Ah, The Rank, Musty Smell of Knowledge
July 13, 2007 8:53 AM   Subscribe

How do I get rid of that musty book smell?

I recently inherited about 100lbs of books from my grandfather. He had some mild dementia, and I think part of it included buying books in large quantities and leaving them stacked in his house. My mother sent me a selection of stuff she thought I might like.

But it all smells bad. Like "old paper" bad. And some of them aren't really that old.

Since it's paper, I can't exactly wash it. Any suggestions?
posted by scaryblackdeath to Home & Garden (7 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
a friend in the rare book restoration business told me this method.
  1. Get a big rubber maid tub.
  2. pour kitty litter in the bottom. The kind with "odor control" stuff works well, but plain works too. A couple inches worth should be enough
  3. put in one layer of newspaper. stack the books to be deodorized on the newspaper. not too deep, maybe 5-6 inches of books.
  4. cover with newspaper. add a bit more kitty litter on top.
  5. cover rubbermaid tub. place in a cool dry spot for a couple weeks.

this is a lot of work, and usually only worth doing if the books are somewhat rare or you really want to keep them. If it's a bunch of paperbacks from the last few decades, I'd just recycle them.
posted by cosmicbandito at 9:04 AM on July 13, 2007 [2 favorites]

Also, check for mold, which can spread from one book to another. Do not keep any moldy volumes.
posted by palmcorder_yajna at 10:25 AM on July 13, 2007

i don't remember the source, but years ago I read that leaving a book with the pages open (fronts and backs held down, pages left loose) in sunlight for a day can help alleviate this smell. Usual cautions about the damage sunlight can cause to all things fragile is hereby given...
posted by kuppajava at 11:06 AM on July 13, 2007

I don't know the source, and haven't tried this myself, but I once heard advice to seal the book in a ziploc and put it in the freezer for a several days.
posted by maloon at 12:43 PM on July 13, 2007

This question was asked before. I've tried the dryer-sheet method recommended in that thread by interrobang, and it's worked for me.
posted by misteraitch at 1:10 PM on July 13, 2007

Mold needs moisture, so books should not be stored anyplace damp. Many books are printed on acid-bearing paper, and degrade over time. Moisture speeds that, too.
posted by theora55 at 1:58 PM on July 13, 2007

Put the book in a tupperware container with a car air freshener. Leave it in for a few days. It works for all my used, stinky books.
posted by papakwanz at 3:54 PM on July 13, 2007

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