General Question

jca's avatar

How do you get the musty "old book smell" out of old books?

Asked by jca (35989points) July 5th, 2010

you know that unmistakable old book smell? how do i get it out of some old books that were in someone’s storage?

Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

28 Answers

Response moderated (Unhelpful)
Response moderated (Unhelpful)
laureth's avatar

If it got too bad, I’ve been known to put dryer softener sheets between some of the pages. However, that doesn’t get all of it out – just masks it a bit.

Response moderated (Unhelpful)
Kraigmo's avatar

You know what that smell is? Ergot-like fungus breeding in the old book, if its not just dust. Breathe enough of it and you’ll see ghosts and spirits.

Microwaving the books helps, but could cause further brittling of the paper. Putting the book out in the sun will help too, but that only kills the fungus that’s near the outside of the book.

h3llolim3's avatar

Easy, you know those perfume samples that come in magazines, where they just spray the paper? Take your favorite and put it in random pages in the book. It makes your books smell good ^^

jca's avatar

i wonder if putting them outside will help.

wilma's avatar

You can put the book in a box with some unscented cat litter. That will draw out moisture if there is any in the book. Placing the book in the sun will kill mildew and mold spores.
When you are sure that the book is clean and dry, then try to be happy with what you have, an old book that looks and smells like what it is.

Chrissi85's avatar

baking powder absorbs smells, dust it on, leave it open overnight, and shake it out. Works with pretty much everything.

MissAusten's avatar

I was going to suggest baking powder too. I haven’t tried this, but I read somewhere that dusting the book and pages with baking powder and then sealing it in a Ziplock bag for a couple of days will remove the odor.

Chrissi85's avatar

Yep, it works =)

Jeruba's avatar

And then what does it take to get the baking powder out? You can’t shake a fragile old book or handle it roughly, especially if the binding is weak and the pages are brittle.

Response moderated (Unhelpful)
Response moderated (Unhelpful)
Chrissi85's avatar

It’s powder so you just gently shake it or leave it in the breeze. I also love the smell of old books but some people don’t so I have used this a few times in second hand book shops. We held the book upside down and gently ruffled the pages, then used tissue to wipe anything that didn’t just fall out.

Jeruba's avatar

I like the smell, too—love it, in fact—but it would be good to halt or slow the destruction of the book. What’s the best way to do that? It’s not just about the smell. Is sunlight the only answer?

dpworkin's avatar

@Jeruba Controlled temp and humidity, low light exposure.

perspicacious's avatar

I once read to put books in the freezer. I’ve never done it though.

dpworkin's avatar

I used to be the custodian of the Rare Book Collection at MOMA in NYC. No refrigerator. 72 f.

jca's avatar

i used to work at the county archives and i know the only way to halt the aging is to put them in a temperature and humidity controlled environment (like an archives). i don’t have that available, so i’ll just be content to get the smell somewhat out. these are children’s books from the 60’s so i don’t want the smell when i read them to baby.

Response moderated (Unhelpful)
ChocolateReigns's avatar

We store a lot of stuff in our basement, and when it gets too bad, we put the book in front of our ozone machine. I don’t know how much one would be to buy.

Response moderated (Unhelpful)
MissAusten's avatar

@Jeruba If shaking the baking soda out of the book would be too rough, you could always use a soft brush to gently dust the powder off the pages. Time consuming, but if the book is worth the trouble it will get rid of the odor without doing any damage.

Response moderated (Unhelpful)
UScitizen's avatar

Submerse the book in oil dry. Or, submerse the book in a cheap non-scented kitty litter. Really cover it, on all sides. Seal it in a bucket with a tight lid. Pull it out six (or so) weeks later, presto, no smell. I’ve done this 50 times. It works.

kruger_d's avatar

Baking soda would be pretty abrasive/caustic if it is a valuable book. Just put an open container of soda in the bag with the books. Some descicant would be a good idea, too.

Chrissi85's avatar

yeah baking soda absorbs smells without actually being in contact with the thing, I guess if you sealed the book in something with the open box it would work. Never actually thought of that, even though I do it with my fridge!

Answer this question

Login

or

Join

to answer.

This question is in the General Section. Responses must be helpful and on-topic.

Your answer will be saved while you login or join.

Have a question? Ask Fluther!

What do you know more about?
or
Knowledge Networking @ Fluther