FAQ: What Can I Use To Clean Books?

How To Clean Books: Remove Stains, Mold, and Dirt From Old Books

If you’re cleaning old books, you’ll need to know how to take better care of them than you ever have before.

1. Take Stock

If you want to replace a book’s cover, dust jacket, or dust jacket, you’ll need a strategy. Identify the book’s most serious issues and make sure you won’t harm it. Test any cleaning supplies you want to use on small, insignificant pieces.

2. Get The Dirt First

When it comes to how to clean books, dirt is the low-hanging fruit: a gentle (!!) vacuum and a soft paintbrush or unused soft toothbrush are all you’ll need. Document cleaning pads are also a good option for getting caked dirt off a book.

Mold and Mildew

The “old book smell” is mostly mildew, which is bad for your books and bad for your health. Place a sheet of wax paper under moldy or moldy pages before treating the rest of the book.


Greasy book pages can result in a greasy book, but it won’t stay there. Place a paper towel between greasy pages and place weight on top of it; the paper towel will absorb the grease within hours or days.


A stint in the freezer will make it easier to pop that gunk off the page with a razor. Grime is any gross stuff that you can feel when you run your finger over it. Food residue is some of the worst of this category, but it’s not the only culprit.


Clean books with vulcanized rubber dirt erasers, Absorbene, a pink putty that picks up a surprising amount of stains and dirt, or the citrus-based Brodex Multipurpose Cleaner if all else fails.

4. Deal with Dampness

If your book is dripping wet, place something absorbent between each page, such as paper towels, which are thin and easy to work with. If your book isn’t dripping wet, sprinkle cornstarch between the pages and store it in an airtight container.

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If you really, really need to get the cloth wet, use almost no water and dry the book thoroughly afterward. Some resources recommend using a clean cloth with a little fabric softener for cleaning cloth covers.


Different leathers react differently to the same cleaners, so spot-check like your book’s life depends on it. Cellugel can help stabilize a rotten leather cover. Suede should only be cleaned with a dry cloth. Vellum is not leather and does not react like leather.


People will tell you to use Windex on paper covers, but don’t. Instead, revert to our old friend, the document cleaning pad, and treat paper and matte covers as you would pages. Absorbene can also be helpful.

6. Clean Fragile edges

After vacuuming, a toothbrush or make-up brushes can be used to clean delicate page edges, but don’t use a toothbrush that’s been in your mouth on a book because it’s full of germs and harsh on brittle paper.

7. Get Out Any Bugs

If you have a chest freezer, you can freeze bugs to death (although some, such as bedbugs, are extremely hardy, so this could take weeks). To sanitize, mix one part bleach with five parts water and spot check, spot check before wiping away filth.

8. How To Clean Books That Are Very OLD: Prevention

Vacuuming and dusting should be done on a regular basis, and if you don’t want to put wear and tear on the real thing, consider having it professionally digitized.

How do you clean dirty books?

How to Disinfect Old Books

  1. Place a thin cloth over the vacuum hose to reduce suction power.
  2. Lay the book flat.
  3. Begin at the cover and gently brush the entire book with the toothbrush to loosen dirt.
  4. Vacuum each page.
  5. Remove any marks or dirt with a rubber eraser.
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What to use to clean old books?

A kneaded rubber eraser or Absoreneu00ae Paper and Book Cleaner can often improve stains. Knead a small amount of Absorene in your hand until it is soft, then rub it lightly in one direction over the soiled surface, kneading it again to freshen it as it picks up the stain or dirt.

How do you clean a paperback book?

An artgum eraser is ideal for erasing small pencil marks, smudges, and medium-sized blemishes from the pages, while a soft cloth, such as a cut-up white t-shirt, works well for gently cleaning surface dirt, and an electrostatic cloth lifts and holds dirt.

How do you clean a hardcover book?

Pour rubbing alcohol into a cotton ball and squeeze until it is no longer dripping; do not pour the alcohol directly onto the book’s hard cover. Gently wipe the book’s hard cover down with the cotton ball in small circular motions.

How do you clean old dusty books?

Vacuum any dust from the binding or cover, then brush away dirt on and between the pages with a brush. Document cleaning pads are a good option for getting caked dirt off a book; gently squeeze them over the affected area to release some of their powder.

How do you freshen old books?

Place a cup of baking soda or an opened box in a plastic box or bin with a lid, then place the book in the box with the baking soda and close the lid. Wait 48-72 hours, then check on the book.

How do you remove the musty smell from books?

Place dry books in an airtight container with an open box of baking soda, and keep them there until the musty odor goes away, which could take up to a week for hard-back books.

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What do you use to clean around the house?

House Cleaning Tips in a Hurry

  • Collect all of your cleaning tools in a caddy.
  • Clear the clutter.
  • Dust and vacuum.
  • Wipe mirrors and glass.
  • Disinfect countertops and surface areas.
  • Focus on tubs, sinks, and toilets.
  • Sweep, then mop.

Can old books make you sick?

Experts on the various fungi that feed on the pages and covers of books are increasingly convinced that sniffing old books can get you high–or at the very least a little wacky–because fungus on books is a likely source of hallucinogenic spores, they say.

What causes musty smell in books?

There is no guaranteed way to remove the odor from books that have been exposed to high relative humidity and may have been moldy or mildewed in the past, but there are several strategies that may be successful. One strategy involves creating an enclosed chamber.

Is foxing mold?

Mold and metal contaminants in paper cause foxing, which appears as brown, yellow, or red stains on the paper, usually in spidery spots or blotches.

How do I keep my books from turning yellow?

How to Prevent Yellowing in Books

  1. Store under moderate humidity.
  2. Allow for proper air circulation.
  3. Use archival paper between the pages of the book.
  4. Handle properly.
  5. Store away from direct sunlight. Ultraviolet rays cause fading on the covers and spines and promote yellowing of the pages much faster.

How do you remove foxing stains from books?

Schraubstadter recommends chlorine bleach or common household bleach (Sodium Hypoclorite) to remove foxing stains by bleaching, as both are extremely alkaline and thus easily damage the paper fibers.

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