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 Brianna Southworth from Dutch Harbor, AK

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Gold Post Medal for All Time! 519 Posts
October 18, 20100 found this helpful

When I find an old book that is musty. I put it out in the sun & where possible, spray it with spray disinfectant (usually has a scent) & fan the pages & put it out to dry. This perhaps wouldn't be good for an extremely valuable book, but it does make run-of-the-mill musty old books readable! Remember the UV rays of the sun are a great sanitizer!

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Gold Post Medal for All Time! 846 Posts
October 18, 20100 found this helpful

Excellent idea and advice for getting rid of the odor in books! But (I am not trying to be mean here) people who donate those books to a library should not have to worry about removing the musty odor before donating! Those same people who donate the books pay taxes that pay for the library facility and the library employee salaries and those books are gifts and many books that are donated are given because a loved one may have become disabled or has passed away and the last thing on their minds is a musty smell.


It's better a musty book be donated for future readers pleasure than it be donated to the trash. And with those things in mind, I can put up with smelling a musty book. ;-)

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November 15, 20160 found this helpful

Have you ever been to a library? We are not a storage facility! We have limited space available and do not have room for old smelly books. The staff is paid to make the reading (and other) material accessible to the user, you- who pay the taxes- to be able to have useable items for loan. Give a library an old smelly book and they go right into recycle, not on the library shelves. If the book means that much to you and your family, then please by all means pass it down to a family member. Yes we are paid, very little and very little time to do the things that need to be done to keep a library up and running.

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May 30, 20110 found this helpful

I agree about donating the books. Some books passed down from one generation to the next are usually stored in a box because the owner just can't be the one to throw them out. Then down the line when time passes more and they are musty they are forced to make a decision. Books that belonged to dad or grand grandpa? Throw them out? Be the One to do this? well, I know I wouldn't be able to so yes.


I would donate them hoping that a book dealer would buy them from the thrift store and deal with getting the musty smell out of them (they know how) before passing them along to someone who would appreciate them. As for library? Here where I live the library does not take donations of books but those that do, should be prepared to deal with the musty smell and the history, the oldness of some donated books. Part of the job as it is said, there is always part of anyone's job that isn't liked.

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August 25, 20111 found this helpful

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.

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April 24, 20210 found this helpful

I am allergic to musty smells. If the library ends up smelling musty, I can't go there. I totally understand why a library can't take or dispose of musty-smelling books.


Better to donate books before they get musty, if you can.

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