Tend to your beloved tomes with these expert tips.

By Brandi Broxson
Updated August 24, 2016
David Malan/Getty Images

Whether you pick up a vintage copy from a second-hand store or order a fresh read from Amazon, your books need care to stay their best. Since books are made up of organic materials (like wood, paper, and cloth) they’re often a tasty treat for fungal growths like mold and mildew, says Amber Shehan, a writer and marketing coordinator at Biblio.com, a book-marketplace website. Here’s how to keep them tip-top.

David Malan/Getty Images

Store Books in an Environment Free of Humidity

If your book smells “old” or musty, it’s most likely a sign that mold or mildew has spawned and a very humid environment is the culprit. So it’s best to store your favorite titles in an area with decent air­flow in open shelving rather than in closed bins or closets. If you have no choice but to keep books in a stuffy room, run a fan to keep the air moving.

Perform Regular Cleaning

Dust the tops of your books every now and then since mildew spores like to cling to dirt and grow, says Shehan. If you see mold or mildew growth that is dry and powdery, the fungi is dormant. Wear a dust mask and disposable gloves and use a soft dry rag or sponge to wipe it away, and then let the book sit in direct sunlight for a few hours to zap away the spores.

…And If Needed a More Intense Cleaning

If the mold and mildew growth is fuzzy and soft, you have actively growing fungi, says Shehan. “Isolate the book from your collection immediately and wrap it in clean and dry plastic, then place in your freezer for a day or two to kill the fungi,” she says. When you remove it from the freezer, use a handheld vacuum nozzle to suck up the frozen fungi or brush it away gently with a soft brush.

Keep Books Smelling Fresh

If your books are free of mold and mildew but still have a smell, try this trick. Get a sealable plastic bag large enough to contain the book, sprinkle baking soda inside and add the book. Leave it for a few hours, and then dust off. Smell begone!