How To Remove Mold From Your Precious Books

When you open a book that has been stored in your bookshelf for a long time, you find it smells musty and dusty. In addition, there is a brown stain on it, and you don’t know what to do with it. If it’s a book you cherished, it’s even more shocking. But don’t worry. There is a way to clean mildewed books. I will explain how to remove mold from books and its cause and how to prevent it.

Cause Of Mold Growth On Books

full of books on a bookshelf

Molds can grow in almost any place as long as the following conditions are met.

  • Temperature (20 – 30 degrees Celsius)
  • Humidity (above 70 – 80%)
  • Nutrition (dust, sweat, stains)

And the books that fully satisfy these needs are the books on the shelves.

Bookshelves tend to accumulate humidity

Most bookshelves that hold books have their backs flush against the wall. Usually, bookshelves are placed at the edge of the room where the sun does not shine to avoid sunburn. However, these are the conditions that molds prefer.

Mold spores are airborne and begin to actively reproduce when the humidity is above 70%. Bookshelves are often placed in the corners of a room where humidity tends to accumulate. In addition, bookshelves lined with books or double shelves have poor airflow. As a result, the humidity is higher in the back, making it easier for mold to grow.

Thin books, such as school notebooks used, are rarely stored in bookshelves for long periods of time. And this is a factor that doesn’t usually get mold.

Books are rich in food for molds

Molds grow by feeding on dust, hand sweat, and hand stains. Even if you clean your room frequently, it is unlikely that you clean your bookshelf as often as you clean your room. When you clean your room with a vacuum cleaner, it is a good idea to dust the books on the bookshelf as well.

As for hand sweat and hand stains, although it may be bothersome, washing your hands before reading a book will prevent mold to a great extent.

How To Remove Mold From Books  

two anti-bacterial sprays

Use denatured alcohol to remove mold from books

A reliable mold remover is a denatured alcohol (ethanol). Some denatured alcohols are diluted with water, which is generally more effective in disinfecting due to its moderate volatility and penetrating power.

However, in the case of paper such as books, there is a risk that the paper will become squishy even if the mold is successfully removed. Therefore, for mold removal, it is best to use a water-diluted product for hardcovers and a highly volatile 100% alcohol product for paperbacks.

Steps for mold removal

  1. Dampen a dry cloth or paper towel with ethanol
  2. Wipe some parts to check for discoloration, fading, or paper deterioration
  3. Wipe off the mold on the book (Do not rub hard)
  4. Brush off the wiped-up area
  5. Dry the book upright in a well-ventilated place

When drying your books, be sure to keep them out of direct sunlight. Direct exposure to sunlight can cause discoloration of the book cover.

Last resort of mold removal

If the above steps still leave mold stains, try an eraser. The eraser can be used to remove stains, especially on rough types of paper. However, if you use too much force, it will damage the paper, so do it gently.

Things you should not do

Do NOT start removing the mold near the bookshelf

Mold fungus can spread its spores with even the slightest impact. So if you find a book with mold and start removing it right then and there, you may end up with mold fungus on other books. Mold removal should be done in a place with no objects nearby and with windows open to allow for adequate air ventilation.

Do NOT wipe off the mold with a wet cloth.

The first thing that comes to everyone’s mind to deal with mold on books is to wipe it off. However, this method may have the opposite effect. If you do not know the characteristics of mold and try to wipe it off forcibly, you may end up widening the scope of the mold or even damaging the book.

In addition, wiping with water will not only damage the paper, but it will also provide moisture, which mold loves, accelerating its growth.

Never use a vacuum cleaner to suck up the mold.

Vacuuming is an effective way to remove dust from bookshelves and books, but it is counterproductive if it spreads mold. So be careful when cleaning the bookshelf with a vacuum cleaner.

Do NOT spray the book with a mold remover

Some people may think of spraying mold remover, but this will damage the paper and erase the printing due to the bleaching effect. The important thing is to kill the mold in a way that does not damage the paper. Mold removers that bleach the paper can damage the book itself unless they are especially for removing mold from books.

How To Remove Mold Smell From Books

deodorant box on a wooden table

Use baking soda for mildew odor

If you are sure that you have removed the mold, but there is still an odd smell, use baking soda to eliminate the odor. Put the book and powdered baking soda in a plastic bag and leave it there for a while. If the smell is too strong, you can leave it for a few days.

How To Prevent Mold Growth

Make a gap between the bookshelf and the wall

Since bookshelves are very heavy when filled with books, we may think attaching them right to the wall is safer. However, it is better to place them a little farther away from the wall to allow better airflow and prevent high humidity. Please ensure to avoid the bookshelf from tipping over, and leave a gap between the unit and the wall.

It is also highly recommended to open the windows as much as possible for ventilation. Finally, do not dry your washings in a room with a bookshelf. The paper absorbs the moisture and becomes a breeding ground for mold.

Put moisture absorbers

The best way to prevent books from getting moldy is to avoid accumulating humidity. A dehumidifier or moisture absorber is a convenient way for that. There are many types of moisture absorbers on the market. Still, it is recommended to put a little more than you think in order to avoid molds.

Place plastic file holders on top of the books

Even if you keep books on a bookshelf, dust will inevitably get in if there are gaps. This is especially true when the books are arranged in a row. To avoid that, you can put file holders, which can be easily purchased, on top of the books to prevent fine dust from sticking to the top and inside of the books.

When cleaning, you don’t have to take out the books all the time. Instead, you can just take out the file holders to remove the dust, which is also convenient.

Summary

a pile of books with covers on a table

Here is a summary of preventive measures against molds.

  • Temperature, humidity, dust, and sweaty hands are the causes of mold on books
  • Denatured alcohol (ethanol) is recommended for removing mold
  • Baking soda is effective in removing the smell of mold
  • As a preventive action, it is essential to use moisture absorbers and be aware of ventilation

When you open a book to enjoy a leisurely read after a long time and find mold, you won’t feel like reading the book, right?

Once mold grows on a book, it can even lead to insects that feed on the mold in the worst-case scenario. Therefore, once you find mold on a book, please use the method described in this article to remove it immediately. It should clean up nicely.

However, it is hard work to take care of each book one at a time, so it is always important to take measures to prevent mold from growing.

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