Can I safely include once musty-smelling labels in my label collection?
June 26, 2015 11:20 AM   Subscribe

I have a collection of unused labels (ca. 1830 on), which I store in archival-quality sheets with mostly top-loading pockets. I just purchased about 40 labels that were taken from a printer’s archive. The labels are spotless and appear to be in perfect condition, but they smell musty. They are not moist and do not show any water stains.

I can apparently eliminate the smell with activated charcoal. Assuming that I do that, would it be safe for me to include these labels with the other labels, given that the musty smell is or could be due to molds or mildew? If it would be safe, how long after eliminating the smell would I have to
posted by kirsti to Technology (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
My beau does book repair, and has some experience with this type of thing. He says:
I'm not a conservator, so I don't have the chemistry background to answer this thoroughly, but there are a few things they can do. This page has another method of attempting to get rid of the musty smell:

If something smells musty, then it can indicate mold or mildew, and if so you wouldn't want to store it with other items that aren't. Just because something doesn't have tidelines (water stains) or isn't cockled doesn't mean it didn't get wet at some point, and like the article mentions all it takes sometimes is to be stored in relatively high humidity. The archival pockets are a good start, but if mold is suspected then mylar sleeves can help prevent mold from spreading to other items. And of course there is the environment to consider as well:,-relative-humidity,-light,-and-air-quality-basic-guidelines-for-preservation

Long story short - store them in a controlled, stable environment with a low temperature and low humidity.
Hope this helps!
posted by fiercecupcake at 2:54 PM on June 26, 2015

Response by poster: @fiercecupcake. Great! Thanks for the links and the advice. Much appreciated. I'll probably use baking soda or charcoal, as per NEDCC. Sounds like a fairly simply method.
posted by kirsti at 5:40 PM on June 26, 2015

Yay! I have a tiny follow-up, too:
Oh, and if they do see evidence of mold and don't want to get rid of the label, they can put it in a zippered freezer bag and put it in the freezer. That won't kill the mold, but it will inhibit growth till they can get it to a paper conservator.
posted by fiercecupcake at 7:19 PM on June 26, 2015

Response by poster: Thanks for the freezer tip. All the labels in question look like they are hot off the press, even though they are several decades only. The colors are superbly preserved, and there's not the slightest flaw and no signs of mildew or mold. I suspect that they had been a basement or a similar environment for quite a while, since the musty smell is fairly noticeable.
posted by kirsti at 8:00 PM on June 26, 2015

« Older Trying to remember a song with a spoken word...   |   How do you tell pulmonary embolism from asthma or... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.