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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Dealing with mold on a sefer Torah

I was recently contacted by a shul here in the Pacific Northwest about treating a problem with mold growth on two of their sifrei Torah.  Having briefly looked through both sefarim it looks like the mold is fairly widespread manifesting in black spots along most of he margins and in a few places across areas of writing.  Based on my recommendation the shul took immediate action to dramatically reduce the level of humidity within the shul which has been nearly 100% by installing de-humidifiers.  The humidity is now holding at approximately 55%.  At this level, I think mold growth is much less likely, but it still leaves the tricky issue of dealing with with what's already formed on the Torah scrolls themselves.  I've done a bit of research on dealing with mold on parchment and it seems like there's quite a range of opinions, everything from misting the parchment with a solution of alcohol to exposing the klaf to direct sunlight for an hour, to using UV lamps. 

Does anyone have any experience dealing with this type of issue successfully? 

7 comments:

  1. Never, although I would try the least invasive option first such as the sun idea, before spraying or putting on foreign substances

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  2. you can use a clean white cloth wet it with the highest alcohol you can usually 92% and just wipe it down

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    1. Thank you Beis Hastam. Once the sefer has been wiped down does the Torah have to be left unrolled to dry/air out?

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  3. Alcohol works - however, it will not kill spores that have spread to other parts of the scroll but not yet germinated. After a few months (or even a year or so) the spores will germinate and the mold will return.

    The only sure-fire way to remove mold is using an ozone immersion chamber. Most universities or major libraries have them. One of the universities here in Texas lets me use theirs - I just called up, explained what I do, and they we happy to accommodate.

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  4. Before using any chemical on the writing make sure to test it on a very small area. I have had bad experiences of the ink spreading. You never know what type of ink/klaf was used.

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  5. Rabbi Traube, acetone is an organic solvent. Normal hardware store variety has eaten partway through my leather work gloves, same material as klaf but about 7-10 times as thick. How far do you dilute it?

    I have used bleach to clean up erasures, 1 part bleach to 4 parts water. That also happens to be the same proportions used in commercial mildew remover so it might work.

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