Thursday, February 12, 2009

Thursday 2/12 part B -- spring cleaning/books

In my previous post, I outlined general tips for spring cleaning. I forgot to mention how important it is to dust books and bookshelves. Dust and mold can collect in books, which can, in turn, cause many health problems for you and your loved ones. Not the least of these problems are allergies, asthma and lung problems. Not only does book dust endanger your health, but keeping books clean obviously makes them nicer to use.

We notice the musty smell of book dust whenever we visit the library or used bookstore. If you're a book lover like me, you may even have come to love that peculiar "library" scent. However, we are less likely to recognize that our own bookshelves may be equally musty and, therefore, not healthful for us. Unless we work in a library, our exposure to book dust there is generally for a short time once a week or so. We live with our own books day in and day out, and we may not realize how many allergens and irritants are accumulating in their pages.

According to Cheryl Mendelson, author of Home Comforts, the best way to preserve a book is to read it! The simple act of taking it down from the bookshelf shakes dust off of it, and reading it airs it out. I'm all for this fun bit of home keeping! However, most modern homes have more books and Bibles than are read and re-read in a six month period of time. That means we will need to do a little more work to keep those books clean and ready for use.

In this article, we're not talking about antique or valuable books or books of sentimental value. Those need to be cared for by special methods. For other books, however, give them a once or twice a year dusting with a soft cotton cloth or vacuum once a year with the attachment of a vacuum with a HEPA filter. You can even put cheesecloth or something across the opening of the attachment to provide extra protection if you like. You can buy special tools for cleaning books. There is also a special cleaning pad for books. However, you can do a good job just with a clean cotton cloth that you have on hand.

Make sure your hands are clean as you work. Otherwise, skin acids can hurt the paper in books. Start with the top of a bookshelf and work your way down. Have a small waste basket underneath you to catch dust that falls as you work. Be gentle as you dust. Open the book, flip the pages a little, and take out any objects -- such as bookmarks -- that have been stuck in a book and inadvertently left there. Check the pages for mold and dust. In the early stages, mold can be dusted away; mold that has set in requires professional advice to determine if the book can or cannot be saved.

After you have tended to the pages, close the book. Dust the top and bottom of the book, as well as the cover and spine. Hold the book very carefully.

When you return the book to your shelves, line it up at the front of the shelf. Leave some room in the back for air to circulate around the books.

As with any cleaning, wear a dust mask if you are ultra-sensitive to dust or mold.

Watch for any signs of a pest infestation, such as silverfish, rodents, etc. This could indicate a more serious cleaning problem that must be dealt with.

Happy Home Keeping!


Jenny said...

I am so excited to have found this homemaking course. I never took home-ec in school, so I look at this as my big chance. I really excited to start and will start at the very beginning of the course. Thank you so much for doing this.

I just wanted to let you know about an experience I had with a book. My local library has a free section in which I discovered a lovely illustrated encyclopedia of the Bible. I was overjoyed to have found it and so looked forward to thumbing through it at home. I was in a hurry that day, so I just tucked it in my bag. A few days later, I opened it up and within seconds, my chest started to hurt. Upon closer examination, I noticed the book had been water damaged. I noticed no sign of mold, but there must have been something in that book. I tried again a few days later and the same thing happened. Needless to say, I threw the book in the garbage. I hated to do it, but I felt it was a biohazard. Ever since then, I've been very careful about the used books I bring home.

Elizabeth said...

Hi Jenny,

I'm excited that you're following along with us. Just go at your own pace!

Yes, books can contain microbes that can hurt our health. This is particularly true for people with sensitive systems, for very old books, and for books that have been damaged by water. So, I imagine that your system might very well have been reacting to something in the book you got to take home. Sometimes, corn starch or baby powder on the leaves of a book that has been water damaged can help. But, sometimes, there's nothing you can do. Also, sometimes a one-time sunning of the pages can kill mold and dust mites and other problems in the leaves of books, though books do not generally do well with lots of sunlight exposure. I'm so sorry you had to throw away such a treasure as an illustrated encyclopedia of the Bible. But, I'm glad you are careful about the used books you bring home.