how to get smells out of paper

We keep our books for nostalgia, to reread later, and to share. They stack up nicely no matter how different each story is. Though they have different ideas and outcomes, there’s one thing all books have in common: that musty smell. But your house doesn’t have to smell like a used bookstore. Unfortunately, books are not as easy to clean as cooking utensils. Here are 5 ideas of how to get the musty smell out of books.

Signs of Mold and Mildew in Documents

  • Pages in books or sets of documents stick together, particularly along the edges.
  • Discoloration. While it’s normal for some types of paper to discolor with time, such as newsprint, mold and mildew create black or brown speckling, as well as yellowing.
  • The presence of a musty smell.
  • Signs of mold or mildew growth on a book’s cover or spine, which may occur on books made with organic materials, such as leather.

Mold Remediation for Documents and Books

When you notice any signs of mold or water damage on books or documents, take swift action to prevent further damage.

For books:

  1. Dry out a damp book by standing it upright on a table and gently fanning out the pages. If pages are stuck together, try blowing on the pages from the top of the book or use tweezers and a letter opener to separate them.
  2. With the pages fanned out, place the book in front of a fan running on the lowest setting for a few days. Avoid placing books in direct sunlight, as this may cause further damage.
  3. Place dry books in an airtight container, along with an open box of baking soda. Keep the books in the container until the musty smell disappears. This may take up to a week for hard-back books.

 For documents:

  1. Dry damp documents by placing them on a flat surface in a dry room with good air circulation.
  2. Line the bottom of an airtight container with crumpled newsprint and place a dryer sheet on either side of the container.
  3. Place the affected documents on top of the newsprint.
  4. Place crumpled newsprint on top of the documents.
  5. Put the lid on the container and keep the documents inside overnight.
  6. If the documents still smell musty the next day, place the documents on a flat surface and sprinkle talcum powder on them. Allow the powder to sit on the paper overnight.
  7. Remove the paper from the talcum powder and use a clean, dry towel to wipe off any remaining powder.

If the affected books or documents are heirloom items, artifacts, part of a collection or valuable, contact a document restoration specialist. The goes for documents that have visible mold or mildew damage that you want cleaned, or if mold affected a large number of items. Professional mold remediation for documents, like the kind that Polygon provides, uses advanced techniques and the latest technologies to dry wet documents and safely remove mold and its odors so it don’t cause problems in the future. Because mold and mildew can spread from one book to another, it’s important to stop it in its tracks as soon as possible. For expert help with this process, contact Polygon today. 

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