How to Get Rid of a Musty Smell in Books

Storing Your Books to Prevent Odors and Removing Musty Smells

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Have your beloved old books developed a musty smell? Prevention is key to making sure that books don't develop a bad odor. If you store your books in a cool, dry location, there's a much better chance that you'll avoid much of the bad odor that old books can develop. Despite your best efforts, though, you may find mold or mildew on your books. Unfortunately, this may make them smell musty. Below, you'll find some tips on how to get rid of the bad odor from your books.

Consider Where You Are Storing Your Books

If you are storing books in a basement, garage, attic or storage unit, you'll want to address the storage issue before trying to remove the odor, mildew, and mold from your books. If you get rid of the bad smell and then put them right back in a damp storage location, you'll see the problem come right back. Too much moisture causes mildew and mold and too much heat can cause the pages to dry out and crumble -- move your books to a cool, dry location.

Protect Them with Dust Jackets

Dust jackets protect the book covers, helping to keep the moisture away from the book. But a dust jacket is not a miracle cure. Even if you use dust jackets, be aware of where you are storing your books, and avoid moist, hot areas, which can increase the likelihood that they'll develop bad-smelling mold or mildew.

Avoid Prolonged Direct Contact with Newspaper

Some experts used to recommend that you wrap your books with newspapers, or even place sheets of newspaper between the pages of your book. However, prolonged contact with newspapers can cause damage to your books because of acidity in the newspapers. If you do use a newspaper to get rid of the bad odor, be sure that the newspaper does not come into direct contact with your books.

Avoid Bleach or Cleansers

Bleach (or cleansers) can be destructive to the pages of your books. If the mildew and/or mold is such that you must remove it, use a dry, soft cloth to remove the worst of it.

De-Stinkify Your Book

In some cases, despite your best efforts, your book will still smell musty, mildewed or just old. Thankfully, there's an easy solution. You will need two plastic containers--one that will fit inside the other one. Pour some kitty litter in the bottom of the larger container. Place your book into the smaller container (without the lid), then put the small plastic container into the larger container with the kitty litter. Place the lid on the larger plastic container. You can leave the book in this book "de-stinkifier" for a month, which will remove the odor (and any moisture) from the book. You can also use baking soda or charcoal in your book de-stinkifier.

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Your Citation
Lombardi, Esther. "How to Get Rid of a Musty Smell in Books." ThoughtCo, Aug. 28, 2020, Lombardi, Esther. (2020, August 28). How to Get Rid of a Musty Smell in Books. Retrieved from Lombardi, Esther. "How to Get Rid of a Musty Smell in Books." ThoughtCo. (accessed March 28, 2023).