~ Moldy, Smelly Book

Bible after mold is removed

Mold Removed from Bible

Moldy Bible

Moldy Bible

Moldy Bible inner hinge

The story of a moldy, smelly book.

So a friend of mine was tasked with being the caretaker of her family's big old bible. You know the kind. Sort of looks like a chocolate bar. She had done fine for many years, keeping it inside on a shelf.  Then one day she moved to a new house and it wound up sitting on a cardboard box in the garage while things got moved around. And then came the rain. It wasn't a big flood; just enough to make the bottom of the cardboard box wet. The water then wicked up the sides and got into the bible cover and grew a lovely green lawn of healthy mold. When my friend found the book a few days later she freaked out and then she called me. I have to admit that when I first saw it that I thought the trash would be the only way to go. But she begged me to try and I did. I first made sure the book was thoroughly dry and then brushed the mold off outside with a broom while wearing a mask. Then I brushed it off more thoroughly with a smaller brush, including a few interior pages that needed it. I set it in the sunlight of a window and turned pages for a few days, then I brushed it again. Then I used Isopropyl Alcohol and wiped off the pages and the whole cover. Next I restored the binding were it was weak and then I sealed the cover with SC6000 to help keep the mold from coming back. I gave the book back to here with a warning that this book should never be stored near other books and that it should be in a constant safe temperature and humidity. If the temperature and humidity change enough to support mold growth then the bible will grow another furry coat. Mold damaged books should be thrown away if at all possible. I also advised her to make scans of the important family history that was in the bible and distribute copies to all the family members. That way, if the mold takes hold again at least the history is saved even if the object isn't.

About Mold:

Caution: Mold can be harmful or even deadly if you breathe in even small quantities. Use a mask, plastic gloves. and protective eyewear. On the other hand. We eat mold all the time in cheeses so don't freak out but also don't eat mold you find growing on a book.

If you aren't sure if mold actually exists, you can use a UV light to show up microorganisms  with luminescence.

If your book is damp at all then mold is still growing.  You must dry out the book to stop it. This will not kill the mold. It will just help it go dormant. It is impossible to get rid of all the mold spores. All you can do is keep the book in a safe environment away from your other books and keep the temperature and humidity at safe levels. Around 68 degrees Fahrenheit temperature with relative humidity below 50%. Minimize Fluctuations. For more information on caring for your books got to www.SaveYourBooks.com.

You definitely need to question the value of your book. If you can replace your book with a clean copy relatively inexpensively then do that! Keeping a moldy book near your other books is like strapping them to a time bomb. Air circulation is key in preventing mold from starting to grow.

If your book is still wet, you can prop it up and blow a fan towards it (but not towards you). When it is nearly dry you can place paper towels between pages and start to gently press the book. Do this very lightly at first. Placing paper towels between pages and pressing hard will strain and break the spine. As it dries you can remove more and more of the paper towels and press harder and harder. When all the paper towels are out of the book and it is completely dry, then align it as best you can and leave it under weight overnight.

Now that it is dry you can work on the mold. Know that any discoloration that has taken place is permanent. Brush the mold off outside wearing protective gear or vacuum it with a bit of cheesecloth over the hose.  Then you can use 70% isopropyl alcohol to wipe the surfaces of the book and even the pages. Throw away all the wipes when you are done. Seal all the wipes and vacuum bags in plastic before you throw them away.

If it is a leather book you can use SC6000 to help seal the pores of the leather. This will help keep the mold spores away from moisture. That is what was done to the moldy book in the photo above.

Once the mold is dry and dormant, you can work on removing the smell. Mold and mildew smell is distinctively musty. Enclose the book in a container with a bag of Smelleze.   See the video on deodorizing books.

Check it often to make sure the mold is not returning and that the smell is going away. If you are in a high humidity area then run a humidifier in the room at the same time.


~ Sunshine will Fade your Books


Sunshine will Fade your Books

Be sure to keep your books out of direct sunlight. Sunlight will fade the covers and make them more brittle. It sucks the color right out of them! Books stacked unevenly will have uneven fading which is even worse than overall fading because it is harder to correct.


Darwin, Fertilization of Orchids

Darwin, Fertilization of Orchids











~ Will repairing a book destroy the value?

Will repairing a book destroy the value?

The simple answer is yes. The complicated answer is not necessarily.  If the book is collectable and other people value it, then doing a repair can make it worth less money. Two ideas must be accounted for though before that first statement can be fully understood.

The first idea is the difference between the words repair and restore. I define each of these in another blog post but suffice to say that repairs are obvious and they frequently cover up or destroy some of the original materials whereas restoration is as close to invisible as possible and strives to keep all original materials as intact as possible. Restoring a book will not usually destroy the monetary value and can even increase it. However, not all books are worth restoring and the Purist book collector will not buy a book that has been restored. But this is the top 1% of the book world.

The second idea is to look at the word value. The value of a book is not intrinsic to the book. Books are like any other commodity in that the more people desire them the more value they can command. Besides monetary value though there is also sentimental value. The same principle applies. The more you care about a book the more value it has for you. This is not trivial. Repairing a book doesn’t usually take away the sentimental value. Look at some before and after pictures to decide if a repair is the right thing for you.

At Save Your Books we understand that both kinds of value are valid and treat all books individually and with great care.