Paper Conservation Materials

This post will focus on the materials needed to preform basic paper conservation projects. Most of the information here was gained while working with Etherington Conservation in Greensboro, NC.


I have been tasked with outfitting the Library Society bindery to take on conservation projects. I am working with a sample budget of between $400-$800 to get the supplies that I need. The list below well focus on the cost and use of these materials. It does not include basic supplies which are already available in the binary and should not be considered a comprehensive list.

Jugs of Distilled Water: Ideally a conservation lab will feature a sink with a good filtration system, but for our purposes and on small projects, jugs of distilled water from Costco or your local grocery store works as a fine substitute.

Cost: $1.93/jug
Distilled Water

Washing Trays: These plastic bins will be used to wash documents, aqueous deacidification and create humidification chambers for relaxing documents. These are the same trays used to develop photographic film in a dark room.

You never want to use a tray that is too small for your object. To start things off in the binary, I am going to be purchasing a 16″x20″ tray.

Cost: $37.85
Washing Trays

Makeup Sponges: This is the simplest and cheapest piece of equipment used in paper conservation. These application sponges can be purchased at any pharmacy or grocery store and will effectively remove surface dirt from paper.

Cost: $7.65 for 100
Makeup Sponges

Magic Rub Block Eraser: This regular eraser can be safely used to surface clean dirt and pencil marks from paper, larger, vellum, or cloth. It is a basic essential for a conservation lab. These can also be grated and rubbed along a surface for an effective dry cleaning technique.

Cost: $1.27 each
Magic Rub Eraser

Fine Grater: This is a good example of how common tools are often utilized for conservation. We will use this grater to create crumbles from the magic rub erasers which can be rubbed over a document for dry cleaning. This technique is gentler on the paper than using the solid block.

Cost: $14.35
Fine Grater

Drying Rack: This can be purchased from most art supply stores or off Amazon any simple, but quality rack will do. You will need a safe and sturdy place to dry the work after cleaning baths or humidification.

Cost: $10.97
Drying Rack

Fiberglass Screening: This screening comes in inexpensive rolls from any home improvement store out online. It has many uses and will mostly act as a stiff barrier when transporting or drying washed materials. A cool trick is also to stretch the screening over a small bucket to work your paste into an even constancy.

Cost: 36″ x 84″ for $9.15
Fiberglass Screening

Fine Mist Spray Bottles: Spray bottles are used to apply various chemical mixtures and for light humidification. You can get conservation grade bottles from Talos, however I am going to experiment with some inexpensive (but highly rated!) options from Amazon.

Cost: 12 for $5.32
Spray Bottle

Hollytex (#3257):  An expensive, but absolutely essential material. I don’t know too much about it except that it works as an extremely effective and safe release layer when washing or pasting.

Cost: $6.05/yrd with purchase of 25+ yrds

Tech Wipe: Another essential, techwipe is used in laboratories and mechanical shops to clean up chemical spills. It is extremely absorbant and can work as a protective layer against moisture and for humidification.

Cost: 1800 12″ x 12″ sheets for $202.56
Tech Wipe

Plexiglass Sheet: A UV protected layer of plexiglass can be used in conjunction with your washing trays to create a humidification chamber or for light bleaching.

Cost: 24″ x 24″ sheet for $23.60

Droppers: These will be used to test the solubility of inks before any wet treatments are applied.

Cost: Pack of 100 for $5.99

Over All Total: $616.44 plus shipping

So I am very happy to have come in under budget with some room to purchase additional supplies. As the paper conservation lab grows we will be able to add purchases such as additional trays, a professional drying rack, and hopefully a filtration system.


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