Best Tips on How to Clean Second Hand Books

Best Tips on How to Clean Second Hand Books

Best Tips on How to Clean Second Hand Books

When we take on new acquisitions, one of our first concerns is typically, "Does it need cleaning?" Yes, is the most common response. Then we must determine how much cleaning is necessary and select the most effective and safe procedure. Dirt has a different meaning for everyone of us. Dirt is defined as anything that doesn't belong on a book; it's foreign matter. Beauty is obscured by dirt. Dirt isn't always an inactive substance. Dirt and its constituents are abrasive as well as ugly.

Cleaning second hand books and their deteriorating paper can be a challenge. Cleaning books and ephemera can be done in a variety of methods, but the more effective the cleaner, the more abrasive it might be, and the greater the risk of damage. Always test, especially when colours or fabrics are involved, the requirement for cleaning against the second hand book's stability and what it's constructed of.

We're not attempting to remove the patina of age, the well-handled quality of a much-loved second hand book that has passed through many hands, any more than we're out to change the appearance of a magnificent piece of antique furniture; we want to maintain, not update it. The purpose of cleaning old books should not be to erase all traces of their history, but to ensure their survival.

Surface dirt may always be safely removed if it is removed using the least abrasive method feasible, according to a good rule of thumb. It should also be removed. Dirt can cause or promote potentially irreversible deterioration of paper and other book parts, depending on its composition.


Dust is one of the most destructive elements to second hand books. Because of the dangerous acidic ingredients, it will gradually cause damage to paper and covers as it accumulates. A decent duster, soft paintbrush, or gentle vacuuming should be used to dust a second hand book once a week. While you're dusting, look over the book for any issues, like as mildew, that need to be addressed right away. A book should be cleaned as soon as possible if it has been damaged by excessive water or smoke.


When it comes to how to clean old used books, dirt is the low-hanging fruit. You'll need a soft paintbrush or an unused soft toothbrush for this phase, as well as a mild vacuum. Consider covering the vacuum hose with a clean cloth to weaken it. As long as the cloth isn't perfumed, it can partially replace the brush. Long bristles, on the other hand, will come in handy when cleaning dirt from between pages.

Turn the book over to the spine. Remove the dust jacket if it has one. Using the vacuum, remove any dust that has accumulated on the binding or cover. After that, brush the dirt off the pages and in between them.

For removing caked dirt from a book, document cleaning pads are a wonderful solution. Squeeze them gently over the affected area to release some powder. After that, scrub with care.


Place a few pages of the musty second hand book in a resealable plastic bag and sprinkle a little baking soda on them. Shake some more baking powder into the bag, spreading it around with your hand on both the front and back covers. Remove the book and shake out all of the baking soda after letting the bag sit for a week or two.

If necessary, use a small brush to help you remove it from nooks and/or the cover. Now take a whiff of the book. Hurray if the musty odor has vanished! If that doesn't work, repeat the process. You can multiply your efforts by doing this on multiple old books at once and putting them all in a larger plastic bag.


Marks made with a pencil

Erasing pencil marks with a decent eraser that doesn't smudge the marks or discolour the paper is usually simple. Pink Carnation erasers are some of the best erasers I'm aware of. All of them will usually remove all pencil, pastel, and charcoal marks completely.

Using the built-in eraser on pencils is never a good idea because they may be blackened from past use or dried out to the point of becoming hard. The eraser tends to rearrange pencil marks in both circumstances, but rarely entirely removes them. Pink wedge erasers that fit over the end of pencils smear the marks and stain the paper as well.

Scrubbing the eraser back and forth over the marks might cause the paper to wrinkle or tear. While holding the paper in place, just move the eraser in one way.


It's nearly impossible to get ballpoint pen ink out. If you Google "removing ink from paper," you'll get some "you've got to be kidding me!" solutions like soaking the paper in nail polish remover or soaking it in bleach. Let's avoid using dangerous or harmful chemicals, and remember that we only want to remove the markings, not the entire print on the paper!

The final line is that attempting to remove pen markings from your old second hand books is unlikely to be successful. Markings on unprinted regions may be removed with ink eradicator or nail polish remover, but if the markings extend over printed areas, you're out of luck.

If the markings are offensive and render the book useless, try to locate another copy of the book and photocopy the required page. Then take out the indicated page and replace it with a new one. If the paper is printed on both sides, this operation can be problematic.


Crayon marks can be unattractive and distracting, but they're rarely so offensive that you feel compelled to erase them because they're virtually always produced by small children who haven't yet developed a proclivity for sketching obscene images.

Even so, it's essential to carefully scrape off as much leftover crayon as possible with a knife. Then, on both sides of the marked sheet, place a paper towel and reheat it with an iron to pull out some of the wax and prevent it from spreading to other pages.

If you have crayon marks all over your library, Crayola® offers some great solutions for eliminating them.

Chewing Gum and Other Harmful Substances

Over the years, there is a variety of unique — even bizarre — bookmarks that are left behind when the used second hand book was returned. We even hear of folks have discovered bacon strips in their books. However, that seems like such a waste of bacon to most of us that we seriously doubt such assertions.

However, bad things do get inside books, therefore here are some tips for dealing with things that leave a residue in books:

  • Chewing gum and other bulky items can typically be removed by freezing them and then gently scraping them away.
  • With a paper towel and a warm iron, residual oil and grease can be cleaned to some extent.
  • A kneaded rubber eraser or Absorene® Paper and Book Cleaner can often help remove stains. Knead a tiny amount of Absorene in your hand until it is soft, then rub it softly over the stained area in one direction. Knead it again as it picks up the stain or dirt to refresh it. Brush away any crumbs that have remained.



Mold and Mildew

Mildew causes the recognized and treasured "old book scent," which is bad for your books. If your library of old books smells like a library of new books, you've done a good job cleaning it. If not, it's time to eliminate certain microbes.

Put on your dust mask. Both mold and mildew are harmful to your health. If mildew is visible, wipe it away with a clean cloth or brush. If that isn't an option, lightly dampen a clean cloth with denatured alcohol and use it to clean the covers, making care to dry them well afterwards. Before applying, it's also a good idea to spot-test.

Place a sheet of wax paper under the contaminated page before treating it to treat mildewed or moldy pages. Mold and mildew are both alive and contagious, so keep that in mind. Brush the infection away only after securing the rest of the book and gently swabbing moldy parts with denatured alcohol or hydrogen peroxide.

Place the used book in a sealed container with baking soda or activated charcoal for a few hours after you've removed the mold. (Avoid getting these substances on the book.) That should get rid of the final vestiges of the musty odor. Keeping your library clean is an excellent method to avoid mold and mildew problems.


It's the term itself. It has a groove and a vibe to it, but it won't stick in your second hand novel. Between oily pages, place a paper towel. Place a weight on top of the book and close it. Within hours or days, the grease will be absorbed by the paper towel. As needed, repeat the process.


Any filthy substance that you can feel when you run your finger over it is referred to as grime. Food residue is one of the greatest offenders in this area, but it is far from the only one. Fortunately, putting the page in the freezer will make it easier to remove the gunk with a razor. Allow the book to sit in the freezer for a few hours.


Using document cleaning pads as a first step in stain removal is also a good idea. The second type is vulcanized rubber dirt erasers, often known as dry cleaning sponges. Rub a little piece of sponge over the stain to be removed, discarding the sponge when it no longer works.

Absorbene is the best companion of a bookworm who loves second hand books. It's a pink putty that picks up a surprising amount of dirt and stains when applied to a page. Finally, if everything else fails, use Brodex Multipurpose Cleaner, which is citrus-based.


First and foremost, don't be alarmed if your book is damp. You shouldn't try to wipe the pages because you can smear or tear them. Before removing the mold, dirt, or stains, make sure the book is completely dry.

If you need to make any preparations for the cleaning of your wet book, place it in a sealed bag and freeze it first. While you become organized, this should prevent or reduce mold growth. Allow the book to thaw before you begin working on it when you're ready.

Place a fan in a different part of the room. Airflow will speed up the drying process for your troubled paper companion, but uneven drying can cause the book to deform. The book should not be exposed to direct air.

You'll need to put something absorbent between each page if your book is dripping wet. Because paper towels are thin and easy to work with, they're great; you may need to replace them every ten or fifteen minutes at first. Sprinkle corn starch between the pages and store the book in an airtight container after it is no longer wet. Allow it to sit for an hour or two before removing it and brushing the corn starch away. Continue until the book is completely dry.


When it comes to cleaning textile covers, art gum is the greatest option. Absorbene, as well as the document cleaning pads described above, can be used. Some sources recommend using a clean cloth with a small amount of fabric softener, but avoid exposing your book to chemicals you're not sure about. If you absolutely must get the cloth wet, use very little water and thoroughly dry the book afterwards.


Leather is a bit of a gamble. Different leathers react to the same cleansers in different ways, so spot-check like your book's life depends on it. However, saddle soap can be a suitable alternative, and some archivists prefer petroleum-based cleaning. Whenever possible, use as little as possible. Suede should only be cleaned with a dry towel.

You'll need a telephone if you think you have a vellum book on your hands. Simply get in touch with a professional. Vellum isn't leather, and it doesn't behave in the same way that leather does. It despises humidity, light, and most cleaning chemicals, so don't expect it to collaborate with you.

Old leather can also suffer from red rot, a degenerative condition. When your venerable leather binding crumbles between your fingertips, you'll know it's what you're dealing with. A rotting leather cover can be saved with cellugel.


On paper covers, never use Windex! This is something that will be suggested to you. You're not supposed to do it, I'm telling you. It's not a good idea to go through with it. Return to the document cleaning pad, our old buddy. Paper and matte covers should be treated in the same way that pages should be. Absorbene is a supplement that can also be beneficial.


A toothbrush can be used to clean delicate page edges after vacuuming. (Don't forget to cover that vacuum tube with a cloth to reduce suction!)

Using a toothbrush that has previously been in your mouth on a book is obviously not a good idea. A used toothbrush isn't only full of germs; if it's tough enough to clean your teeth, it's probably too abrasive for delicate paper. Use the softest brush you can find. Makeup brushes might also be useful in this situation.


You can freeze bugs to death if you have a chest freezer. Because some pests, such as bedbugs, are exceedingly hardy, this process could take weeks. However, because you don't know how the book will react to being insect bombed, it might be better than applying pesticide.

If the bugs must be bombed, however, attempt to figure out how the book will react before exposing the entire volume to hazardous smoke. If everything appears to be in order, place the book upright in a tight container with the pages fanned out. Then detonate a bug-bomb in that sealed space. After that, let the book air out for a while before cleaning it properly to eliminate any dead insects or bug eggs. Mix one part bleach with five parts water to sanitize, then spot check before wiping away filth. Use as little as possible, as always.

Bed bugs and their nits can also be physically removed. Tweezers, a magnifying glass, and a lot of patience are required. However, fogging your fragile book with unknown harmful chemicals is definitely preferable.


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