How to clean books

Jennifer Sinclair

Cleaning and dusting books will significantly extend the life of your personal library. 


* Soft cloths
* Vacuum with a soft dusting brush attachment
* Gentle Scouring Powder
* Eucalyptus or tea tree essential oil 
* Pillowcase
* Corn starch
* Scented 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. Using a dusting spray will help reduce dust in the air.

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 paper cover: Scented Vinegar (sprayed onto the cloth first)
  • Matte paper cover: dry, clean cloth only
  • Leather cover: dry clean cloth 
  • Cloth or fabric cover: dust with a soft brush attachment on the vacuum, or carefully use a slice of white bread and gently dab the fabric to take away any dust. (remove the crust of the bread beforehand) 

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 ball 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. 

If you have books that have become musty then place them in a pillow case with 1/2 cup of Gentle Scouring Powder with 3 drops of eucalyptus oil added over night. This will help absorb any moisture preventing bad odours from the damp pages. If the books have already developed mildew (brown spots), then sprinkle the affected pages with corn starch and leave for 24 hours before dusting clean.

Once all the books are back in place you can add a 1/2 cup of Gentle Scouring Powder behind the books. This can be infused with essential oils if you wish, and will absorb unwanted old book smells, and will help prevent moisture damaging the pages. 

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