Before you begin handling your book collection for storage preparation, always make sure you hands and skin are clean. This will help prevent the spread of dirt and oil onto the books covers and interior pages.
Now the first step in storing and keeping your book collection safe, is to acquire book covers. Book covers are designed to protect your book’s cover and/or dust jacket from dirt, oil, rips, dents, scratches, fingerprints, insects and moisture. They come in all different sizes, colors, materials, and formats, so choose wisely.
The terms ‘archival quality’ and ‘acid free’ are used to designate materials or products that are permanent, durable, and/or chemically stable and used for long-term preservation and conservation.
Below is a break down of the variety of book covers you can get, so you can better understand how to decide on which kind is right for your personal collection.
- A book can be inserted into the bags without permanently manipulating or bonding to the book. These can be removed and reapplied at will without damaging the book.
- Easy to apply.
- Available in various heights with adjustable widths.
- Provides good book protection
- Reusable covers are great to use on educational or reference material books that will be updated or replaced annually. That way you can easily apply them to the newest editions you acquire.
- Permanent covers are applied over the books covers, and folded to the proportions of the book. Meant for longer term storage.
- Available in rigid and flexible material.
- Pre-cut covers need trimmed to fit the book exactly.
- Release liner is pre-cut and/or notched for slightly easier removal.
- Most of the self-adhesive book covers feature a delay-bond that will temporality allow repositioning during application to correct placement errors, but not all. Make sure to check before applying if your book cover is self adhesive.
- Harder material that protects the book while also adding hardback qualities, so the book will stand-up better when shelved.
- Offers the best protection, but meant for long term use.
- Rigid laminate covers are recommended when a paperback book is being shelved as a collector’s item along side other hardbacks.
- More flexible material that offers protection to the covers without changing the paperback’s flexibility.
- More economical flexible laminate covers are recommended for shorter term use, such as on annual editions.
Book Cover Materials
All are available in a variety of thicknesses and some are available in clear or matte finishes.
- Polyethylene – a soft, clear material thats able to breath and let moisture escape. It has some elasticity which allows for it to conform easier for a tighter fit. Has good contact clarity.
- Polypropylene – a very clear, acid free, high sheen, crisp material. Often uses bi-oriented polypro, which stretches the material in both directions when being produced, so that it won’t wrinkle or warp over time. Less clarity.
- Mylar (Archival Polyester) – uses material of the highest clarity. Is acid free and very sturdy. Mylar will not discolor, damage, or adhere to items placed inside it. It is a strong material that displays beautifully, gives extra support to fragile items, and timelessly protects your collection. The best archival quality material.
- Book Cloth (Rayon Fabric) – cloth cover made of finely weaved rayon fabric and backed with pH neutral, acid-free paper.
Backing boards are important for support and will prevent spine stress and corner/edge wear, especially for paperbacks. Books should be kept on the coated/glossy side of the board, if both sides aren’t already acid-free. The rough side will create a tan image on the back cover over time. For longer term storage, look for boards that have a buffer throughout. Unless you’re using virgin, alkali-buffered backer boards, you should plan on changing the boards every 7 years or so.
- Chipboards – are pH neutral, contain acid, and are .030 point in thickness. White on one side. For short term storage.
- Standard Acid-Free Boards – are acid-free all the way through, and .028 in thickness. White on both sides. For intermediate to long-term storage.
- Super Acid-Free Boards – are acid-free, lignin-free, and contaminant-free with alkaline 8.0-9.0. Typically .040 point in thickness. Off-white, 100% alpha cellulose, buffered with calcium carbonate on both sides. Meets Library of Congress Archival Standards for long-term to indefinite storage.
- Paper and Matte Finished Dust Jackets: For paper and matte finished dust jackets and pages, the best treatment is a Document Cleaning Pad. These pads contain a soft, grit-free powder that absorbs and cleans surface dirt. Twist the bag to loosen some powder and rub it gently on the surface of the jacket with the pad, a soft brush, or your finger, if clean. This will help remove any dust and dirt which isn’t actually ground into your book. Another basic tool to use is a art gum eraser. These erasers will rub out lead or dirt cleanly, without eroding away the actual paper surface or leaving behind smudges. They do minimum damage to your books and keep them clean.They crumble easily, so occasionally take a second to wipe away the debris.
- Glossy Dust Jackets: Brodart® BroDex is a great cleaner for glossy dust jackets. Just apply to the book with a clean soft cloth and wipe carefully. Vaseline or petroleum jelly, is another useful way to clean your glossy dust jackets. A dab of it on a soft, clean cloth can often get rid of grime and smudges on dust jackets. Using a Document Cleaning Pad to wipe on and off, can be very helpful as well.
- Paper: Bookkeeper Deacidification Spray is a great way to slow down the effects of aging on wood-pulp paper. No treatment can reverse the affect of aging, but Bookkeeper Deacidification Spray can help slow it down.
- Cloth Bindings: Vulcanized Rubber Sponges work very well for cleaning cloth bindings. They contain no chemicals, so these sponges are considered very safe for cleaning purposes. They are used like an eraser.
- Leather: For cracked and dry leather bound books, apply Leather Restorer, which penetrates deeply into the leather to produce a scuff-resistant surface with a rich patina, that wont leave the leather oily or sticky.
- Dust and Dirt: Absorene™ Book Cleaner is very effective in that it works like an eraser, absorbing dirt, dust and smoke film while it cleans. Simply wipe the surface in one direction, as if erasing. A hand operated mini vacuum cleaner, or hair dryer set on a cool setting, are also great options for removing loose dust and dirt from your books. If you don’t have a cool setting on your hair dryer, hold it away from the book so that you don’t damage the covers or the interior pages. Remove the dust jacket cover and flip the book upside down to loosen some of the dirt/dust stuck in any tight spots. If you don’t have a vacuum, run a clean, dry brush along the gutters, binder, and pages. Your books will last much longer if you remove as much dirt from them as you can.
- Mold and Mildew: Document Cleaning Powder is helpful against Mildew, as well as surface dirt. Sprinkle on, gently rub in, then brush off. Mildew, also known as mold, can easily spread between your collection. Mildew and Mold thrive in moisture and heat, so another reason to store your books in a cool, dry place. A hair dryer on a low setting is said to help against beginning mildew.
- Oil or Grease Stains: Place absorbent paper towels or cloth between the pages, close the book, and place it under a book weight to help minimize oil or grease stains. After several days, remove the paper towel and repeat as necessary until the stain has diminished. For touch stains, gently rub Document Cleaning Powder over the stain, and let sit for several hours. Carefully brush or vacuum the powder away.
- Adhesives: Un-du™ Sticker, Tape and Label Remover is great for removing adhesive residue. Use of a thin, flat object, such as a knife to help carefully remove any adhesives after applying Un-du™. If you do not have Un-du Remover, using a hair dryer is also effective in removing stickers, labels, tape or anything that is glued. Make sure the heat is set to a low setting.
- Odor: Use Book Deodorizer Granules to help solve odorous book problems. They absorb not only odors, but moisture as well. Just place the book inside a closed container with the granules for up to a week. If Book Deodorizer Granules are unavailable to you, place the book, along with one of the following items, in a closed container of any kind for up to two weeks if needed:
- Baking Soda
- Cedar Chips/Shavings
- Unscented Kitty Litter
- White Vinegar
- Whole Bean Coffee
- Rips and Tears: Never try to repair a book with tape that isn’t acid-free. Tape, especially scotch tape, will yellow with age, and devalue your book. Always ask a professional bookbinder for advice in restoration if your book is rare and needs serious repair work. If you must use tape, acid-free tape like Book Repair Tape or Mending Tissue works best. You can also glue the tear shut by following these steps:
- Place a sheet of waxed paper under the torn page.
- Apply a line of Acid-Free Adhesive along the tear, using a glue brush, stainless steel spatula, thin paintbrush tip, cotton swab, or toothpick.
- Wipe away any excess glue and place a separate sheet of waxed paper on top of the tear. Close the book and apply weight on top for a few hours.
- Remove the waxed paper once the glue is completely dry.
- Deep Stains: Clean Cover Gel, a petroleum based product, is great for getting old book covers looking better. Practice first on an old, unused book to make sure you don’t damage anything on your first try. Put a small amount on a clean, lint-free cloth, and follow the steps below:
- Place the book on a larger piece of paper or cardboard, to make sure you can run the gel to the edges, without it spilling onto the floor, counter, desk, etc. Also put a piece of paper under the cover to protect the pages.
- Gently wipe along the surface of the board/cover in one direction.
- Wipe the gel off with a clean cloth.
- Faded Covers and Paper: If a book is faded by sun damage, it is unfortunately permanent. UV Book Covers will help protect against sun damage.