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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
I worked in a public library in 6 years and was taught that musty books had to be disposed of because the presence of the musty odour indicated mould. The smell spreads to other books in the collection. Also, many of the books donated by families were not particularly useful or valuable. I have sorted through hundreds of boxes full of National Geographics and Reader's Digest Condensed books, old westerns and Harlequin romances that people donate. It is a kind gesture, but treasures such as these are not needed or USED. Library patrons don't tend to check out books that are old looking (no dust jacket, yellow pages etc.) unfortunately. Libraries get budgets to buy new books, award winning books or to replace classic titles with newer, more attractive editions. Those donations are often put on the "for sale" table or sent to the local thrift store.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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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?
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:
How do I remove the musty smell from books?
By Booklover from Galesburg, IL
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.
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I have very old books that are musty smelling. Help!
By Marsha from McMinnville
Spray with lysol and air in the sun. (10/05/2010)
How can I remove the moldy smell from an old book?
By ecline from Raleigh, NC
It's simple. Spray them with Lysol and set them in the sun for a few hours. (06/29/2010)
How do you clean a musty smell from a book?
By Donna from Quincy, MA
Old books often have a musty smell to them. If you want to remove the smell then have a go at the following.
You can remove odours with things such as baking soda, cat litter, or charcoal. In order to remove the odor from books you will have to create a air tight container large enough to have the book(s) in and the odor absorbing material in.
The musty smell is generally caused by dampness, which in turn causes mould. If the books are damp then you need to dry them out. Place them upright on a table and fan the pages out. Place a fan to blow onto the pages to dry them out. Or just leave them in a dry room for a few days.
Then back to the container. It could be a large box or plastic container. Place the book(s) in there with a tray of baking soda, cat litter, or charcoal briquettes. Leave the books in there for a couple of days and the smell should have gone. Good luck. (04/12/2010)
This is a hint from "How Clean Is Your House" take some fabric softener sheets like Bounce, about 2 sheets. Put your books in a plastic trash bag add the dryer sheets and seal tight for several hours. When you take your books (about a half garbage bag full) out they shouldn't smell musky. You can also take used softener sheets only used once, cut them in half and place them inside about every 7th book on your shelf to keep musky smells out. (04/14/2010)
Due to being an asthmatic, I'm always looking for tips and this one really works. I purchased a great, but musty smelling book and using this suggestion, put dryer sheets every five pages, put it in a vacuum Ziploc bag and pumped out all air. Opened it up the next morning and it smelled fresh and no wheezing here. (04/18/2010)
How do I get a musty smell out of a used book I just bought?
By Flash Gordon from Petoskey, MI
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)
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)
Spray it with Lysol. (01/26/2010)
By Ann Parker
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)
How do I remove a musty smell from books? Also, how should they be stored to prevent this from happening again?
By B. J. Coats from Marshfield, MO
Read Archives at the bottom of this page. (08/31/2010)
How do you get rid of musty book smell?
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.