Many booklovers have had the experience of reaching for a fondly remembered volume, opening it up, and then being startled by a silverfish swiftly looking for a new place to hide. Mildew, mold, and mustiness are some of the other conditions that have been known to affect books in storage whether they’re treasured hard covers, or much beloved and ear marked paper back books. Unfortunately, storing books so they don’t get damaged is something that even book lovers fail to think about when they put a volume back on the shelf. How to store books isn’t typically thought about until books get damaged.

 In this Excerpt from the book Household Magic by Joan Wilen and Lydia Wilen the authors off tips and tricks for how to store books so that they come off of the shelf in as readable condition as they were the last time you read the story.


Francis Bacon—a prominent 17th-century statesman, philosopher and essayist—believed some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed on and digested. Of course, he didn’t mean that literally… and certainly not by silverfish—those fast-moving little insects that feed on the starchy material in book bindings.

Here are some helpful ways to keep your books (including this book!) in good condition, so that you’re the only living thing feasting on the pages.

Sticky Bookmark

It’s so easy for a bookmark to slip out of a book, especially if it’s the laminated kind. If you don’t want to lose your place in the book you’re reading, use a Post-it note instead.

You can either stick it directly on the page where you’ve stopped reading…or adhere it to the inside cover of the book—then, each time you stop reading, write the page number where you stopped on the Post-it note. It’s an inexpensive, reusuable and efficient bookmark.

Preventing Mustiness, Mildew and Silverfish

◆ Lack of circulating air around books encourages mustiness, mildew and silverfish. Resist the urge to stuff your books into the book case, and instead give them a little room to breathe by limiting your books to one layer per shelf, with enough room to add just two or three more books—but don’t!

It also helps if you can keep books close to the front of the bookcase shelves, which lets more air get to them. Remember—no books behind books.

◆ If you’re a real book lover, you may run out of bookshelf space and may have to store your excess books in cartons. Wrap a few charcoal briquettes in cheesecloth or in an old sock, and put it in the box along with the books. This helps to prevent mustiness and mildew. Store the carton in a cool, dry place, which will also help to keep your books in good condition.

Removing Mustiness

◆ Put the odorous tome in a brown paper bag, and fill the bag with crinkled pieces of plain (non-colored) newspaper, or one cup of natural clay kitty litter. Close up the bag, securing it with a rubber band.

After a couple of days, open the bag, take out the book and check to see if the smell is gone. If it isn’t, replace the newspaper pages or kitty litter with a fresh supply, close the bag tightly again, and let it stay that way for two more days. Repeat this process until the book is odor-free.

◆ You can also place the book in a frost-free freezer overnight. In the morning, the musty smell should be gone.

✪ Best Book Duster!

Use a clean (never used) paintbrush to dust your books.

Removing Mold or Mildew

If you have a moldy or mildewed book that you treasure, and you have the patience to do a tedious job, try this remedy…

Get a soft toothbrush, and gently brush off the mold or mildew from each affected page. Then sprinkle cornstarch or baking soda between the dirty pages, and let it stay that way overnight.

The next morning, use a new, clean tooth brush to gently brush out the cornstarch or baking soda. The book may not be as good as new, but it will be a lot better than it was, and you will have stopped it from getting worse.

For additional tips about to keep your household goods intact and other home care advice, purchase Household Magic from

Related Articles