Removing Odors from Stinky Books


You’ve all smelled it. Maybe it was a musty, wet smell that reminded you of a dank basement or maybe it was the stale odor of cigarettes clinging to the pages. There are many different smells, but in this blog, we’re focusing on offensive odors. We’ve all gotten bad-smelling books. Whether the stinky books are donations or returning to your collection from being checked out, you will need to make a decision. Is the odor so bad and offensive that it would be better to get rid of the book?  The following recommendations were offered by experienced librarians on a public forum. Their last names have been removed to protect their privacy. All of their suggestions are appreciated!

Inspired by a thread on WisPubLib

We should call the readers who return books with strong smells : “Odor Readers.”
By Janice M.

We spray some febreze on a paper towel and lay the towel into the fanned pages of the book. For severe odors we actually put the book and the paper towel into a big zip loc bag. Febreze is now part of our book repair kit.
By Diana

An opened bag of activated charcoal, of the kind purchased in lawn & garden stores to put in the bottom of houseplant pots, also works really well when set up as Kathleen described.  Especially for moldy musty smells.
By Kris A.

I’ve also seen folks use dryer sheets – put them in a bin with the materials – don’t let them come into contact with the paper as the oils from the dryer sheets may damage the paper.
By Martha B.

What I’ve seen folks do is take a plastic bin, like a sweater storage container or something similar, then place a container or box of either cat littler or aquarium rocks (zeolite containing is supposed to be best) or even baking soda in one part, and the books in another next to the odor absorbent material, seal it up and leave it for a week or so.
By Katie M.

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About shortlibrarian

I am a woman working in the Twin Cities as a programming Librarian.
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