Mold Remediation and Books

Unfortunately, books seem to be one of molds’ favorite things to eat.  That musty old book smell so common in thrift stores is due to books that have fallen victim to mold and mildew, probably while stored away in a basement or other location where temperature and humidity were uncontrolled and thus led to perfect mold growing conditions.

Books stored in cardboard boxes on basement floors seem to succumb to mold quickly.  As mold needs moisture (dampness and humidity) and an organic food source (paper), basement-stored books are ideal hosts for mold and mildew, and it can be difficult to remedy those once it is established.  The best course of action to prevent mold and mildew in books is to store them off the ground and away from walls. If they must be stored in a basement, they should be stored in airtight plastic totes where circulating mold spores cannot land.  Of course, the books will likely have already been exposed to mold spores, just about everything and everyone is every day, but the plastic will keep humid air at bay and the lack of humidity will help inhibit mold and mildew growth.

Books stored on bookshelves should be placed so that air can circulate around them.  Additionally, vacuuming the tops of those books may aid in the prevention of mold and mildew as the circulating spores will be less likely to take root on a clean surface.  It may be wise to avoid placing bookshelves against exterior walls.

Aside from the musty odor, moldy books often have a powdery appearance, with pages and covers sometimes splotched with oddly colored patches and stains.  People who are sensitive to mold may find that handling moldy books aggravates their sinuses or causes coughing and wheezing.  When books aren’t collectible or are without substantial monetary or sentimental value, discarding them is the main way to eliminate the mold.  If it is preferable to keep a book or books, then measures can be taken to try to clean the mold away.  It is important to note that musty odors may linger, even after cleaning.

After brushing away visible mold, lightly wiping book covers with denatured alcohol may remove the mold.  It’s good practice to do this cleaning outside so that when brushing away mold, it is not being sent back into indoor circulation to land again and re-wreak its havoc.

When the mold problem found in books stems from a more serious mold issue within the home, it is strongly suggested that a mold mitigation contractor be called to provide advice and an estimate.  The costs of losses of property and irreplaceable keepsakes is often much greater than the cost of the clean up services of a professional mold remediation company.

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