Quick ways to store and care for your books

July 27, 2015

Whether you have a single bookcase or an entire library, book maintenance is essential. Here are some quick ways you can store and clean your books to help them last longer.

Quick ways to store and care for your books

How to dust your books

For the most part, books, like many household items, need regular dusting and good ventilation.

  • When dusting older volumes, remove them from the shelves individually and use a wide, soft brush — such as an unused paintbrush or shaving brush — to whisk along the top edge, away from the bound end. Dust their spines and sides with a soft cloth.
  • Once or twice a year, apply a leather preservative to books with leather bindings to clean and protect them. Take care of books in longterm storage the same way.
  • If your books develop a musty odour, put each book in a paper bag filled with crumpled newspapers for a few days. The paper should absorb the odour.

Shelving books the right way

Adjustable shelves — the kind that are held by clips that can be moved to different levels of the bookcase — are fine for paperbacks, but they may not be able to bear the weight of hardcover volumes, which are heavy.

  • Make sure any bookcases for hardbacks have a tight-fitting back panel, cross bracing and corner blocks.
  • The most stable bookcases have stationary shelves locked into the side panels. This is particularly important for tall, floor-to-ceiling bookcases.

Preventing mold on books

To keep mildew from developing on books, take the following precautions:

  • Store books in areas where temperature and moisture are controlled. If the only area you can store them is damp, run a dehumidifier in the room.
  • Keep books off the floor, especially at basement levels, where puddles — or worse, flooding — can damage them.
  • Don't pack books too tightly on a shelf, but keep them upright to avoid damaging the binding.
  • Ensure proper airflow by leaving a space of at least 2.5 centimetres (an inch) between shelves and behind the bookcase, especially if it's against an outside wall.
  • Put a piece of charcoal in a bookcase with glass doors to absorb any moisture inside.
  • For long-term storage, don't use bookcases with glass doors — they are difficult to ventilate properly.

Take the starch out of mildew

If your books have gotten damp from excessive humidity or long-term storage, here is a quick way to save the pages from mildew damage:

  • Sprinkle cornstarch throughout the book and brush it off several hours later after the moisture has been absorbed.
  • If the pages are mildewed, take the book outside to brush off the cornstarch. This will prevent any mildew spores from being released inside your home.
  • If you have spilled water on a book, try putting the book in a frost-free freezer to draw out the moisture before damaging mildew sets in.

Books are an excellent resource, but they can be easily ruined if they're not properly taken care of. Consider these tips and enjoy your books for years to come!

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