Cleaning old books

Written by linda st.cyr
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Cleaning old books
(Photo by William Hoiles, Wikimedia Commons)

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Keeping old books clean keeps them in good condition, which gives them a longer shelf life. It makes them look better and more presentable. Antiquarians, antique book collectors, will pay higher prices for an old book in good condition.

Materials for Cleaning Old Books

Several materials can be used to clean old books. A soft dust brush vacuum attachment, a soft cloth, dry cleaning pad, white plastic eraser and glass cleaner are the only materials needed for cleaning old books with hard, leather and dust jacket covers. Cloth-covered books that are ageing must be handled with extreme care, and cleaning them can be more challenging. A product called Absorbene, a puttylike substance found at craft stores, is designed specifically for cleaning cloth-covered books.

Cleaning Old Books

It is very important to wash hands before handling old books. Skin oils can leave grease marks and other dirt on the books. Lay the book flat and use the soft brush vacuum attachment to vacuum up dust on the cover and in between the pages. Brush softly over the pages while holding the book at a slant so the dirt and dust does not fall back into the creases of the book. On leather-covered books, use a small amount of glass cleaner directly on a soft cloth to buff the cover and give it back shine. Do not get glass cleaner on the pages of the book; this will cause them damage. Use a dry cleaning pad on pages that have grease marks. Rub the cleaning pad gently over the surface of the page to remove these marks. A white plastic eraser can be used to remove any pencil marks found on the pages. Use the soft brush vacuum attachment to clean up the eraser dust and cleaning pad dust.

For cloth-covered books, use Absorbene according to the directions on the package. Carefully roll the puttylike substance over the cloth to pick up the dust, dirt and debris that gets trapped inside the woven texture of the cloth. Vacuum over the area with the soft brush attachment to make the cloth-covered book look as good as new.

Preventive Care

Avoid damage to books to keep them in the best shape possible. Keep books in a clean, dry area that is free from humidity. Humidity gets trapped inside the pages of a book and can cause them to swell. Never write in books since it decreases the value. Pen marks and marker marks are forever. Clean off books before placing them on a book shelf, and clean them once every few months to keep them looking good.

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