How To Remove Mold From Books

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When I lost my home to mold, books were one of the first things I threw out. Given my particular situation it was way to risky to try to remove mold from books and save them. I lost a lot of gems that day to book mold. A lot.

A lot of people seem to overlook moldy books and write the issue off as a “common” issue. Maybe this is because there is an acceptance of “old book smell” being par for the course. The thing is, you don’t get old book smell on a book that does not have mold of some sort.

Today I am going to discuss how to remove mold from books. However, I would caution you from trying to do this. First, it is very difficult to do without ruining the book. Second, it very rarely works. Books are so porous and mold LOVES paper and book binding materials like glue. So do mycotoxins. Therefore, it is very risky to try to save contaminated books.

A stack of books with mold on a wooden background

Why Do Books Get Moldy?

I mentioned a couple of reasons above but let’s take a look at the main reasons why books get moldy.

  • They are made out of porous materials like paper, cardboard, thread, and leather
  • Book glue and other binding material are one of mold’s favorite foods
  • Books absorb moisture easily
  • Books often sit for long periods of time in boxes
  • Books move from location to location and get cross contaminated
  • There are loads of old books in this world that have had time to collect mold

Signs You Have Mold Growth On A Book Or Book Collection

  • Old book smell – this is from both current mold or mildew growth OR from mold that was previously removed
  • The appearance of substances resembling a thin haze, a patch of spots, or a powdery flaking layer, (normally white, black, or grey) on the cover or interior pages of a book
  • The presence of fuzzy growth, in just about any color you can imagine
  • The presence of stringy, white filaments on the pages
  • Evidence of past water damage (typically a brown stain or water droplet type stain)

How To Remove Mold From Books

You’ve decided that you want try to remove mold from a book or your entire book collection. Like I said earlier, it is not without risk, it won’t be easy, and you will need to devote a lot of time if you are dealing with a large book collection. Before you get started there are a few…

Precautions To Take Before Attempting to Remove Book Mold

Mold spores and mycotoxins will come flying off your books the second you handle them. Therefore, you want to make sure you protect yourself from all of the spores that will be coming at you.

You will need to:

How To Remove Mold On A Book Cover or Spine

Removing mold from a book cover or spine is a very simple process.

  1. Go outside as you do not want to release spores into your home or office.
  2. HEPA vacuum any topical mold off the cover and spine using the brush attachment.
  3. Dampen a sponge or soft cloth with EC3 Mold Solution and very lightly brush over the entire cover.
  4. Allow to dry for one hour in the sun.

How To Remove Mold On The Pages Of Books

What can you do about mold growth on the inside of a book? This is a difficult task as the pages of books are so delicate. Follow the steps below as this is your best chance to salvage your book.

  1. Go outside as you do not want to release spores into your home or office.
  2. HEPA vacuum any topical mold off the pages using the brush attachment.
  3. Dampen a sponge or soft cloth with EC3 Mold Solution and very lightly brush over the mold contaminated areas. Be careful not to soak through the pages as they will dry and stick together permanently.
  4. Place absorbent sheets (paper towels, rags, etc) between each page of the book and wrap the book in a towel. Set a heavy weight on top to squeeze out the moisture. Leave it for approximately 5 minutes.
  5. Open the books and set them in the sun to dry for an hour. If it is not a sunny day, you can use fans or hair dryers to speed the drying process, but air directed at the books for an extended amount of time can cause warping of the cover, boards, and pages.
  6. Seal each book in a plastic ziplock bag and place it in the freezer for 48 hours.

This process likely won’t remove ALL the mold spores or mycotoxins but it should get 90% of them. You may want to repeat the process one more time.

How To Prevent Mold On Books or In Book Collections

Humidity is the number one condition for the growth of mold and mildew on books. It is the moisture in still, quiet air that allows mold spores to grow and spread so quickly on books. Let’s take a look at the best ways to prevent mold on books.

Keep your books on a shelf that gets a decent air flow. Traditional bookcases and bookcase setups actually promote mold growth. First, the bookshelves are made of wood which mold loves. Second, most people crowd books onto each shelf and space the shelves close together to fit as many books as possible. Your books need space. Make sure the shelves are at least 2 inches apart and leave some wiggle room between each book.

Do not store books in a closet, basement, or against an outside wall of the house. Again – this is an airflow issue as well as a moisture issue.

Dust your books (especially the tops) as well as your bookcase once a week. Mold spores move around in dust.

Make sure that the humidity levels in your home stay low (you can learn more about this in my article on humidity meters) and use a dehumidifier if necessary.

Keep the air circulating in your home by using your HVAC, ceiling fans, and desktop fans.

Be sure to use an air purifier to capture any mold spores that might be tempted to make a home on your books.

Keep houseplants away from your library! Houseplant soil is notorious for mold. The moisture will also encourage mold growth on your books.

Don’t store unused books in cardboard boxes. Instead, store them in airtight plastic storage containers with a tight-fitting lid. Open the containers monthly to allow some airflow. I know that these storage containers are really popular for book preservation.

And that’s it! How to remove mold from books (as much as you can) as well as how to prevent it in the first place. Do you have any ideas to share? Please feel free to leave a comment!

Make sure you are practicing good mold prevention throughout your home and be sure you know how to remove mold from other areas of your house.

In this post I refer to EC3 products. They are one of the only three mold and mycotoxin removal products that I personally use and recommend. Please read my article outlining what makes EC3 superior when it comes to killing mold and mycotoxins. It has been independently lab tested and proven to be 99% effective when used properly. I encourage you to purchase EC3 products directly through Micro Balance. If you prefer to shop on Amazon, Micro Balance has a presence there as well.

A stack of moldy book on a wood table in front of libray shelves

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  1. Rhonda Harman says:

    We had our home remediated for mold at the end of last year. This year brings the job of cleaning and reintroducing items. We got rid of all of our mattesses, overstuffed furniture, furniture with porous backings, wicker items, and the list goes on…

    The one thing (actually hundreds or more) I really want to save are the many books we have. There is no visible mold on them, but imagine there are mycotoxins. We have been lightly spraying the covers with EC3 and setting them in the sun for days (when we get sun–it has been in short supply). Our son, who reacts quite instantly to mold has been reading some of his books that we treated and says he is doing fine.

    He still has many health problems so I don’t want him to be effected poorly by anything we think is clean. Can Mycotoxins get into the pages? Or do they just sit in the dust on top of the books? I have a really hard time understanding the power of mycotoxins. If you could enlighten me I would really appreciate it.

    Thank you so much for your outstanding articles as they have been such a help to me during these months of not knowing what to do and extreme stress. Blessings to you!!

    1. Sorry for the delay! Schooling at home has been a time suck this last week! If you didn’t read my mycotoxin article be sure to do that. They are very tricky to understand. In short, the mycotoxins would have been released from live mold spores as a protective measure. They do not replicate on their own however, they have some serious staying power. It does not matter if the books themselves as mold. The mycotoxins could land there any number of ways. They don’t root like mold spores. So if they landed on the cover, that’s where they will stay until disturbed. But if you open the book – game on. So really, there is no way to know if they are inside your book collection, just on the covers, nesting in the spine, etc…

      This is what I would do. Take about 15-20 of the books you would like most to keep. Spray and sun like you have been doing, trying to get a light mist around the edges of the pages. Then store them in an airtight plastic tote. Don’t open it for one month. After a month, carefully open it outside and give it a big sniff. If you or your son react, this means that the books are probably not salvageable. Interacting one book at a time is probably not a big enough “hit” to really know if your son is reacting. It’s what happens in bulk that will make the difference!

      Reach out any time with questions. I am so glad that you found my site and that it has been a help! Again, so sorry for the delay!

      1. Thank you for your website and post. I wonder how safe we really are that even new books we buy from the warehouse, shipping materials, store, etc. won’t already have mold in some form. Do you know if there are books that are prone to not harbor mold because they are made or covered in a special material? I am not aware of this. Seems like we may need to covert to audio books in the future.

        1. Books are very tricky. Really you won’t be able to avoid mold spores on a book you purchase at some point. But that is what I call “living with mold.” We do need some books in our lives. Mold spores and mycotoxins love book binding glue. So the more there is of that, the more of a risk. Books with slick covers that can be wiped off are safer from a cover standpoint. Fabric covers are a big risk.

  2. Mason Smith says:

    I really appreciate you explaining that it’s pretty risky to try and save the books with mold in them. My spouse and I are trying to get professional help with our mold problem right now because our home flooded last week. We need to reach out to some professionals soon so that we take care of this issue before it gets worse.

  3. It’s really interesting to learn that the book glue will be one of the favorite foods for the mold. My spouse and I are worried about mold because our home recently flooded. We want to make sure that we are cleaning off all signs of mold quickly so that we stay safe.

  4. Kurt Porter says:

    Thanks for sharing. There is a quick recipe from me. Brush away the infection only after protecting the rest of the book and gently swab moldy spots with tiny amounts of denatured alcohol or hydrogen peroxide. After you’ve cleaned away the mold, put the book in a sealed container with baking soda or activated charcoal for a few hours.


  5. Will ozone machine in an enclosed space be able to kill and treat the mold on books? It is suggested on a rare book recovery website… I have lots of books with white mold. I would not be breathing in the ozone and would run it in a closed closet with a towel under the door and then under the door of the room the closet is in and with vents closed too.

    1. Did you see my article on Ozone? It is possible BUT you have to have massive levels of ozone in order for it to truly work. Take a look at the article: You still have to do more than just run the ozone machine. The mold itself would need to be removed as much as possible first.

  6. Evan Jr. Wilson says:

    Such A Great Blog. Thank U For Sharing Useful Information.
    This Article Really Amazing And So Much Helpful For Me. Keep It Up. Thanks.

  7. Hello,
    Should we consider books that was in a room with mold on furniture for an unknow period of time, the same as what you talk about in this article? (And to throw them away if possible?). I don’t see mold on the books, but I don’t want to spread mycotoxin in the other rooms. And at the same time, because I don’t for how long the mold was on the furniture, I already move thing (or books) from this room at some point. (Mold was under the bed. The furniture have been thrown away and I am cleaning every thing, and now I’m not sure what to do with books or drawing books).
    Thank you

    1. Honestly it would be best to throw away as many of the books as possible. This does sound like they were exposed to the mold long enough to harbor spores.