A Mould Problem: Cleaning 650,000 Damaged Books

Publisher’s Note: We are thrilled to bring a case study from Down Under into this issue of C&R! We are pre­serving their terminology – like mould vs. mold – and hope you enjoy their incredible story!

When AllAces Cleaning and Restoration was faced with the challenge of a lifetime, their team banded together – and got in­novative. In 13 weeks, they cleaned 650,000 mouldy books; that’s one every three seconds.

Scope of Work

This story started with a simple email. A project manager reached out to AllAces Cleaning and Resto­ration because a university in Sydney found a mould issue within their library. Located in the heart of the campus, this magnificent building is an eye-catcher to anyone who passes by. Beneath all the fancy walls and designs, mould lurked beneath.

This is a view of the massive seven-story archives.

Let me paint the picture: an underground auto­mated library retrieval system that is seven stories deep, with six aisles. More than 650,000 mouldy books within this system needed to be specially cleaned and treated because the humidification con­trol in the building management system failed, lead­ing to prolonged periods of high humidity breeding mould throughout the facility.

The challenge was compounded by the time con­straints. It all had to be completed during the sum­mer break, just 13 weeks.

In addition to this, the books had to be placed in their exact lo­cations within their original bins after they had been tested and treated. This meant an accurate sorting system needed to be put into place, with literally hundreds of thousands of sections in this library for these books.

Landing the Job

One might ask, how danger­ous is mould? If left untreated, mould could begin consuming the pages within these works of literature to the point where it would be impossible to restore the books to their original state. In addition to this, the health risks mould plays when exposed to individuals over extended periods of time has been shown to have negative implications.

AllAces Cleaning and Resto­ration provided a detailed proposal to execute the job – with automat­ed processes, production rates, and management of risks for a restoration and cleaning project of this size and nature. After much dis­cussion and communication about this intricate process, the offer was accepted and AllAces won the bid to undertake this grand challenge.

Getting to Work

A fully functioning work area setup.

Creating a fully functioning cleaning production facility specific for the unique aspects of this project took several weeks of planning and prototyping offsite, before moving production to the library itself.

From the usage of humidifica­tion testing equipment to a con­veyor belt for drying full batches of books, a complete and thor­ough plan was put into place to make sure all steps were carefully considered and applied.

Once on site, the conveyor systems, negative air contain­ment zones, air scrubbers, and drying systems were installed and commissioned with only a week available to get to full pro­duction rates.

Under full production, the average speed of this system was shocking – even to the team that created it! One book was being cleaned every three seconds – that’s more than 10,000 books per day. Quite the engineering feat coupled with the dedication of the skilled team from AllAces. As a result of this, the cleaning and restoration project could be com­pleted efficiently and reliably up to the required quality standards.

Drying line and sorting table.

The cleaning processes were in accordance with IICRC S520 and quality was managed by the team with spot ATP and white cloth random testing, as well as third party surveillance and laborato­ry sampling and analysis.

The error rate for the project was less than 0.01%.

The Risks

Managing fatigue and repetitive strain injury was a critical factor for the project. Production ran 10 hours a day, 6 days a week and involved an extremely fast paced production line. Staff rotations, automation, and working aids were all employed to manage these risks.

Another key risk came in the form of accurately and efficiently organising a system that could handle this level of restoration and cleaning. There were many priceless works of literature within the collection. As mould presented dangerous risks to the pages of those works of litera­ture, it was essential that AllAces carefully handled and processed every single book.

ATP verification testing.

The management of sorting and returning all restored books back to their original locations was also a key risk. The library had thousands of bins. Each publication had its designated place within the library, so it was essential to create a system where the newly mould-tested and treated works of literature could be organised and placed exactly where they were picked from.


To date, the size and complexity of this project represents one of the most challenging res­toration projects AllAces has completed. AllAces Managing Director James Wright said, “This project has been a huge achievement, with very few jobs like this completed in such a tight timeline anywhere in the world – a tremendous credit to the AllAces team.”

Hank Sy

Hank Sy, an energetic marketing and econom­ics graduate, works as a marketing intern for All Aces Cleaning & Restoration.


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