How to Clean Red Phosphorus Off Match Books

Written by sylvia cini
  • Share
  • Tweet
  • Share
  • Pin
  • Email
How to Clean Red Phosphorus Off Match Books
Matchbooks make great souvenirs. (open matchbook image by jimcox40 from

Collecting matchbooks is a wonderful way to preserve your travel memories. Although they are free and convenient to carry, matchbook designs often have a surprising amount of detail. However, given their flammable nature, matchbook collections must be properly processed before being shared with children. One way to make the collection safer to handle is to remove the strip of red phosphorus on the outside of the case. Keep in mind that this process ruins the value of the collectable. Serious collectors will only consider intact books worth keeping.

Skill level:

Other People Are Reading

Things you need

  • Acetone
  • Shallow glass bowl
  • Matchbook
  • Cotton Balls
  • Q-tips
  • Scissors

Show MoreHide


    Cleaning the Matchbook

  1. 1

    Cut off the heads of the matches without removing the cardboard stems. (They support the shape of the book.)

  2. 2

    Pour the acetone into the shallow bowl. Dip the cotton ball into the bowl. Do not saturate it. (Be sure you are working in a well-ventilated area.)

  3. 3

    Press the cotton ball onto the red phosphorus strip (where you strike the match). Allow this to soak through the chemical stripe.

  4. 4

    Use a water-soaked cotton ball to wipe the area you just soaked. The red phosphorus will come off of the book.

  5. 5

    Repeat Steps 2 through 4 with a fresh cotton ball each time. Swiping red phosphorus against itself may cause it to ignite, even in these minute amounts.

  6. 6

    Wipe the book with the water-soaked cotton balls to ensure all phosphorus is removed. Dry the matchbook on a window sill.

Tips and warnings

  • Rather than removing the red phosphorus, consider keeping only the cardboard cover of the matchbook. This will not satisfy a serious collector, but is an easy way to make these collectibles kid safe.
  • Red phosphorus is flammable. Work with care.
  • Acetone is a caustic inhalant. Work carefully in a ventilated area.
  • Do not try to preserve the red phosphorus removed from matchbooks. It contains glass, glue, and other chemical substances.

Don't Miss

  • All types
  • Articles
  • Slideshows
  • Videos
  • Most relevant
  • Most popular
  • Most recent

No articles available

No slideshows available

No videos available

By using the site, you consent to the use of cookies. For more information, please see our Cookie policy.