How to Clean the Cover of an Old Book

Updated February 21, 2017

Collecting old books is a hobby for some, and others inherit collections of old books from relatives. Old books are rarely maintained properly unless the previous owner was a collector or old book enthusiast, so the covers are often dull and dirty. Old books are often frail and require specific cleaners and handling, or you may cause serious damage to the book. Cleaning the cover of an old book requires special cleaners designed for such purposes, and are far less risky than a homemade method of cleaning.

Wipe the book cover with a soft cloth to remove dust. Place plastic around the pages of the book to prevent damage from accidental drips of the cleaning solution.

Place a small amount of Clean Cover Gel or a similar petroleum-based book cleaning product, on a soft, lint-free cloth. Test a tiny bit of the gel on a corner of the cover to make sure the colour stays true.

Rub the cover back and forth or up and down, along with the grain of the fabric, if possible. Do not use a circular motion. Allow the gel to sit for the prescribed amount of time based on the manufacturer's instructions.

Wipe the gel from the book cover with a clean, soft cloth.


Try testing the cleaning gel on less valuable books before using it on more expensive items. If the book is highly collectable and rare, consider hiring an expert to restore the book cover in order to avoid the risk of damaging your investment. Store old, collectable books in acid-free envelopes and sleeves in order to protect them from further staining.

Things You'll Need

  • Soft cloth
  • Plastic
  • Clean Cover Gel or other suitable commercial product
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About the Author

Kaye Morris has over four years of technical writing experience as a curriculum design specialist and is a published fiction author. She has over 20 years of real estate development experience and received her Bachelor of Science in accounting from McNeese State University along with minors in programming and English.