Removing Mold from Old Books

Dear Donia,
How do I remove mold on books so that it doesn't come back?

Moldy book


Q. Dear Donia,

I have a full set of the old Oxford English Dictionary. Many years ago after being in a damp room, a whitish mold appeared on the spines of the volumes. My wife removed it using alcohol, and they were fine for several years. Now it's been raining a lot, and the white mold has reappeared. What is the best way to remove it and make sure it doesn't come back? Thanks, David

A. Dear David,

Mold is a tricky beast. Once it sets in, it will come back and there is almost nothing we can do safely in the home to completely prevent it from returning. The best thing to do is to either freeze the volumes first if they are not too large and then rub them down again with alcohol or to simply remove the mold with alcohol. I recommend freezing them first to make removing it easier.  

You will find that any time the humidity goes up—like it did this summer for me too—the mold will return. Knowing this is the first step in trying to prevent it. When another damp summer comes around again, making sure that the books are in an area with good air circulation (such as with a fan) will help reduce the chance of the mold coming back. Nothing is perfect, but it can't hurt.

Good luck with the cleaning, and we will all keep our fingers crossed that we don't have a summer like this for a long time!