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How to Remove Mold From Books

by Joslyn
mold on books

Books are an optimal place for mold growth as they can get damp easily, and then sit boxed for months at a time. Unfortunately though, because book pages are so thin and easily ruined, and because they can’t be put in the washing machine, it can be very difficult to get mold out of books.


Book Covers and Spines

If mold has grown on the spine of a book it may be much easier to salvage versus mold growth on the inside pages, etc. There are a few things you can do in this instance:

  • If the book is heavily molded,

1. Remove the book spine and outer covering so that only the pages remain. 2. Be sure to check and make sure there is no growth in the pages of the book as well. 3. Depending on how special the book is to you, make a paper bag outer covering or have it professionally re-spined and bound.

  • If the book is lightly molded,

1. Brush any topical mold off the spine or covering. 2. Dampen a sponge or washcloth with a detergent/bleach/water mixture and very lightly brush over the mold contaminated area. Be careful not to wet the book too much as this could cause worse mold growth in the future. 3. Set the book out in the sun to dry, as the sun can kill many types of mold spores. 4. Repeat the procedure as necessary.

Mold on the Pages of Books

What can you do about mold growth on the inside of a book? This is a more difficult task as the pages of books are so delicate. Follow the given steps below as a best effort to salvage your book:

  • Brush any topical mold off the pages.
  • Dampen a sponge or washcloth with a detergent/bleach/water mixture and very lightly brush over the mold contaminated areas. Be careful not to soak through the pages as they will dry and stick together permanently.
  • Open the books and set them in the sun to dry, as the sun can kill many types of mold spores. If the breeze is able to blow through the book it will help the pages to dry quicker as well.
  • Repeat the procedure as necessary.

Best Wishes as you battle the fight against mold and salvage your books!

Further Recommended Reading:

Joslyn from the MoldBlogger team

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Rahe February 7, 2009 - 11:53 am

There is new technology and products that will make mold removal even heavy mold removal from books very easy and effective.

Recently a product has become available that produces chlorine dioxide gas in small controlled quantities. It kills mold and mold spores dead! And is available on the web at odorxit.com

Barry September 26, 2011 - 3:32 am

Direct Sunlight might take off the mold, but will definitely discolor the pages. The whites of the page will have a yellow tint to it. Sunlight also has an effect on the color of the pages

theranova 09 December 7, 2011 - 12:26 am

This posting has a major error. Books should NOT be washed with water at all. Never add water to mold, or you will create more problems. Instead wash the cover and spine with ETHYL ALCOHOL, then put in a microwave oven for 20-30 seconds. Everyy mold spore, including the ones inside the pages, will be killed.

Kristina December 30, 2012 - 4:06 pm

How do I clean books that are being packed into boxes that will eventually go into a new place?

Biffa April 23, 2013 - 11:35 am

theranova, can this be used on leather-bound books as well?

John September 28, 2014 - 12:03 pm

I have 200-300 books that got varying degrees of wet in a storage location. They were stored for up to 3 years. Of course, some are a total loss. Many are damp and smell musty. Some are moldy on the edges but otherwise seem OK. I’m not very concerned about discoloration or stains on pages. These are not heirlooms or very valuable items but I’d hate to lose them all. Is there a way to mass-treat them to kill the mold and spores?

Karen November 11, 2014 - 12:42 pm

Some notes from a book conservator, just hoping to avert any disasters.

Bleach, while it kills mold, contains chlorine which forms an acid and will damage the paper. It will remain in the paper and continue to damage it over time. Conservators never use chlorine bleach on books. Sunlight is the best thing, even though it may cause some bleaching. If the paper turns dark in the sun, it’s probably because it contains acidic materials, stains, lignin … many times the paper or printing will fade. Test a relatively unimportant page to see before doing the whole book. Alcohol and water are very dangerous for leather and may cause it to blacken, so test in an inconspicuous place. And while some people have had success with microwaving books to kill mold, other have totally destroyed the books and even started fires. Depends on what the book is made of. I would only nuke a book if I was willing to throw it out otherwise.

Christopher Briggs October 4, 2015 - 6:47 am

Dear Bibliophiles,
My project: removing even the suspicion of mold in a small collection of art books that have been exposed merely to dampness and the known presence of mold in nearby walls. They must be cleaned as their owner is very mold sensitive. Do people think that a combination of HEPA vacuuming, alcohol swiping, and then microwaving would be as close to safe remediation as practicable?
Any hints appreciated! C. Briggs

Megan Didavi August 19, 2017 - 3:53 am

Is vinager effective for removing mold?

Richard J. Gamble March 29, 2019 - 6:48 am

Rahe, which product on ODORXIT.COM SHOULD ONE use for books?

Penny May 5, 2020 - 10:38 am

I bought a book from ebay, it arrived with mold spots on the dust jacket, what is the best way to clean the dust jacket?

Neil Rutledge December 29, 2021 - 8:49 pm

SO MANY BAD IDEAS! A microwave can cause a fire if there is metallic printing on the cover or spine! Fire has generally been evaluated as a bad thing for a book. Bleach? Really? I have a book with a black cloth spine. If I were to use bleach, no matter how watered down, it would kill the mold, but I would have a ruined, faded spine! Plus, bleach, if not neutralized will decompose cloth to dust (remember those jeans you had that got bleach on them? it was a white spot, then it was a hole…). Alcohol? It will “bleach” a cloth spine and fade a paper covered book. I need to write a book of what to do and what not to!!!

Neil Rutledge December 29, 2021 - 8:51 pm

Need to know what the book Jacket is. If laminated, alcohol can be used. If paper, you need to return it. These are VERY BASIC answers. We really need more details.


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