the weight or clamp from the piece with a protective layer of waxed paper.
  • Note the weakening support elements such as legs. If necessary, use string or other material to reinforce support. Also be alert to veneer and other attached pieces that may come loose and fall to the ground. Place them on a sheet of clean paper near the object from which they have fallen and label the sheet. Do NOT put them in a plastic bag or drawer.
  • Remove cushions and any other lift-out pieces.
  • If you are going to leave it in place, wrap the upholstered surface in sheets or towels. As they become wet during the drying process, remove and replace them with dry ones. Continue to blot any exposed wood elements.

Ceramics and Glass

Different ceramic bodies and body types, e.g. earthenware, porcelain, bisque, glazed, etc., require different drying techniques – if you have a large or valuable collection seek further advice from a conservator.
  • When recovering ceramic and glass objects, watch for pieces that have become broken or detached. When found, place them in a clean, transparent polythene bag until treatment.
  • Carefully mark the bag so that the part can be reunited with the main object. Monitor the parts bags for any mould.


As with ceramics, a specialist restorer should be consulted early in the recovery process for extremely valuable metal objects, e.g. sculpture.
  • You should wear gloves when handling metal objects. Rinse or sponge and then blot dry.
  • Allow to air dry slowly. If dealing with a large metal object, it may be wiser to allow heavy mud deposits to dry first. Caked mud can be removed later.
  • If a metal object has a rough surface or applied finish, do not blot. Air dry on a plastic screen or clean towel and keep flaking surfaces horizontal.

Pictures, Photographs and Prints

Time is the enemy and prolonged immersion is to be avoided.
  • Do NOT disturb frames, they serve to protect artworks.
  • Do NOT flex or bend item and always try and keep flat.

Silver and Jewellery

Carefully dry and move to a dry environment. Seek professional help as early as possible.


Valuable antiquarian books will require considerable care. If a specialist restorer is not available, placing the book in polythene and storing in a domestic freezer is an option when freeze drying equipment is not available.

Antique and Fragile Textiles

Wet textiles are extremely heavy. You’ll need to provide adequate physical support when moving them. Carefully place them on a large piece of canvas or plastic (non-rusting) screen/tray.
  • Avoid the temptation to unfold wet fabric, especially if it is delicate. Never stack wet textiles on top of each other.
  • Carefully press on the textile to try to remove some of the water. Next blot the textile with dry towels or cotton sheets in order to transfer the water from the soaked textile to the dry material. Remove and replace the dry material as it becomes wet.
  • Do NOT roll up the textile in the dry material and squeeze
  • Support shaped objects, e.g. baskets or purses, with towels or uncoated paper padding. When the padding becomes water saturated, remove and replace. Block and shape damp textiles when possible.
  • If the textile preservation process cannot be completed in 48 hours, wrap each textile individually in freezer or waxed paper. This prevents dye transfer, pack flat and freeze.

Content provided by Cunningham Lindsey.

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