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Book Care and Book Repair

Book Care & Repair

Care of Books

  • Make sure your hands are clean when handling books.
  • Place books upright on shelves using book supports when the shelf is not full.
  • Use a book cradle or padded supports when displaying fragile volumes.
  • If the spines are yellowing or fading get books out of the sun, as sunlight will bleach dust jackets and covers. Use Book Jacket Covers with UV light filtering.
  • No treatment can reverse the affect of aging, but Bookkeeper Deacidification Spray is your best option to slow down the effects of aging on wood-pulp paper.
Book Care & Repair

Cleaning Books

  • Paper and Matte Finished Dust Jackets: For dirty matte finished dust jackets or pages, the best book treatment is a Document Cleaning Pad. This is a small cloth bag filled with eraser dust. Twist the bag a bit to loosen some dust and rub it around gently on the surface of the jacket with your clean fingers, a soft brush or the pad itself. This should remove any dust and grime which isn’t actually ground in.
  • Glossy Dust Jackets: Apply Brodart BroDex with a clean soft cloth and wipe carefully. BroDex is designed to be one of the best cleaning products you can buy for glossy book jacket covers.
  • Cloth Bindings: Vulcanized (Absorene) rubber sponges normally used for cleaning up after fires work very well for cleaning cloth bindings. Because they contain no chemicals, these sponges are among the safest in cleaning supplies.
  • Dust: Dust on the top edge of pages may be removed with a vacuum cleaner using the soft brush attachment. Before vacuuming, remove the dust jacket cover and turn the book upside down so the dust won’t sift between the pages.
  • Oil or Grease Stains: To minimize oil or grease stains to pages, place absorbent paper towels between the pages, close the book, and place it under a book weight. After several days, remove the paper towel and repeat as necessary until as much of the stain as possible is removed and you should have a fairly clean book.
  • Adhesives: Adhesive residue can be difficult to remove. Labels should come off with a careful application of Un-du™ Label and Tape Remover and the very cautious use of a thin flat knife like a palette knife or very thin butter knife.
  • Musty Odor: Place the book next to a vessel containing one of the following substances, keeping the book and vessel together in a closed container or zip-lock bag for 12 hours to two weeks:
    • Unscented Kitty Litter
    • Coffee Grounds/Beans
    • Cloves
    • White Vinegar
    • Woodruff
    • Lysol
    • Baking Soda
    • Charcoal
    • Cedar Chips/Shavings

Common Questions

I want to remove a label from a book, and I have run out of "un-du Label Remover."

Try using a hair dryer. It can be effective in removing labels, tape or anything that is glued to paper. Set it on low-heat. And if your book gets wet, the hair dryer can be a valuable emergency tool for drying. Some even find it effective on beginning mildew.

I am a Florida bookseller, and mildew is a problem with me, although I keep the air conditioning going. Any tips for me?

Mildew, also known as mold, can destroy a book, and it can spread. Webster defines it as “a furry growth on the surface of organic matter”, and your book is made of organic matter i.e., from materials which were (formerly) alive. The Document Cleaning Pad is helpful against mold. Fungi thrive on moisture and heat, so air conditioning is a good idea.

I’ve heard that Vaseline can be useful in book cleaning. Is this true?

Vaseline is petrolatum, (petroleum jelly), and it can be useful. A dab of it on a soft, clean cloth can often get rid of smudges on dust jackets. Wipe it on and wipe it off with a cleaning agent like a Document Cleaning Pad. Bookseller folklore has many household products for book care, such as nail polish remover and lighter fluid but, as a rule, they are not worth the inconvenience.

What is an "art gum eraser"? Isn’t any eraser ok?

Experienced book people divide erasers into plastic, art gum, and kneaded. The basic tool is the art gum eraser, and it is a must for any seller or lover of books. These large, soft erasers are to be used gently on pencil marks, dirt on dust jackets and covers, etc. They crumble easily, and the crumbs should be whisked away. The important thing is that they do minimum damage to your books and keep them clean. Any black surfaces that appear on the eraser may be cut away or you may get rid of them by rubbing it on blank paper.

Is there any way except taping to close (repair) a torn page?

If you do not wish to use a thin, acid-free tape like Filmoplast® Tape, you may glue the tear shut by taking the following steps:

  • Rest the torn page on a sheet of waxed paper.
  • Run a line of acid-free glue, such as Brodart Bind-Art® Adhesive, along the tear, using a fine paintbrush, cotton swab, or toothpick.
  • Wipe away any excess glue with a cloth and place a separate sheet of waxed paper on top of the tear.
  • Close the book and apply a book weight, or other books, on top for a few hours until the glue is completely dry.
  • The waxed paper will remove easily when the glue is dry.

Do books require more care than, for example CDs, DVDs, etc?

Books are made mainly of paper, cloth, glue, and other organic materials. They come from live sources, like fine furniture, and require more care. Just as, for example, garments made of organic materials such as silk and wool require more care than those made from inorganic materials like nylon and polyester.

What can be done for a book that is faded by sun?

Nothing! If a book is “sunned” (faded) then the damage is permanent. Just as people can forestall skin damage by applying a sunscreen, you can also forestall UV damage to your books by applying Brodart Book Jacket Covers.

I own old books, and they usually are darkened by decades of dirt, dirt so engrained that cloths, erasers, or even Absorene® Book Cleaner cannot get them to near their original colors. Is there not a simple cheap way to get my old boards looking better?

Clean Cover Gel, a petroleum based product, seems to be the favorite “Cinderella” product for getting old boards looking good. Put a dab on a clean, lintfree cloth. Test on a tiny part of the board to make sure the colors are fast. Rub along the surface gently in one direction. Wipe off with clean cloth. Be sure to put some paper under the board to make sure the gel does not get on the pages. It's also a good idea to practice first on some books that you do not value highly.

Book Repair Manual

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