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How To Remove Mold From Books

How To Remove Mold From Books

Mold, also known as mildew, refers to in excess of 100,000 species of fungi. These fungi can grow virtually anywhere in your home, including your clothes, carpets, sofas, walls, and various other furnishings.

While most of these areas are easy to clean and treat, book mold is a much more complex problem. As with any other mold growth, book mold most commonly occurs when your books have gotten damp or humid.

What you once thought was an old book smell has now grown into an active growth that is not only affecting the quality and lifespan of your favorite books, but also yours and your family’s health.

With this in mind, we’re going to tell you how to prevent and remove mold from all your favorite books.

So, without further ado, let’s get started.

Removing mold from books in your home will not only ensure that your favorite reads stick with you for the foreseeable future, but also keep you and your loved ones safe from harm’s way.

Table of Contents

How To Preserve Books From Mold Before Packing Them Away

preserve books from mold

Mold grows in humid and dark places as well as those areas of your home that are not exposed to much airflow, for example, old boxes in your attic.

Therefore, one of the best ways to prevent book mold is to keep your books on your shelves in your home.

Keeping your books out in the open will help them get the right airflow. It will also ensure they are preserved at the right temperature.

We suggest you aim to maintain a temperature of approximately 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

Humidity is also one of the main causes of mold so if you live in a humid part of the world, buy a dehumidifier. Only use this if necessary as dry books can also suffer from various other forms of damage.

Last but not least, keep your bookshelves clean. Spores are attracted to dust and other forms of dirt. Keeping your books clean will deter these spores from feeding off your pages.

How To Remove Mold From Old Books

Older books are much more sensitive to mold and deterioration. This means that you have to treat them with more care than newer models.

Here are three steps you should take to remove mold from old books:

Inspect The Book

Before you do anything to remove the mold from the book in question, inspect it with a fine tooth comb.

Check whether the mold is only on the cover or whether it has spread to the pages. Also, check for any damage to the book as this will affect the method you use to remove the mold.

Dry Your Books

Before you start attempting to remove the mold from your old books, you have to make sure that they are dry. Attempting to remove book mold on a wet book could destroy it altogether.

Brush Away The Mildew From The Cover

When removing mold from an old book, always start with the cover. Using a soft cloth or fine brush, gently push away the mold.

The key to getting rid of the book mold without damaging your old book is to take your time and make every movement as gently as possible.

Treat The Book

There are various ways you can remove mold from old books. Freezer treatment could be your best option as you’ll have fewer chances of damaging the pages.

This do-it-yourself method only requires you put the book in the freezer overnight. That being said, if your freezer backfires for any reason, the melted ice could ruin your book beyond repair.

If the book is valuable but in poor condition and subject to mold growth, we suggest you take your book to a professional.

They can either get rid of the mold for you or rebind the book to ensure it lasts for the foreseeable future.

Eliminating The Odor Of Mildew From Books

Air the Papers of the book

One of the easiest ways to remove the odor of mildew from your books is by exposing them to direct sunlight.

Be careful with this method as it could warp your book cover, especially if the book was wet in the first place and if it is an old model.

If this method fails, start by airing out your book and gently separating the pages with a pair of tweezers. Then, use a hairdryer on low to medium heat to dry the pages.

Lastly, place your books in a warm and dry spot in your home.

You could also place your books in a container with a piece of material that can absorb smell and moisture, for example, a sock filled with rice.

You could also place the books in newspaper covered in a very thin layer of talcum powder.

How To Safely Remove Mold From Books Without Damaging Pages & Cover

remove mold from a book

While many use alcohol wipes and bleach to clean mold from glossy paged books such as magazines, these substances can damage your books.

In fact, book conservation experts say that any wax, perfumes, or chemical liquids can damage your books.

Bleach also damages the paper on books. It remains in the paper and will continue to have an effect even after it dries.

This could make the writing on the pages fade over time, thus rendering your book completely useless.

In addition to the above, many suggest microwaving your book to remove the mold. While this method may kill the mold, it could also damage your book beyond repair.

Not only this, the aim of the game is to remove the mold not kill it as even if the spores are dead, they could still be toxic.

How To Remove Mold From Leather Bound Books Vs Paper Bound Books

moldy old books

While many suggest you use a soft cloth with alcohol on it, we recommend you opt for a HEPA filter vacuum hose attachment with a thin cloth on the end.

This will help remove mold growth rather than killing it. It will also prevent damage to both the pages and the ink.

On the other hand, if you have a leather bound book you could use a damp cloth as leather is tanned and therefore does not putrefy when it gets wet.

That being said if you use chemical-based liquids such as alcohol or even too much water, the leather may blacken.

Whichever method you choose to use, always test it on a small and less important part of the book in order to ensure that it works before undertaking the process on the entirety of the book.

Precautions To Take When Removing Mold from Books

removing mold with a precaution

Mold spores can be inhaled and are very harmful to the human body. By not removing mold from your books you and your loved ones could suffer from respiratory problems, infections, and even skin and eye irritation.

While these risks will depend on your overall health, it is important that you take precaution when removing mold from books. Here are some tips:

Wear A Respirator

Because mold spores can cause damage to the human body through inhalation, it is important that you cover your mouth and nose when removing mold from books.

We suggest you opt for a respirator that can be disposed of so that no mold residue stays in your home.

Use Disposable Gloves

You can also suffer from some of the negative effects of mold if the mold itself enters cracks in your skin. As a result, cover your hands with disposable gloves and make sure to wear the correct footwear. We suggest you avoid sandals, for example.

Protect Your Eyes

While spores can enter through your eyes if there is a lot of mold, you may also accidentally touch your eyes while you are cleaning your books.

Wear goggles to protect your eyes while you remove mold from books. This also leads us to our next point:

Wash Your Hands Regularly

If you’re removing book mold, make sure you wash your hands regularly.

This is especially true if you stop undertaking this task and go on to prepare food, wash laundry, or undertake virtually any chore around your house.

The residue could end up in your meals or on you and your loved ones.

Wash Your Clothes In Hot Water

Last but not least, when you finish removing mold from your books, take off your clothes straight away and put them to soak with either bleach or strong detergent.

Once your clothes are soaking, jump in the shower and make sure to also wash your hair in order to remove any residue whatsoever.


Mold can cause a variety of health issues that can lead to more serious life-changing and threatening conditions.

It’s crucial that you undertake the job with the utmost care while also ensuring that you remove all the book mold from your shelves so that it doesn’t come back.

Harvard Library