How to clean old books

Info Guru, Catalogs.com

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Being gentle is the most important aspect of cleaning old books
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Learn how to clean old books to retain their value

Old books should be treasured and taken care of. After all, youíre holding a piece of history in your hands.

Plus, thereís not much that looks better than a wall lined with the literary treasures. But old books get dirty, dusty and sometimes even moldy. And washing them can cause serious damage. So how do you get them clean without causing problems? By using the right supplies and a little TLC.

If you are investing in new leather bound books, you should institute a regular maintenance schedule, carefully cleaning your books to avoid the following issues that can plague and degrade the value of books -- both old and new.


Mildew is a threat to the condition of an old book. Mildew likes to thrive in humid and moist conditions, which you may find in your home. If thatís whatís going on with your old and collectable books, you can remove the nasty growth with a dry sponge. Rubbing it gently back and forth over the mildew can send it away.

However, youíll need to adjust the climate of your environment, or else the mildew will likely come back again. Placing a dehumidifier in your home or the area in which you keep your books can keep the humidity at a low level, perhaps preventing mildew from coming back.


Dust build-up on your old books is inevitable. And if your book is particularly fragile, rubbing a cloth on the cover and pages could cause rips and damage to the book. Instead of using that method, try getting rid of the dust with a hair dryer. Turn the setting to low and cool and go ahead and aim your dryer at the dust. The forced air should cause the dust to fly off of the books, without ripping or causing any damage to them.


Books are made to be handled. And because of this, they are bound to become smudged. But fingerprints are not only unsightly on a book cover, but they are made of mostly moisture, which can cause mildew and other damage to the cover. To send that smudge away, take a small drop of petroleum jelly and use a rag to rub it into the smudged cloth. Those fingerprints will hit the road and the jelly will likely provide a bit of protection for the book cover against future smudges.


Once you have cleaned your books, youíll want to protect them. One issue you can run into is sun damage. Books can become faded and dried out because of the sun. Placing a sun cover over your books can keep them safe from the UV rays. You could also keep your books out of the sun to keep them protected from the rays. 

When you handle particularly old and fragile books, wear gloves to keep the oils on your skin from damaging the books.

Cleaning your old books should benefit them, not cause damage. And now that you know how to clean old books, you can get your literary treasures looking beautiful again.

Using a hair dryer to combat dust or the petroleum jelly for smudges on a preventative basis is also helpful in keeping new leather bound books in good shape. 


Abe Books: Tips on Book Care

Biblio.com: To Clean Or Not to Clean

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