Please help me store my books
July 18, 2016 1:51 AM   Subscribe

For reasons, most of my books are in long-term storage. Please help me keep them safe.

For almost four years, my books have been in cardboard boxes in a rented storage unit. It's garage-sized with two interior (plywood) walls, interior (plywood) ceiling, interior garage door for access, concrete floor, and one exterior (metal) wall. It's a unit in a building, that is, and one wall is the corrugated metal of the containing structure.

There is no climate control and no electrical outlet (just a single light bulb). So I can't plug in and run a dehumidifier. This is the best, safest place to store things in my area.

I use DampRid containers (calcium chloride) to soak up some of the humidity. I've got seven of these spaced out in the unit. Recently, I got a big mop bucket and set a metal mesh tray over it with probably close to 60 oz. of calcium chloride in it. I check and refill these regularly.

The boxes are sealed with packing tape. One box is not sealed, but it's closed with stuff sitting on it to keep bugs out. So far, I haven't noticed any damage to those books. Also, I've got D-Con or an equivalent around the edges of the unit to keep critters from gnawing through the boxes and into my books. I've got open two boxes of comics that I'm not deeply concerned about (obviously), and they show no signs of mouse or insect damage. Or mold or mildrew, thus far.

What more can and should I be doing to protect my beloved books from mold and mildew?
posted by bryon to Home & Garden (6 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Are you keeping them off the floor? If not, get some (clean) pallets form somewhere, or even better buy some long pieces of wood (cheapest 1 by 3 you can get) lay them down in parallel to lay the boxes out on.
posted by Gotanda at 3:52 AM on July 18, 2016 [3 favorites]

Get them off the ground, onto pallets, milk crates, or something else that will let air circulate underneath the boxes. And don't stack boxes against the wall of the unit that is also the exterior wall of the building; that one will have larger temperature fluctuations and be more prone to condensation.
posted by xylothek at 3:53 AM on July 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

Maybe instead of cardboard boxes you could use Rubbermaid/Sterlite plastic containers with the four point locking handles? That should eliminate most of the concern about rodents and humidity, and you could even throw in a small DampRid container to each as an extra protection.
posted by bluecore at 4:28 AM on July 18, 2016 [3 favorites]

Can you reduce the problem by letting some go, in the knowledge that you can replace online from the second-hand market?

What's left you might be able to pack to a higher standard. If not, then at least triage. Which books can you not afford to lose?

Stuffing paper in airtight containers with desiccants long-term makes me nervous, for what it's worth. Maybe a library or museum's actually tried it?

Silverfish would be a problem I'd worry about - they can survive on bugger all moisture and they love glue. So I'd throw in some diatomaceous earth and some glue traps, and I'd check them.

Is exposure to the cardboard likely to discolour the paper? (I don't actually know). If so, maybe acid-free archival cardboard boxes (no point if the books are woodpulp, but I wouldn't fancy packing woodpulp paper in the same box as linen paper, long-term).

Cover the boxes with tarps, in case of leaks.

I'd be interested to know what a food-grade vacuum-sealing machine would do to paper, long-term. I think there's at least a possibility you'd be sealing problems in, as well as out.
posted by Leon at 6:04 AM on July 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

From an archival perspective, fluctuations of temperature and humidity are the biggest risk I see here (the metal wall, a presumably uninsulated space). Plastic containers will mitigate this somewhat, but if it is possible to move them to a space less subject to these changes, the books will do better.
posted by Riverine at 8:56 AM on July 18, 2016

Humidity control is key. You can re-pack in plastic bags, then boxes. Seal the bags. Do this when the weather is at its least humid. Get them off the floor. I'd use pallets. Getting them off the floor would have saved many of the books I lost to flooding.
posted by theora55 at 1:38 PM on July 18, 2016

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