Whether the books on your shelves consist of rare first editions or novels that are only valuable on a sentimental level, they need a certain level of upkeep to ensure that they last a long time. Maintaining the quality of your older books will help them retain their monetary value, in addition to ensuring that they will be readable for years and generations to come.
Unfortunately for us bibliophiles, leaving these beloved books on the shelf to collect dust isn’t enough to ensure their safety. We need to actively make an effort to ensure that our books (leather-bound and hardback alike) live long and prosper. But what does that involve? Thankfully, for us, learning how to care for old books isn’t difficult, which means that you still have time to read and enjoy your books.
With just a few easy steps and precautions, your books can stay in tip-top shape for years to come.
How to Care for Old Books
There are many factors that go into caring for old books. Some things may seem obvious but other things, like humidity levels, might not be something you’ve ever considered.
Believe it or not, when dust accumulates on your books, it can actually lead to mold or mildew growth. It also leaves your books and home susceptible to a bug infestation. I know that as much as we want to be reading all day, the truth of the matter is, most of the time our books sit on our shelves for months, even years at a time. This leads to an accumulation of dust and the easiest way to keep dust off of your books is to regularly dust them. Just as you sweep and mop the floors—add dusting your books to your chore sheet.
Be gentle when you’re handling them and make sure that you don’t use any chemical cleaners. The easiest way to clean them is to use a dry cloth or paint brush and wipe it over the front and sides. In order to shorten the time between cleanings, we suggest storing your books in glass-fronted cabinets. This protects them from the outside elements, including dust, and allows you to display them properly.
You could also take it a step further and wrap the books in plastic covers to keep the dirt off them.
When you store your old books, or any book, make sure to do so out of direct sunlight. If your shelves are in direct sunlight and there’s nowhere else you can put it, then we suggest that you wrap the dust jacket in a UV-resistant plastic book cover. Sunlight will permanently fade dust jackets and covers, which can severely devalue rare books. It can also bleach the spines and paper and can lead to an increase in the acid content of the paper.
Temperature and Humidity
If you’ve ever dropped some water on your book, you know how damaging moisture can be to the pages. The same holds true for the temperature and relative humidity in a room where you store your books.
If it’s too hot the heat can crack leather spines and make book glue brittle making the pages fall out. Therefore, books should be kept as far away as possible from heat sources such as radiators, vents, and fireplaces.
It’s also imperative that you store them away from potential water sources like A/C units, pipes, and leaky old windows. This could cause condensation to form which could lead to mold growth on the paper. If you’re in an excessively humid climate, like Florida, even the moisture in the air can cause the creation of spores of fungi, like mold and mildew ( which are always present in the atmosphere), from blooming on your books.
When looking at how to care for old books, you should try to achieve a constant temperature and humidity within the book storage area. Additionally, make sure that there is a regular circulation of air in the room. The days of storing your books in a cardboard box in the attic or basement are long gone.
The best way to ensure that your books are stored in a cool, relatively dry, clean, and stable environment, we strongly suggest using a dehumidifier.
Eva-Dry Dehumidifiers For Book Storage
According to the National Library of Scotland, you should try and keep the room temperature where you store your books within the range of 60 to 66 degrees F, and the ideal humidity between 45% to 60%.
At Eva-Dry, we know that your collection is your passion. You’ve spent time and money building your treasured collection and we want to help you take care of it; don’t let dampness or moisture ruin your investment or your enjoyment.