You probably haven’t given book cleaning a whole lot of thought in the past. You may lightly dust your books as you clean your house or observe your maid service wiping them down with a rag. Is that enough? Do your they really require more cleaning that a light dusting or wiping? The answer may surprise you. Your library of books requires a good cleaning at least once a year. Keeping them well cleaned will greatly extend their lifespan and also keep your house dust and mildew free.
If your home library consists of old or rare books, you may wonder if it is safe to clean them without causing further damage. There are several methods to clean books. The more effective the cleaning method, the harsher it may be. You will have to weigh the need for cleaning against the condition and value of the book to determine the cleaning method and how much cleaning you will do.
Tools for Cleaning Books
You will need some general tools for the book cleaning process. Gather up all of your items before beginning the task. If you choose to assign your maid service with book cleaning, ensure they have the correct tools and knowledge as well.
- Soft cloth or magnetic dusting cloth
- Vacuum with dusting brush attachment
- Petroleum Jelly (for leather ones)
- Corn Starch (for mildew)
- Glass Cleaning Solution (for glossy ones)
- Absorene dirt eraser (for cloth ones)
- New soft bristled tooth brush
- White vinyl eraser (optional)
Clean the outside of your book
Even the delicate older books can withstand a wipe down. Wipe the outside of each book with a dry soft cloth. If the book is leather bound, you can choose to rub a dab of petroleum jelly over the cover before wiping with the cloth. The leather will come out looking brand new. On a glossy cover, you can use a glass cleaning solution, but make sure to spray the cleaner on a cloth first instead of directly on the cover. For a cloth binding, use Absorene dirt eraser (a Play-Doh-like substance found in art supply stores). Roll it over a surface to pick up dust or rub it like an eraser.
If your book is spiral bound, you can bet there will be dust stuck in the binding. You can use the vacuum attachment or a clean soft bristle toothbrush to clean between the spirals.
Clean the inside of your book
To clean the edges of an old book, use a dry dusting cloth. You can also choose to use your vacuum cleaner’s dusting brush attachment as long as you are careful and gentle. Turn the book with the pages facing down and vacuum from the bottom so that dust does not fall into the pages.
If pages in your book have marks or stains, you can use a white vinyl eraser to remove them. Move from inside to outside with each stroke to avoid rips. This method only works for dry stains. If there is a wet stain, let it dry first. Never try to remove a wet liquid stain.
Sometimes if your books are stored in a damp or humid location, you might notice some mildew on the pages. Sprinkle some cornstarch on the mildew and let it sit for a day before dusting it off.
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After cleaning your books, you need to store them as carefully as possible to preserve them. The easiest way to keep dust and dirt from reaching your books is to store them on a book shelf with the spines facing out. This will provide protection from the environment. If your books are damp, allow them to completely dry before storing. If the outer cover is even slightly moist, the books could stick together and cause damage the next time you try to peel them apart. Each time you or your maid service dusts, give a light dusting to the bookcase and book spines. There is no need to remove every book for cleaning more than once or twice a year. If you do remove a book to read, ensure that it is put back after a thorough dusting or cleaning. If you follow these recommendations, your books are sure to last a long time and provide many more hours of reading enjoyment.
All done? Drop The Duster — Grab a Book It’s Book Lovers Day!
Such an intriguing article, as an avid book collector and lover I have a ton of valuable books. For a while, I have been wondering how to properly clean these rare books, but have been unsuccessful in finding a good guide until I came upon this article!