Colored stains on historical papers: biological and chemical characteristics associated with their removal

Colored spots on historical paper documents and books are a worldwide problem. These are spots of microbial origin, which can vary considerably in different geographical areas due to different climates and different diversity of micro-organisms. There is a need to develop cost-effective, efficient and gentle procedures for removing colored stains from the surface of historic paper objects. Current scientific evidence indicates that some peroxidase and laccase enzymes are able to decolorize different types of dyes.

Some of these enzymes are already commercially available, others can be obtained from various microorganisms, e.g. of basidiomycetes. These properties could be used to remove pigments or dyes of microbial origin. To this end, we will use enzymes as the active ingredient in stain removal procedures without damaging the fragile and rare paper of historical documents and books. In addition to the preparation of enzyme extracts and their application, we will also study other aspects of the issue such as isolation of microorganisms responsible for the formation of pigments and dyes on paper, selection of microorganisms producing peroxidases and laccases, chemical composition of color spots on authentic paper objects, development of non-destructive procedures for identifying dyes directly on historical objects. The acquired knowledge and developed methods will be immediately usable in the field of restoration and protection of cultural heritage in Slovakia through the Academy of Fine Arts, which is a co-research organization of the project, and also through other institutions such as. Slovak National Archives and the University Library in Bratislava. The developed methods will also be useful for foreign workplaces in the field of cultural heritage protection.

Project no. APVV-19-0059


Research and Development Support Agency

Main applicant:

The Institute of Molecular Biology SAS / VŠVU is a partner

Research team at VŠVU:

prof. Boris Kvasnica, acad. mal., Mgr. art. Zuzana Machatova, PhD., Mgr. art. Barbora Němečková, ArtD., Department of Restoration


2020 – 2023