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General Philatelic/Supplies, Literature & Software : That Musty Old Book Smell

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Snick1946
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APS Life Member
07 Jul 2019
08:03:01pm
Any suggestions on how to neutralize this in an old album? I bought a beautiful old Scott International volume one recently. It is clean, no mounts in great shape. But..it smells like 'old book' Not musty or like cigarettes but like it may have some mold spores embedded

I am currently storing it in a sealed plastic box with a coat of baking soda on the bottom, does anyone have any other suggestions if that doesn't work?
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Harvey
07 Jul 2019
08:12:25pm
re: That Musty Old Book Smell

Half my house smells like that plus one of my cats is real old and stubborn and pees where he wants. I clean it up when I find it, but I figure I'll die of mold exposure by the time I'm Ninety in another 23 years. Seriously, and I hope I'm wrong, but a friend of mine is into old books and says he gets rid of that smell by putting the book outside in the fresh air opened to a different page every day. If the smell really bothers you I really hope there is a better and quicker way!

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jbaxter5256
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07 Jul 2019
09:42:19pm
re: That Musty Old Book Smell

A local stamp dealer suggested recently regarding a similar issue that the best thing was to expose it outdoors to sunlight for a few hours flipping pages. I assume his expectation is that the ultraviolet light exposure related to the sunlight was the major curative factor.

I had seen online some suggestions involving baking soda and/or dryer sheets and sealing offending pages in a container would, also, help although my experience was they did not have a sufficient impact. I ended up removing the stamps from the album pages and disposed of the album pages in question although fortunately the pages were not as nice as the album you are describing. Given the absence of sunlight here in the northwest during the time period in question that suggestion regarding outdoor exposure was not able to be followed.

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nlroberts1961
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08 Jul 2019
07:50:58am
re: That Musty Old Book Smell

Kitty litter is another option. I'd avoid the sunlight - it can cause the pages to curl among things.

The reason these approaches do not seem to work is the application is not diligent enough. The sheets need to be laid out individually in such a manner that air can circulate. Use something like a large flat plastic container. If its a bound volume you need to fan out the pages. If its a cloth binding do your best to clean it without damaging it. In my experience its where most of the problem exists.

You would need to put dryer sheets between every couple of pages not just one or two in a bag. You can also try interleaving newspaper between the pages for a few days but I would leave that to a last resort. The baking soda approach will likely need repeated applications and it may take several months to remove the odors completely. Activated charcoal can be subbed for baking soda.

It take a long time and many repeats to completely remove the odors.

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Philatarium
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APS #187980
08 Jul 2019
11:55:04am
re: That Musty Old Book Smell

I've had this problem with bad cigarette smoke on stamp items and philatelic literature sent to me. (If I had first seen these in person, I wouldn't have bought them.)

I tried both the baking soda and dryer sheet approaches, and they didn't work for me. (Also, the dryer sheets can add a different scent, and I'm not sure you'd want that either, although there may be some neutral or scent-less sheets out there.)

But what did work is 'activated charcoal'. Not the charcoal briquettes used for grilling, but the kind used in aquarium filters and for soil amendments. I've found it far too expensive in pet stores, but I have found it priced much more favorably at garden centers. (It's used to help adjust soil pH.)

It was several years ago when I last looked for it, and I could not find it at Home Depot or Lowe's, but did find it a West Coast chain (Orchard Supply), which has since gone out of business. (Too bad -- that was my favorite.)

But you may well be able to find it locally at a true nursery/garden supply store.

- - - - - -
Update:

I went looking online to see if I could show an example of what I'm talking about.

I did find it on Amazon (convenient if you're a Prime member):

https://smile.amazon.com/Hoffman-17502-Charcoal-Conditioner-24-Ounce/dp/B001ACPZ0W/ref=sr_1_3?keywords=activated+charcoal&qid=1562600038&rnid=2941120011&s=lawn-garden&sr=1-3

And, although I couldn't find it online at Lowe's, I did find it online at Home Depot. It's not available at any local stores in our area, but I see that it can be ordered online and shipped for free to your local store, where you can then go and pick it up and not pay a shipping charge. (That would appeal to me, and is probably what I would do next time I need more.)

https://www.homedepot.com/p/Mosser-Lee-2-25-Qt-Dry-Horticultural-Organic-Charcoal-0810/301896530

I see that Amazon and Walmart online also sell sachets of activated charcoal. They seem really expensive for the amount of charcoal per sachet, so I think you're paying a lot for convenience. I would skip this and go straight for the soil amendment product.

- - - - - -

It still took several weeks (perhaps close to a month) for it to work, but it got rid of about 99% of the smell. I was able to get rid of that last 1% by leaving the material out in the fresh air for an afternoon, so that's not too much exposure to the elements.


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Snick1946
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APS Life Member
09 Jul 2019
12:16:02pm
re: That Musty Old Book Smell

Thanks, all.

There are a number of stamps still in the album. I'd have to remove them prior to exposure of the pages to sunlight. For now I am trying the baking soda route. I covered the bottom of a flat plastic storage box with soda then just sat the volume in the box and snapped thee lid on. I checked today, I don't think it's quite as noticeable. Appreciate the info and links re the charcoal, that may be my next stop.

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TuskenRaider
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09 Jul 2019
12:51:17pm
re: That Musty Old Book Smell

Hi Everyone;

Never seal or enclose something that smells moldy, you're just inviting further mold growth. Mold spores can be killed completely by heating to 175 degrees F for several hours. The smell can't be killed by heat as far as I know, but the activated charcoal will. However it must be 'activated' charcoal.

Still just sortin'....
TuskenRaider

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Harvey
09 Jul 2019
01:40:42pm
re: That Musty Old Book Smell

I think TuscanRaider has a point. I gave up collecting for a period of years and had the collection packed away. A few years ago I hauled them out again and they did smell bad! I always remember that scene in Labyrinth when the Muppet character Ludo used the line "Smell Bad" when discussing the "Bog of Eternal Stench". Anyway, back to the topic, now that the collection has been back out and opened many times, it smells much better. Maybe patience is all that's needed.

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BWSchulz
30 Aug 2019
07:30:19pm
re: That Musty Old Book Smell

Exposed the book, pages fanned out, to an air filter with a negative ion generator. It will kill the mold and remove the smell. A household type will take longer than an industrial version, but it will work.

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jkc1999
01 Sep 2019
06:39:31am
re: That Musty Old Book Smell

Agree with BWSchultz. We have an ozone generator purchased on Amazon and it does wonders for removing odors from everything. Ours is a commercial unit that was $80.

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