3 tips for cleaning books

The books in your home should be cleaned once a year. If this is done you will significantly extend the life of your personal library. 


  • Soft cloths
  • Vacuum with a soft dusting brush attachment
  • Baking soda
  • Essential oil 
  • Pillowcase
  • Corn starch
  • Glass cleaner (80:20 water-to-vinegar) 
  • Good music and a cup of tea 

Note: Do not clean rare books or books of value. Always send these to a professional! 

Step 1
Take all your books off the shelves and place them in order on a clean table or on a sheet on the floor. Remember, if you take them off in order it will be much easier putting them back. 

Vacuum the shelves and wipe down, but be sure not to replace any books onto the shelves until they are all absolutely dry. 

Step 2
Working systematically, clean and place each book back on the shelf. This will save you time and double handling. 

Wipe the outside cover of the book with a soft cloth. Depending on the book's cover, you will need to take a slight different approach: 

  • Glossy: glass cleaner (sprayed onto the cloth first)
  • Matte: dry, clean cloth only
  • Leather: dry clean microfiber cloth
  • Cloth or fabric: dust with the vacuum cleaner with the soft brush attachment. Or carefully use a slice of white bread and gently dab the fabric to take away any dust. (remove the crust of the bread) 

If there are stickers on the book that you would like to remove, lift them off carefully, then remove any leftover glue with a cotton bud and eucalyptus oil. Wipe clean once done with a soft cloth. 

Step 3
Always clean the edges of the pages by dusting with a soft cloth. Hold the book tightly together so you do not bend the pages and hold the book at the spine with the pages facing the floor so dust does not get trapped inside the book and damage it. 

If you have books that have become musty then place them in a pillow case with some bicarb soda for a month. This will absorb any moisture and will also help prevent bad odours from damp pages. If the books have already developed mildew, then sprinkle the affected pages with corn starch and leave for 24 hours before dusting clean.

Once all the books are back in place it is a good idea to place a jar of bicarb soda behind the books on each shelf. This can be infused with essential oils if you wish, but the bicarb soda will absorb unwanted old book smells, and will help prevent moisture affecting the books. 

Don't forget to put on some music while you do this job, and be sure to have a cup of tea at hand.