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TLC for Books

Updated on September 6, 2015

Most of us have books that we use frequently or read repeatedly. Over time our beloved books can become worn or damaged. Here are some simple fixes to help restore and repair your favorite tomes.

Dog-Eared Corners

Dog-eared corners can be straighten by place a sheet of paper over the folded corner and, using a warm iron, pressing until flat; just a few seconds.

Torn Pages

Torn book pages can be mended with gummed tissue. They can also mend the tears by gluing rice paper or onion skins over the tears. After mending the tears make sure to place wax paper between the pages to prevent the repaired pages from sticking to other pages possibly causing further tears.

Water Damage

Accidently spilled water on your book? Maybe dropped it in the pool? Place the book in the freezer. A frost-free freezer will draw out the moisture and unstuck the pages. In the case of large amounts of books getting wet because of flooding or broken pipes, check with your local food processing plant or wholesale meat distributor about temporarily renting out enough freezer space to freeze all of the books at once.

Leather Covers

Some books are crafted with leather bindings and like all leather needs the occasional cleaning and moisturizing. To clean and moisturize the binding use neat’s foot oil, saddle soap, or petroleum jelly. Apply any of these cleaners lightly with your fingers or a piece of cheesecloth, felt, or chamois. Wait several hours and apply a second coating. This will help preserve the leather bindings giving the book a long life.


You can protect both hardcover and soft cover books by using freezer paper. Cut the freezer paper to the book’s size leaving a little extra to fold over into the inside of the book. Using a warm iron seal the edges together inside the cover. This creates a protective cover that can be easily removed and replaced if damaged.

Dusty Books

Dusty books can be cleaned with a vacuum cleaner dust brush attachment. Gently move the brush back and forth of the book until the book is dust-free. Other methods for removing dust from books include using a soft bristled shaving brush or soft bristled paint brush and lightly brushing the dust off by hand.

Moldy Books

Books stored in places with a high humidity can benefit from having a dehumidifier placed in the room. Once the room has dried out considerably use a clean soft cloth to remove mold and mildew from bindings and pages. If mold remains on the pages, use a soft cloth dampened with rubbing alcohol to finish removing the mold and the fan the pages to dry them. You can also sprinkle cornstarch on the pages, leaving the cornstarch for several hours. Remove the cornstarch by brushing it from the pages with a soft bristled brush.

Residual Fire Damage

If your books have survived a fire but are covered with soot a chemical sponge is the answer. Chemical sponges can be found at janitorial supply stores. Using the chemical sponge, gently wipe the book covers until the soot is gone.

Most of these remedies will give new life to well used and moderately damaged books. Regrettably, severely damaged books may only find new life in the hands of a book doctor. Even more unfortunate, some books can never be recovered which is always a great loss. So be kind to your volumes and help them when you can in order to preserve the information and adventure contained within.


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    • milokatz profile image


      6 years ago from Roseburg, OR

      One way to get the moldy smell out of books and other paper documents is to set them in a container of cat litter for a week or two. Be sure to cover the container if you haves cats!!! I then took your suggestion and dusted them with cornstarch to eliminate the kitty litter smell. Worked like a charm. Thanks for the tips


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