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I have a lot of hard cover books and a few soft covered books in good condition but extremely dusty. They have been in a bookcase (exposed) for years. I want to donate them to a local library. What is the best (and cheapest) way to clean them?
Janet C from New York City
My husband collects a lot of used books, I always vacuum them with a smaller nozzle as much as possible to remove dust and to ensure against any hiding bugs. Then wiping them with a clean damp cloth usually does the trick.
You could use a pair of old pantyhose to wipe off the dust. I've tried it and it really does work!
To get a musty odor out, place 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, I hope this helps, it is worth a try.
I had good experience with 3m vacuum cleaner 497 ajk, I purchased from www.library-dust.com
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By kay from Nashville, TN
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I am looking for some advice (help) with cleaning books. These books have been in storage for 5 years and have had mice crawling all over them. There is mouse droppings and urine on them, some are old books and some are newer books. I am afraid that the older books will fall apart when I clean them.
Brian from NC
Mice can carry very dangerous hanta virus. I'm not sure you can clean books so they are safe to handle. (04/07/2005)
By Linda L.
I would discount the Hanta virus warning as this is a very rare disease. You probably have a much higher statistical risk of choking on a piece of meat but you wouldn't stop eating meat because choking is a possibility. It was identified in 1993 - but believed to have been around much longer. By November 2003 there had been 353 cases identified in the US, and by September 2004 379 cases, (including 32 cases identified retrospectively from pre 1993) - so hardly a major epidemic considering the hundreds of thousands, possibly millions, of people that are exposed to mouse urine and droppings each day.
If you are still worried, air them in the sun and wear gloves and a mask to clean them outside. There are other viral diseases such as Weils disease that can be carried in rodent urine. Bleach solution will kill viruses. I would guess there is no way to remove urine stains from pages but covers and the page edges can be cleaned by wiping with a barely damp cloth, perhaps adding bleach to the water, but not getting them wet or spotted with water. Enclosing in a plastic bag with charcoal or screwed up newspaper may help remove the musty smell.
If the books are old and valuable, I would contact your local museum for conservation and cleaning advice before attempting any DIY solutions. Regards. (04/08/2005)
By Jo Bodey
I acquired some books that had been stored in a garage and have a gasoline smell. Is there any way I can get rid of this odor?
Editor's Note: We added this as a new request:
By Gerry Mason.
To get rid of gasoline odor aeration and limited time of exposure to sunshine can be useful. In some literature ozone generators are recommended. I do not recommend this because ozone is a highly reactive gas and can damage your books and yourself. Vacuuming also can help. You need special HEPA vacuum cleaner with controlled air debit for not damaging books and protecting yourself from book dust. (09/18/2005)
By Hass Bolourchi, Ph D, Library Dust Consulting