Saturday, August 1, 2015

How to Remove Mold and Mildew from Books

I posted this article a few years ago, but I think it's a good time to revisit it! It's always a good time to save books.

I live in the San Francisco Bay Area on top of a hill in a very foggy area. Needless to say, mildew is the enemy of someone like me who collects books. And, that's not even mentioning the 11,000 or so books stored in Bodega Bay... The Bay part is the tip off in both cases. Lots of humidity, in this case in terms of fog.

This article on is particularly relevant to my library, not because of new mildew but mostly for the books I buy at flea markets and used bookstores. In the past, I've put books in the freezer if I suspected mildew, but this article has more to say and great directions for removing mold and mildew.

Remember, mold and mildew live off of organic material (leather, wood, paper, cloth) and over time their presence can weaken the structure of the book, stain the cover and pages, and prompt negative effects in your health, especially for folks with allergies or asthma. It is important to identify the active growth of mold and mildew and remove it before it spreads through your entire library!

How to Identify Mold and Mildew (from

Mold: Mold is a type of fungus that can and will grow on anything, as long as it can find a food source and the appropriate humidity for its development. It can develop in patches of threads, thick spider-webs or fuzzy spots, and it appears most often on natural, porous surfaces such as cotton, linen, silk, wool, leather, and paper. It reproduces by sending out clouds of spores, hence it’s ability to “leap” from book to book.
You probably have mold growth on your book if you observe any of the following problems:
  • the presence of fuzzy growth, in just about any color you can imagine
  • stringy, white filaments stretching across porous surfaces
  • evidence of past water damage
  • strange spots or stains
Mildew: Mold is often accompanied by mildew. While they share some similarities, they are not the same kind of fungus. However, any moldy or otherwise soiled surface can provide a nutritive source for mildew, and beyond that it requires the prime temperature and humidity level to make it appear and spread like wildfire.
You probably have mildew growth on your book if you observe any of the following problems:
  • “Old book smell” – that ubiquitous scent is often caused by mildew, even after it is removed
  • a thin haze, a patch of spots, or a powdery flaking layer, normally white, black, or grey on the surface of the book or paper
If you identify mold or mildew on any of your books, magazines, or paper ephemera, remove them from your collection immediately!

Go here for the remedies.

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