How to Get Smell Out of Old Books

Old books have load of character and can tell a story in more way than one.  Often, the older the book is, the more that becomes sought after.  Despite their appeal, many old books do carry an unfortunate musty stench.


This mildew odor can often be unpleasant and distract the reader from the content being read. By following the  below tips, you can rest assured that the odor will be wiped away and will not return anytime soon.


Smell Removal Solutions


1 Cat Litter

Cat litter has more than one use, and can work wonders as an odor absorbant for musty booksPlace cat liter within a large ziplock bag and add a full cup of cat litter before sealing it.  Provide a minimum of 48-72 hours before returning to remove the freshened book from the the bag


2 Microwave It

This may sound like a strange solution for removing musty odors from an old book, but it remains highly effective.  The microwaves cut through the microorganisms producing the odor and work to kill them off.  Place the book within the microwave at 20 second intervals taking breaks to smell to book to ensure that the odor has been zapped away.  As a note of caution, be sure that the books do not contain any form of metal as this can lead to destruction and fire hazard within the microwave.


3 Fabric Softener Sheets

Fabric softener sheets work well as bringing fresh to clothing, and have a similar result when applied to old books.  Place five dryer sheet strategically throughout the pages of a the old book and place book within a enclosed ziplock bag.  Allow the book to sit for 5-7 days before removing the book and taking the freshened dryer sheets out.


4 Baking Soda

This household substance is highly effective in absorbing unwanted odors within books.  Place a the old book and a cup of baking soda within an a enclosed ziplock bag and place for a few days.  After 48-72 hours have passed, return to remove the freshened book and brush off remaining baking soda over the sink.


5 Sunlight

The power of UV rays and open space can do wonders at eliminating musty old smells within books.  On a sunny day, take book outside and place within sun ensuring to weigh the book open so that all the pages can freely receive air.  Make adjustments if the pages are weak, as this can lead to tearing and being carried away with wind.  As a note of precaution, if the book is of great value prolonged UV rays can lead to harmful deterioration of the book.


6 Bleach

Bleach is a strong compound for disinfecting surfaces and removing odors.  Mix a small solution of one part bleach and three parts water and moisten a paper towel within the mixture.  Lightly apply the formula to the surface, binding and corners of the book.  Allow 20-30 minutes for book to air dry before putting into use.  Avoid this technique if the book is of value, as it could lead to minor lightening or deterioration of cover.


7 Freezer

Similar to the microwave, the freezer deprives the microorganisms of a hospitable environment to live.  The cold temperature of the freezer slowly kills the mold spore and eventually leave the book smelling fresh.  Place the old book within a ziplock bag and place within the freezer for an entire week. After 5-7 days, return to remove the freshened book and put into use.


8 Citronella Essential Oil  or Eucalyptus Essential Oil

Both of these oils work well at masking the musty smell of old books.  Damped a cloth and apply a teaspoon of either of these formulas.  Using the cloth, wipe down the cover, corners, and along the ends of the pages.  Allow 30 minutes to dry before putting into use.


Published by

Joe Fresh

Joe is an odor combatant, chemistry extraordinaire and all around good guy. He has an over-productive olfactory system with absolutely zero tolerance for unpleasant aromas.

3 thoughts on “How to Get Smell Out of Old Books”

  1. I am so grateful & surprised to see all the ways I can try to remove that musty, old smell from some very important books to me. These books belonged to my Grandfather, who was a music misister, and very beloved. THANK YOU!
    Shay Bullocks

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