Even with digital technology, there’s nothing quite like holding an old book in your hands, with the smooth, hard cover and pages of soft paper. However, if you collect books, you know how they become musty smelling over time. Discover how to get the musty smell out of books, so they stand the test of time.
A new book always has a fresh-off-the-printer scent that reminds us of strolls through a brightly lit book store. On the other hand, old books tend to have a musty odor reminiscent of an old library. According to a study by Matija Strlic, this scent results from volatile organic compounds released into the air.
While this scent is nostalgic, it’s not something you want to sniff while cozying up to a good novel. Not only is a musty book unpleasant to smell, but it’s also a sign of mildew or mold growth within the book’s pages. With time, the mold spores spread, eventually weakening the structure of your beloved book.
Ways to Get Musty Odors Out of Books
A musty smell is a sign of mildew growth, and discovering this odor in a book is an obvious reason for concern. Learn what causes this odor and tips to deodorize the musty smell in the basement and remove the musty smell from books with safe and simple home remedies.
What Causes a Musty Book Smell?
You store your books on the bookshelf with care, yet they still have a lingering musty odor, and you can’t figure out why. Explore why books smell musty to help you understand the cause and prevent it from ruining your reading material.
Mildew thrives in darkness, warm temperatures, moisture, unventilated spaces, and dusty surfaces. Paper and fabrics are mold’s favorite food sources, leading to a musty book smell.
Eliminating Mildew Odors From Books
There are many pages confined within the book’s cover, and the slightest bit of moisture quickly leads to mildew growth. The easiest way of eliminating mildew odors from books is to give them some air.
Open the book and fan out the pages gently with your fingers. If some pages stick together, use a pair of tweezers to separate them carefully. Place the book upright on a table with the pages exposed to allow them to dry naturally. To quicken the drying process, use a hair dryer on the lowest heat setting to dry the book pages.
How to Get the Musty Smell Out of Books
Absorbents are excellent for removing a mildew smell from books. Find out how to absorb dampness and odor from your books using everything from silica gel and kitty litter to baking soda.
Place silica gel packets between the pages for a couple of days to remove moisture, or place the book in an airtight container with activated charcoal or charcoal briquettes until the smell is gone.
Another way to absorb odors is to place the book in a small container and set it inside a larger container filled halfway with kitty litter. Check it every few days for mustiness, and remove the book when the odor is gone. If you don’t have cat litter, perform the same technique with baking soda or talcum powder.
Ways to Mask Musty Book Odors
Consider masking the odor if the musty book smell is mild and there is no mildew or mold growth. Eliminate book mustiness by replacing the odor with a pleasing scent.
Place a scented fabric softener sheet between every 20 pages of the book and store it in a zip-lock bag for a few days to remove mold smells. The sheets are also helpful for preventing odor by placing one sheet within each book on your bookshelf.
Essential oils are another option for masking bad odors. Add drops of your favorite oil to cotton balls, place them in a plastic bag with your book and check in a couple of days for bad smells.
Using Cornstarch to Get Rid of Book Smells
One of the best remedies for eliminating mildew odors from books is cornstarch. This natural odor remover is gentle and safe on delicate book pages. You probably have a canister in your kitchen right now.
Spread a parchment paper sheet on a flat surface and stand your book in the middle. Open the book partway to expose the pages and sprinkle cornstarch while fanning the pages. Let it sit overnight in a dry area with air ventilation, and shake out the excess powder the following morning.
Getting Rid of Book Mold With White Vinegar
White vinegar is a good option for quickly getting a musty smell out of books. While we don’t recommend using it on rare or expensive books, it works wonders for killing odor-causing bacteria on your everyday reading materials.
Pour the distilled water and white vinegar into a spray bottle and shake it well. Set your affected book on a towel and spray it on the lightest mist setting while fanning the pages. Apply just enough solution without getting the book wet and causing water damage.
If there is mold on the book jacket, apply the vinegar solution or some denatured alcohol to a cotton ball and use it to clean the surface. Pat dry with paper towels and hang the book in a safe area to air dry.
Vinegar will also work to get the mildew smell off clothing and carpeting in your house. Consider keeping this spray solution on hand to combat any musty smells.
Ways to Prevent Books From Getting Musty
Yellowing pages are evidence that books age with time. Yet, there are ways to slow the aging process, protect your books from musty smells, and keep your library in mint condition.
Storage is key for preventing mildew on books. Always keep your reading material in a cool, dry area with a moderate light source. Controlled sunlight is a book’s friend, as long as it’s indirect light.
Try to keep the library’s temperature around 70°F and consider a dehumidifier if you live in a warm, humid area and when the house smells like mildew after rain. Control the indoor temperature with an air conditioner or fan, and open windows on dry days to allow air circulation.
Keep your books on mold-resistant bookshelves, and dust the books and shelves often. Avoid storing books in boxes in the basement or garage, breeding grounds for mold.
Use a homemade odor remover or commercial product, like Gonzo Odor Eliminator, to clean books as soon as you notice a musty odor. If you must store books in a container, place crumpled newspaper and silica gel packs in the box to prevent moisture.
There’s nothing more distracting than reading a good novel while trying to ignore the musty scent of mildew or cigarette smoke as it wafts up from the pages. Fortunately, there are simple remedies to this smelly problem. With a bit of patience, you’ll be lost in your favorite book once again.
We hope that learning how to get the musty smell out of books keeps your personal library mildew-free, and we’d love it if you’d share our musty book smell removing tips with the book lovers in your life on Pinterest and Facebook.