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How to Clean Books Without Causing Damage

Jennifer L. Betts
messy bookcase

Did you just notice that your books are looking a little dingy? When it comes to how to clean books, you can use several effective methods to dry out pages, remove mold, and clean dirt. Learn the quick and easy hacks for how to clean your old books effectively.

How to Clean Books Effectively

When it comes to cleaning books, it's all about being careful. Books are made of paper, and paper and liquids don't mix. Especially when it might smudge the ink. Therefore, when it comes to cleaning your books, think carefully about the best method you can use for your old and new books. However, a few methods that work effectively require:

How to Clean Old Books

Old books can have fragile edges, dirt, and even mold to deal with. But it can be hard to part with books that have been part of your library for years. However, if you are dealing with an antique precious book like a first edition, it's important to consult a professional first before trying any home cleaning methods yourself. You don't want to lower the value. However, to freshen up personal books or something you bought at the thrift store, you need to tackle dirt first.

  1. Place a thin cloth over the vacuum hose to lessen the sucking power.

  2. Lay the book flat.

  3. Start at the cover and gently brush the entire book with the toothbrush to loosen dirt.

  4. Go over each page with the vacuum hose.

  5. Use a rubber eraser to remove any marks or dirt.

Antique books in a library

How Do You Clean Mold and Mildew off Books

Once you've tackled the dirt on your books, you need to look for any mold on your page. Mold and mildew can be dangerous because the spores can multiply.

  1. Check the cover and pages for mold or mildew. Typically, you can tell mold and mildew stains by the musty smell.

  2. Put on a mask and gloves to protect yourself from breathing in the mold spores.

  3. Take the book outside in the sun.

  4. Place a piece of wax paper under the page with mildew.

  5. Use the toothbrush to brush off any loose mold and mildew.

  6. Get a cloth very lightly damp with hydrogen peroxide and blot at the mildew lightly.

  7. Allow the area to dry completely in the sun before moving on.

How to Get Smells Out of Books

Once you've tackled the mold and mildew on old books, you need to get rid of the permeating smell. This method also works great for non-mildewy books with odd smells like thrift store finds with that smoke smell.

  1. Carefully wrap the book in an old t-shirt.

  2. Coat the bottom of a sealable bag with baking soda.

  3. Place the book in the bag with the baking soda.

  4. Allow it to sit for a few hours to days.

Getting Grime, Stains, and Pests Off Books

Did you happen to spill a bit of food on your book? You might also find that you have a pest problem happening in your book. In these instances, the freezer can come in handy.

  1. Put the book in the freezer for a few hours.

  2. Check all the pages and shake out the now frozen bugs and pests.

  3. Use the scraper to carefully remove any dried-on food you can feel with your finger.

  4. Take the vulcanized rubber eraser to remove any remaining marks or strains.

In addition to a vulcanized rubber eraser, you can use Absorene Paper and Book Cleaner. This pink putty works to absorb stains and grime without hurting the pages.

How to Clean Water Spills on Books

If you spilled water on your book while reading or it got wet during a flood or rain, then you need to act fast to prevent mold and mildew from growing. If you don't have time to deal with your wet book right away, you can put it in the freezer while you prepare. After thawing out or right away, follow these steps.

  1. Place the book in a window, but not in direct sunlight.

  2. Turn on a fan about 5-10 feet away from the book.

  3. Open the window as well if the air is warm enough.

  4. Open the book and flip to the pages at regular intervals. Don't force pages to open, be as gentle as possible.

  5. Once all the pages are completely dry, place several heavy books on top of the book to restore the flatness of the pages.

Woman reading book in bathroom

How to Clean a Leather Book

When it comes to cleaning a book with a leather cover, you need to use a little more care. This is because leather can react differently to different cleaning methods. Therefore, before trying this leather cleaning method, you want to check a discrete area to ensure it doesn't harm your leather-bound book.

  1. Dip a lint-free cloth in the saddle soap, then dip it in water.

  2. Wring out as much moisture as you can.

  3. Wipe down the cover of the book and binding.

  4. Use a dry cloth to buff the leather cover.

How to Protect Books From Damage

While books need to be cleaned once in a while and damage can happen, it's better to mitigate damage by storing your books in the right temperature and area. To keep your books clean, follow a few tips.

  • Reduce dust by storing books in an enclosed container or cabinet.

  • Store books upright and remove bookmarks before storage.

  • Avoid storing your books in an area with high humidity.

  • Dust books regularly if out in the open and keep them out of direct sunlight. This can fade the cover and pages.

Keeping Your Books Clean

Books are important. Therefore, you don't want to lose a book you love to dirt. To keep your books clean and smelling fresh or to remove dirt from an antique book, you now have the toolset.

How to Clean Books Without Causing Damage