How To Preserve Old Books in 4 Easy Steps

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How To Preserve Old Books in 4 Easy StepsBecause memories matter…

We all have that one book lying around.

You know what I’m talking about. It’s been sitting on your coffee table, waiting to be read. Perhaps it’s under a pile of ad brochures and mail. It could also be in your beach bag from last year.

Or, God forbid, it’s right there on your washing machine, in the bathroom!

Nevertheless, you’ve bought this book ages ago and you’ve forgotten all about it. Now, it has accumulated a layer of dust, and the corner of the pages have become yellowish.

The thing is, preserving a book is easy – you’ll find out how to do precisely that in this post.

However, we all get kinda lazy after a while.

I mean, sure, when you buy a new book you act like you’re holding a holy artifact. Once you dig in and start reading it, the book preserving etiquette goes out the window.

How to Preserve Old Books in 4 Easy Steps
  1.  Be careful, you’ll break the spine
  2.  The environment matters
  3.  Proper Storage
  4.  Keeping them clean
  5. (Last Step… bonus)– read to the bottom to see it!

In any case, we all have books that we appreciate and want to preserve — gift, a first edition, the old collection of poems your grandma left you.

It’s important to cherish the paper and the memories we’ve carved on it.

Here are the steps every bibliophile should follow to preserve old books at home.

1. “Be careful, you’ll break the spine.”

How To Preserve Old Books

I’ve said this phrase numerous times; usually to my brute friends who carelessly leave the books open and upside down so “I don’t miss the page!”.


The first step before we move any further is to be gentle while handling your old books.

While I appreciate feeling the book without worry about a few cracks on the spine, if you want to preserve a first edition or something rare, then you should be mindful.

  • Use a bookie.
  • Don’t stretch the pages more than necessary.
  • Don’t use ink to mark passages.
  • Don’t put unnecessary pressure on the top or the side of the book.
  • Read with both hands.
  • Always keep them upright!

Honestly, these things alone could extend the life of a book by five years. But they’re not enough for long term preserving.

2. The environment matters

How To Preserve Old Books

You could do everything right, but if there’s too much heat, too much cold, too much humidity, too much dryness, then you’ll effectively compromise your old books.

Fortunately, you don’t need to have perfect conditions. To preserve them at home, you need “good enough.”

Maintain average temperature at all times (65-72 F) and 50% humidity. Air condition and a cheap humidifier could help you combat the seasonal changes, at least in the library room.

Make sure you store the books in a place that isn’t always bombarded with sunlight. On the other hand, dark rooms that never receive natural light could hurt old books as well.

The wind could contain dust particles, so a window screen is also an excellent addition to your preserving tactics.

But what happens when some books are too valuable for exposure? Should you move them to a safe or something?

3. Proper Storage

How To Preserve Old Books

I’m guilty… I have an old, moldy wooden box where I’ve stuffed a bunch of my old books.

And let me tell you, they don’t look good.

Now, the simplest thing you could do is place your books in a library, neatly. Make sure you frequently clean the dust to prevent mold spores from developing.

Before handling the book, wash your hands. The natural oils of your body could harm the fragile pages.

But if you want to take things a step further, you could use polyethylene bags and acid-free metal boxes — or, even cotton inspection gloves.

These things will protect your precious books from most environmental danger.

4. Keeping them clean

How To Preserve Old Books

I’ve already mentioned that you should dust them off occasionally. But how?

Well, the easiest way is to use a damp cloth and gently dab the cover, side, and back.

Of course, this is your last result. If you’re serious about preserving your old books, then I suggest you grab some dry cleaning sponges and some absorene.

That way, you can make plain water that doesn’t create any spots or yellow paper.

Once you have these items (they’re super cheap, and they last a long time), you should use them as you see fit.

And don’t forget… the best way to avoid stains and whatnot is to, well, be careful with eating and reading!

Last Step: Actually enjoy them

How To Preserve Old Books

See, I can be the most strict person when it comes to preserving my books. But there’s a point where it can become a crunch and take away from the fun that is reading a book!

Yes, you should make sure your old, valuable books are well-kept and guarded against the dangers of the outer world.

Sometimes though, you have to grab the book, open it, and start reading. Because that’s what a book is for!

If you’re afraid to touch it, then what’s the point of having it in the first place?

Books NEED to be read.

Authors don’t sacrifice months (even years) from their lives, so their book can be neatly placed in a safe box, never opened, never read.

Our community of bibliophiles can be quite uptight in that matter. We get too obsessed with the thing instead of the content inside it.

Do you remember the first time you hold a book in your hands?

You were a kid. You didn’t care if you had ketchup on your hands or if you cracked the spine.

You were too focused on reading the damn thing.

OK, forget what I said… please don’t touch books without washing your hands… please!


P.S – What are some book-preserving methods you’ve been applying? Share them below!

About the Author

George Kourakos is an ad-man by day, a writer by night. He is a mathematician with a creative side. Working full time as a copywriter, George wants to explore his creative side by writing about his favorite topics.

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