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mold on books

The Book That Fought Back


Once upon a time, in a kingdom far away, an evil fungus called Mold lived. Not content with simply existing alone, he craved causing as much trouble as he possibly could and thought nothing of encroaching on others’ lives. All he needed was a food source and moisture, and he would do everything in his power to make sure he got it.

Chapter 1: Boris

Boris the Book was old. He’d seen a lot, heard a lot, and experienced a lot. Inevitably, he was going to spend some of his days in storage – it had happened to lots of other books he knew and he was quite looking forward to the break, if he was being honest. But he wasn’t expecting an unwelcome visitor to disturb his long-awaited vacation.

That’s why when Mold turned up unexpectedly one day, Boris was furious. He’d waited years for a break and now his peace and quiet was going to be disturbed. Not to mention the smell – oh the smell – that he now carried. No amount of cologne was going to cover that stench up, and although he had accepted a while back that he was old, he didn’t see why that should equate a stink. So, he asked Mold, politely, to leave him to it.

But then things got worse. He noticed that he was getting weaker – which was strange, really, as he was supposed to be on vacation. His pages were getting stained with powdery spots and – most worryingly of all – he had itchy skin and eyes and was struggling to breathe.

Chapter 2: The Fight

Well, this was the final straw for Boris. He might have been old, but the only thing that should be numbered on him were his pages – not his days. And so, whilst turning over a new leaf, he decided to fight back (but not before testing everything on a small and less important part of himself to make sure he could withstand the treatment.).

Waiting until he was completely dry (attempting the following on a wet book is a recipe for disaster!), wearing goggles and covering his nose and mouth with a mask, he found a fine brush (although a soft cloth would have worked just fine, too) and gently brushed Mold away from his cover with a spot of detergent – making sure to dry himself properly after. The inside pages were a bit trickier, but this didn’t stop Boris, either – making sure to slide a sheet of waxed paper underneath the affected pages before treating these – as well as the storage unit he had been kept in – the same way. (He also could have used an HEPA vacuum.)

Had he been soaking wet (thankfully he hadn’t yet gone for a swim), he would have placed some newspaper in between each of his pages, wrapped himself completely in a towel and placed a heavy weight on top of himself, to squeeze all the moisture out – replacing the materials frequently until most of the moisture had subsided. He may have even sprinkled in some cornflour, rice or talcum powder, to help absorb the water, and perhaps spend some time under a hairdryer, if one had been readily available. He conducted all the work outside but was careful not to sit in the sun for too long, as whilst this could help with the drying, it also carries the risk of discoloration, and he wasn’t interested in achieving a tan at his age.

He was surprised to find that he still carried a rancid smell – even after Mold had been defeated – so he asked Dean Davies, professional cleaning technician at Fantastic Services for how to deodorize old books, before sprinkling some baking soda (activated charcoal would have worked too) in between his pages and wrapping himself in a plastic box for three days to absorb the scent.

Boris knew how lucky he was; he fixed the problem before it got too bad. He knew that had he been very seriously affected by Mold, he probably would have had to have a whole cover and spine replacement – as well as calling in the experts to help him deal with the delinquent.

Chapter 3: Prevention

Now that Boris had fixed the problem for himself, he wanted to make sure others didn’t suffer like he had (he was thoughtful like that). So, he made it his life’s work to do just that – enlightening others about the dangers of being stored improperly. No longer would he sit idly by while others – good books – were left to rot in a basement or attic. No. He would do what he could (which was, admittedly, somewhat limited) to rescue others from the same fate he was subjected to, including, but not limited to:

  • Ensuring decent air flow, preferably using an air conditioner or fan in the summer and heater during the winter.
  • Using a humidifier but only when necessary – he learned (the hard way) that books that are too dry can crack. The ideal humidity level in the room is under 60 percent, according to Dean.
  • Identifying potential sources of moisture.
  • Dusting the top of books regularly.
  • Adding “dust jackets to your books to keep moisture away”.
  • Educating others that being ‘on the shelf’ is good for books – ensuring the bookcase is not “standing against cold, moldy or damp walls” and that the bookshelves are not overfilled to maintain “adequate air circulation between books”.
  • Storing books properly – checking “the storage facility for bad smells or signs of mildew beforehand” and using “appropriate storage plastic containers” and “silica gel sachets in case of condensation”.

… and he lived happily ever after.




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