Books Reek? Try These 6 Tips to Get Rid of Odor:

clothespinsDo you own books that smell like smoke or recently made a purchase of a book second hand only to find that the previous owner was a smoker? If you have you understand just how permeating the smell of cigarette smoke is. Fortunately, there are several ways to diminish and get rid of the odor. Try out these tips:

1. Fresh Air

Unlike humans who usually smell kind of musty after being outside (blame this on pores and sweat glands), books that smell of cigarette smoke will reek considerably less after a good airing. Hang books on a clothesline or on a railing. Flip the pages as you notice the smell to decrease. Shade is key when using this method or your book might get bleached out.

2. Potpourri

Alternatively, you can seal the book up in a tupperware container or plastic bag with potpourri. Make sure the potpourri is new and strong (and definitely a smell you prefer!)  Check on it after about a day – you might need to leave the book inside longer or refresh the ingredients. Afterward dispose of the potpourri.

3. Dryer Sheets

Stick some dryer sheets between several of the book pages before placing the book in a plastic ziplock. You shouldn’t require more than four or five sheets. Scented or non-scented sheets both work fine.  Check after a few days. I haven’t done this but some people have suggested using the sweater rack for your dryer and placing the book on the rack and setting your dryer on low for a short period of time. If you choose to do that, be very careful with your settings and watch the book. We don’t want fires!

4. Cedar chips.

booksNot only does cedar keep moths away it can keep the odoriferous smell of smoke away. Cedar chips can be purchased from a pet store and hardware stores. Once again place the book in a large plastic bag. Add a couple handfuls of cedar chips. As usual, check after a few days, refresh cedar chips if necessary.

5. Baking Soda.

After use don’t use the baking soda to cook with! Baking soda in a plastic bag or tupperware container will also get rid of the smell. Baking soda is more of a neutralizer than cedar chips and potpourri because it won’t replace the smell of smoke with a new scent. This takes between two and three days. Vacuum up the leftover baking soda and it will also freshen up your vacuum. Two birds with one stone?

6. Charcoal bricks.

Put one to two quarts into bag with book and after use discard. I don’t know who would choose this method but it is an option as it seems to be trading out smoke for well let’s face it a charcoal smell. BBQ anyone?

What are your tips?

Photo Credits: 1, 2

17 thoughts on “Books Reek? Try These 6 Tips to Get Rid of Odor:

  • January 30, 2009 at 8:47 AM
    Permalink

    Hmmm. I’ve never run into this problem. It would be a shame, because I love the smell of old books. I bet you’d never get that old book smell back if they were all smokey

    Reply
  • January 30, 2009 at 8:57 AM
    Permalink

    Carmen — Old book smell doesn’t bother me – it’s cigarette smell. I know a lot of people are sensitive to the smell of it.

    You’re welcome Kayla!

    Reply
  • January 30, 2009 at 9:51 AM
    Permalink

    I have to wonder though if the musty smell of old books is healthy even if we do like it? I read somewhere about it being related to mold? Or maybe the book had to be wet sometime first? Can’t remember. Thoughts?

    Reply
  • January 30, 2009 at 11:59 PM
    Permalink

    Great suggestions! I’ve had this problem with a few books not too long ago!

    :) wendi

    Reply
  • January 31, 2009 at 12:04 AM
    Permalink

    I don’t think it’s from dampness or mildew. Mildew has a very distinct smell, and Old Book isn’t it. It would also mean that every single library in the world has a mildew problem. It likely has to do with paper, binding glue, and possibly interaction with human skin oils. To make sure I was being accurate, I just picked up my 1955 original of The Age of Reform ( http://tinyurl.com/dhmj6n ). No mildew!

    Reply
  • March 5, 2009 at 8:47 PM
    Permalink

    have old zane grey books cover s smell how do i get it out

    Reply
  • December 19, 2010 at 9:46 PM
    Permalink

    After a good airing out, I like to use the sample perfume strips from magazine ads. Pick a couple that complement each other, open them up exposing their scent, place in your book and you’ll soon have a delightful read.

    Reply
  • January 12, 2011 at 8:51 PM
    Permalink

    Put the offending book into a large paper bag with a shallow of layer of clay, unscented kitty litter. Seal bag shut with a clothes pin. Leave for a few days. This will take the odor away. It works for smoke smells, “old book” smell, etc. I have done this several time before and it always works.

    Reply
  • April 15, 2012 at 7:04 PM
    Permalink

    Thanks for these tips. Since I quit smoking the smell of tobacco on books drives me mad with cravings so I’ll be trying these as I can’t stand parting with books.

    Reply
  • Pingback: Is it Difficult for a New Bookshop to Find Books? – The Bookshop Blog

  • January 28, 2013 at 5:26 AM
    Permalink

    Charcoal trick does not smell like charcoal or anything and is actually a known trick because it absorbs smells, this is also used when removing paint smell from a room/ other odors. XD

    Reply
  • June 11, 2013 at 6:37 AM
    Permalink

    As far as the charcoal trick goes, I would use something called activated charcoal rather than the coal they use for grills. I think the briquettes from the store already have some kind of lighter fluid on them (some of the brands, at least). Activated charcoal is much “cleaner” and is actually used in medicine. You can find it online or in health-food stores or in pet stores (it’s used in aquariums). There’s also a horticulture grade found at greenhouses and nurseries.

    A lot of the activated charcoal on the (medical) market is powder so you wouldn’t want to use that form. It would be so messy to clean up. The chunky type you can get at aquarium stores is probably better suited.

    I think the baking soda method would be better because even using large chunks of charcoal will likely stain your books black if they touched the books.

    Reply
  • July 30, 2013 at 7:54 AM
    Permalink

    NEVER use scented dryer sheets in books. EVER!!

    What a terrible idea. I bought a used book online and it arrived REEKING of chemical fabric softener. There were at least 6 dryer sheets stuffed inside the book. My eyes were watering from the fumes.

    I thought the book would be OK after I took the sheets out but the smell was so strong I had to put the book in my attic and hope that in a month or two it goes away.

    So much for THAT summer reading.

    Reply
  • February 13, 2015 at 10:49 AM
    Permalink

    Would these methods work with getting rid of the strong smells that I find in new books printed in China?

    Reply
    • February 14, 2015 at 10:45 PM
      Permalink

      I don’t see why they wouldn’t.

      Reply

Leave a Reply