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Removing Musty Smell from Books

Old Stained Book Laying Open

Books that have been stored or shelved for a long time can sometimes start to smell musty, especially if they have been in a slightly damp environment. This is a guide about removing the musty smell from books.


Solutions: Removing Musty Smell from Books

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Tip: Removing Musty Smell From Books

I have tried many different methods for trying to remove the smell from musty books, and this is the best I've found.

Take the book and place a sheet of newspaper between the pages (need not be every single page, don't worry!), then seal in a tape box surrounded by more newspaper which you've crumpled into balls for three days. The newspapers absorbs the odor, and is better than using cat litter because the litter gets caught in the pages and spines of the books.

By AlaskanAurora from Dutch Harbor, AK

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Tip: Getting Musty Smell out of Books

What I did was take the book and spread it out, blowing it with the blow dryer. I flipped the pages back and forth to get them all. Then, I sprayed the outer cover (it is vinyl) with some Febreeze fabric spray and then wiped it off. Then, I put it on a table in the sun. A few hours later - the musty is almost completely gone!

    By Nacey [1]

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    Tip: Keeping Books From Becoming Musty

    To keep books from becoming musty, pull them out, away from the back of the shelf. Line up the spines along the front edge of the bookshelf. They'll look better, and the air will circulate behind them, so they'll smell fresher. Remember to dust behind them! And remember to READ them, too, so they'll bring you lots of pleasure.

    By zballoongirl

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    Tip: Microwave Smelly Books

    Put the book into a microwave oven along with a cup of water. Microwave for few seconds. Fan the book. Repeat until the book is very warm. This will remove a lot of moisture and smell.

      By mitchell1233 [1]

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      Tip: Talcum Powder for Musty Books

      If you have musty books, sprinkle talcum powder between pages, wrap the book in brown paper and store for several days. Remove and brush out powder.


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      Tip: Removing Mildew From Paper and Books

      In damp summer weather, keep papers and books as dry as possible to help control mold growth. If you have an enclosed bookcase, keep a small electric light lit continuously in the bookcase or use a chemical dehumidifier, keeping the doors closed as tightly as possible.

      Remove any dry,loose mold from paper with a clean, soft cloth. If mildewed paper is damp, dry it first--in an airy place, if possible.

      To dry wallpaper, heat the room for several hours or even days to dry the plaster as well as the paper. Plaster should be dried slowly to prevent cracking.

      If mildewed paper is washable, wipe it gently with a cloth wrung out of thick soapsuds, then with clear water. Take care not to wet the paper more than necessary. Do not scrub it. Finally pat with a soft, dry cloth. If stains remain, bleach with a solution of a household bleach, then sponge with a cloth wrung out of clear water. For small stains, a commercial ink eradicator may be useful.

      Spread pages of books out fanwise to air. If the books are very damp, sprinkle cornstarch or talcum powder between the leaves to take up the moisture. Leave starch or powder on for several hours then brush off.

      This article was written by Anne Field, Extension Specialist, Emeritus, with reference from the USDA bulletin, Mildew.

      Source: MSU Extension

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      Tip: Air Out Old Books

      To get a musty odor out of old books, place the books outdoors in the sun and frequently fan out the pages so that the air can reach them. Brush off any mildew or mold. If the pages are damp, sprinkle cornstarch between them and brush it off after a few hours.

      By joesgirl

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      Here are questions related to Removing Musty Smell from Books.

      Question: Musty Books

      How do I remove the musty smell from books?

      By Booklover from Galesburg, IL

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      Best Answer

      By Julia 147 1,074 05/10/2011

      I use Snuggle dryer sheets when storing books or for moving, so maybe a week or so in a plastic bag with fresh dryer sheets might work. I also use fresh bars of Tone Soap when packing anything including books.

      Good Luck


      ReplyWas this helpful? Yes No

      Question: Cleaning Smelly Books

      I have 4 big boxes of smelly books that were stored in a garage for 19 months. I can't do any labour intensive work as I am sick, can I just set them out on the floor to hopefully air out?

      By Catrina

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      Best Answer

      By Lewissan 40 230 09/10/2012

      The most common solution I have seen is to put newspaper between some of the pages, then wrap the book in newspaper and then put the books in a box full of more newspaper for few days. Some variations use charcoal as well. You read all the way down this page you can read lots of ideas about this subject:

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      Thrifty Fun has been around so long that many of our pages have been reset several times. Archives are older versions of the page and the comments that were provided then.

      Archive: Removing Musty Smell From Books

      Would anyone know how to take the musty smell out of books?

      Loretta from Windsor

      RE: Removing Musty Smell From Books

      Hi Loretta. To remove musty smell from a book, put a sheet or two of newspaper in between every few pages. Also wrap the book itself loosely in newspaper. Put it in a box for a few days. Change the newspaper a couple times every few days. Takes a little time, but it works.

      By Jayne

      RE: Removing Musty Smell From Books

      Caution regarding the newspaper tip. The newspaper print might possibly get on the pages of the books.

      Another good way to get rid of the smell is to put the offending book in a sealed plastic bag of dry cat litter (dollar stores usually have it).

      Depending on how "bad" the book is, it usually comes out good as new without some horrible chemical smell. Try a couple of days for medium smell, maybe as long as 3 weeks for a really bad smell. Lots of other ways, but this one is cheap.

      Hope this helps

      By Anna

      RE: Removing Musty Smell From Books

      In a large paper bag put a layer of Charcoal (not quick light) then, lay two sheets of typing paper, then the book, fold over top wait 5 days before opening.

      bottom of bag

      By AnaLisa Moyers, NMSU Library Tech


      Archive: Removing Musty Smell From Books

      I really love to read and enjoy buying old books but a lot of them smell really musty! What's the best way to get rid of the musty smell? Rebecca from Iowa

      Talcum Powder

      I've heard that sprinkling talcum powder between the pages before storing will prevent the musty odor. (08/10/2006)

      By Jess

      How do I eliminate or reduce a musty odor in a book?

      Our neighbors at the Northeast Document Conservation Center say this: There is no guaranteed way to remove the musty smell from old books, but there is a strategy that may be successful. This musty smell is most often noted in books that have been moldy or mildewed in the past. The first step is to create an enclosed chamber. This is most easily done by using two garbage cans, one large (with a lid) and one small. The object to be "deodorized" should be placed in the smaller can, which is then placed inside the larger can. Some type of odor-absorbing material should then be placed in the bottom of the larger can. Odor-absorbing materials to try include baking soda, charcoal briquettes (without lighter fluid), or kitty litter. The lid should then be placed on the larger can, and the chamber should be left for some time. You will need to monitor periodically to see how long the materials need to be left inside the chamber. (08/10/2006)

      By mef1957

      Baking Soda

      I just sprinkled baking soda in between several pages and set (opened) in the sun on our porch for a few days, smells just fine now. This is a book that sat in my mom's basement for 40 years! (08/11/2006)


      Weak Bleach

      Wipe down the outside and the outer edges of the paper with a very weak bleach solution and leave the books out in the sun for several days. bring them in at night when they might get dew and back out again in the daytime. the hotter and drier the better. (08/11/2006)

      By carla bledsoe

      Charcoal Briquets or Baking Soda

      Since I buy most of my books from secondhand stores, I know that smell well! I remove it by placing either charcoal briquets or baking soda into a small paper bag, or tied inside a coffee filter, putting both the book and the charcoal or soda into a ziplock bag, sealing the bag and putting the whole thing in the freezer for a couple of weeks. Since mildew is a plant, freezing kills it, while the charcoal or soda absorb any remaining odor. (08/12/2006)

      Citronella Oil

      I use a cotton ball with one drop of citronella essential oil and one drop of eucalyptus essential oil then I place the book and cotton ball in a zip bag and let set for a few days. Hope this helps, Tina (08/12/2006)

      By trbrown22

      Archive: Removing Musty Smell From Books

      What's the best way to get rid of the musty smell from books? There seem to be many interesting approaches in removing musty smells from books.


      Archive: Removing Musty Smell From Books

      How do you get rid of musty book smell?

      By skag from Vancouver

      RE: Removing Musty Smell From Books

      Sprinkle cornstarch or baking soda between the pages to get rid of the musty odor. (07/28/2009)

      By MCW

      Archive: Removing Musty Smell From Books

      How do I get a musty smell out of a used book I just bought?

      By Flash Gordon from Petoskey, MI

      RE: Removing Musty Smell From Books

      Seal it in a bag with some uncooked coffee, making sure the coffee does not touch the book. Leave it for a few days. (01/23/2010)

      By MarilynLV

      RE: Removing Musty Smell From Books

      Hi. Just put a dryer sheet (the ones you put into the dryer for conditioning clothes) inside and leave it overnight. This should do the trick. Or even place several inside the pages. (01/26/2010)

      By irisheyes

      RE: Removing Musty Smell From Books

      Spray it with Lysol. (01/26/2010)

      By Ann Parker

      RE: Removing Musty Smell From Books

      Try sprinkling between the pages with baking soda, seal it in a Ziploc, and leave it a day or two. Give it a test sniff. (01/26/2010)

      By Shosha

      Archive: Removing Musty Smell From Books

      How do you clean a musty smell from a book?


      Archive: Removing Musty Smell From Books

      How can I remove the moldy smell from an old book?

      By ecline from Raleigh, NC

      RE: Removing Musty Smell From Books

      It's simple. Spray them with Lysol and set them in the sun for a few hours. (06/29/2010)

      By Ann

      Archive: Removing Musty Smell From Books

      How do I remove a musty smell from books? Also, how should they be stored to prevent this from happening again?