I'm asking Heloise and Abelard
September 8, 2005 3:58 PM   Subscribe

O bibliophiles of MeFi: I humbly seek your wisdom. How would you clean the white linen cover of a fine hardcover? The book is 35 years old and in good shape, but the cover has grime, smudges, flecks, some yellowing: i.e., the usual buildup a reference volume would accrue over a few decades. I've tried mild soaps, but hesitate to use anything stronger.

Extra credit: The slipcase is covered in black linen, so its flaws (which include some whitish scrapes) are less noticeable. Same question as above, however. Same answer?
posted by rob511 to Writing & Language (5 answers total)
Best answer: Rub it gently with a good quality (non flaky) putty rubber. Putty rubber will remove a multitude of marks, smudges, build ups of any kind. I use it to clean books all the time with no ill effect. Has to be a good rubber though.
posted by fire&wings at 4:09 PM on September 8, 2005

Best answer: lighter fluid is a great solvent and evaporates quickly and does minimal damage to paper. In my stamp collecting days it was a handy way to see watermarks and it was used on even valuable stamps, so I'd try that. Away from open flames or sparks of course.
posted by ernie at 4:15 PM on September 8, 2005

Best answer: An artist's eraser (i.e. good quality putty rubber) should work. 'Wet Ones' moist towelettes work well on surface dirt on hardcovers, BUT it can take some color out of the cloth. It shouldn't be a problem with white cloth -- but, still, test in an inconspicuous area first, etc. You'd want to be careful if you use it on the black slipcase. Be gentle.

Remember that sometimes it's better to leave the book alone than to fuss with it too much. (I have inadvertently ruined many books with my stupid good-intentions.)

The rec.collecting.books FAQ has some tips to peruse. Trussel.com has the motherlode of book information.

(I will refrain from telling you about each brand of eraser and which works best on what kind of smudge and what kind of surface, etc. Be thankful for this!)
posted by oldtimey at 6:26 PM on September 8, 2005

Best answer: Try here for a rubber dry cleaning sponge for books. I have never used it, but they are cleaning a book cover in the picture, and it claims to clean a variety of surface soiling.
posted by modavis at 7:12 AM on September 9, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks, all. Everybody gets an A! (I grade on a curve.) Tried the putty rubber (artgum eraser to us Yanks), and it helped a bit, but I'm afraid most of these marks are way too old. Oh well.
posted by rob511 at 9:45 PM on September 9, 2005

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