How to Remove Mold and Prevent it from Forming on Old Books

By | January 17, 2014

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There is nothing more frustrating than pulling out an old yearbook or gift with sentimental value to find it covered in mold and mildew. Mildew thrives on organic substances like paper. Here are a few tips for removing mildew, and preventing it in the future.

First of all, assess if the mold is on the surface (cover, bindings, and edges) or if it has eaten all the way through to the pages. If it’s solely on the exterior, you can brush off the mold and mildew, and gently wipe it down with a rag that has a little Lysol on it. It will kill the mold and prevent it from reforming.

If the mold has gotten into your book, the process of mold removal is a little timelier. There are two methods I’ve heard about. One, put your books in a bag and stick in the freezer over night. This will kill the mold and the bag will prevent spores or other things from infecting any food. After you’ve removed the book, dust off the mildew and lightly wipe it down with a damp cloth with either Lysol or rubbing alcohol. Do not use bleach. Bleach is a harsh chemical and will eat through the pages of your book.

The other mold removal message I’ve heard about, which I have not tried, is by placing your book in the microwave for a few seconds. The microwave will kill the mold. Once removing, follow the same procedure for cleaning your books as above.

For both methods, you may be left with a lingering smell. To rid the books of this pesky odor, set them outside on a hot sunny day. Make sure you don’t keep it out over night because the dampness will start the mildew process all over again. The sunlight will also help kill any mold spores which remain since sunlight has been the number one mold deterrent for centuries.

So you won’t have to repeat this process when you store your books again, here are a few tips for preventing mildew from forming.

Mildew is attracted to natural fibers, glue in binding, and paper materials, so books are easy targets. To help prevent mildew from forming keep the storage area clean.

Mold thrives best between 77 and 86 degrees Fahrenheit. If your books are important to you, make sure they are in an air-conditioned environment in the hot summer months. Cabinets and closets may not cool enough, so make sure your books are on shelves or exposed the cool air.

The other environmental factor that effects mold growth is moisture in the air. Areas of high humidity are more prone to mold growth. Use a dehumidifier to help regulate moisture in the air. Consequently, hot air holds more moisture than cool air so air conditioning will also assist control humidity.

Another method of inhibiting mold and mildew growth is using desiccants, which is silica gel or alumina, which absorb moisture. Place these in small areas such as closet with books and they can absorb up to half their weight in moisture. Another desiccant in chromium chloride. To work effectively, you will have to place granules on a screen over a pot to catch moisture.

Another option is to lightly spray your books with water resistant and soil resistant sprays.

Books are often valuable and priceless. By following these gentle removal suggestions and tips to prevent mold in the first place, your books will seem good as new.

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