How to Remediate Mold on Paper

mold and mildew on documents

Mold growth on vital records.

While it is actively growing and reproducing, mold secretes digestive enzymes that alter, weaken, and stain items like paper. This puts collections of documents and vital records at serious risk. Knowing how to control conditions to discourage outbreaks of mold, and knowing who to contact in case of an outbreak can help preserve valuable documents and records managers’ health.

The Basics of Mold

Mold spores are everywhere — outdoors, indoors, on cloth, paper, and even on humans. The spores are dormant until activated by temperature and humidity. If the conditions are right, and there is a nutrient base for the mold to feed on, voila — mold growth.

It only takes four Ingredients to grow mold:
       • Mold spores
       • Proper temperature (40-100°F)
       • Proper RH (50% or higher)
       • A nutrient base

Nutrient bases for mold can be dust, soil, leaves or grass, wood or paper, and nearly anything organic. This means that after a disaster like a flood (or a fire that was put out by water), water-damaged documents and vital records could begin to grow mold. Over time, this could mean they would become hazardous and unsafe for regular use.

Severe Reactions May Occur Among Workers Exposed to Large Amounts of Mold in Occupational Settings

Some people are more sensitive to molds than others. For these people, exposure to molds can cause symptoms such as nasal stuffiness, eye irritation, wheezing, or skin irritation. Some people may have even more severe reactions. After a disaster, the safest thing to do is to contact a professional document restoration company like DFD for proper mold remediation.

Dealing with an Outbreak of Mold on Files and Documents

Quick cures such as spraying Lysol on objects or cleaning them with bleach may cause additional or unforeseen damage and are often ineffective. The Northeast Document Conservation Center explains:

“In the past, mold-infested collections were often treated with fumigants. Ethylene oxide (ETO) and thymol will kill active mold and mold spores but are known carcinogens; other chemicals that have been used are less effective. Any of these chemicals can have adverse effects on both collections and people, and none will prevent regrowth. For some collections, it will even make them more susceptible.”


Use Gamma Irradiation to Kill Mold on Documents and Records

DFD uses industry leading gamma irradiation to clean moldy documents and bacteria from contaminated records. The process is similar to an X-ray, as the gamma rays pass completely through the contaminated paper, cleaning it along the way.

In living organisms, gamma irradiation produces electron disruptions, or ionization, which damages the organism at its molecular and cellular level. Damage is significant enough to kill a living organism or disable it from reproducing.