How to Remove Book Odors

By Joe Waynick
September 28, 2012

Few things turn customers off more than smelly book odors.

I recently purchased several boxes of books from an off-site estate sale and learned first-hand how repugnant it can be.

Apparently, the previous owner was a heavy smoker and her books reeked of cigarette.

Now I'm not bashing smokers.

What smokers do with their lungs is their business. It's just that I don't want to be subjected to their choice.

If the sale had been held at the home of the previous owner, (as most estate sales are), I would have known about the book odors because the house would have carried a distinct smell of smoke.

But since the items were sold at an auction house where close inspections weren't allowed, I basically rolled the dice on the purchase. That's one of the risks you face when you sell old books.

My Favorite Method for Getting Rid of Book Odor

First you'll need a plastic container large enough to hold your book standing upright with the covers spread open to expose the internal pages. The container should be airtight and come with a lid to hold in book odors for this technique to work.

You'll also need a raised, perforated surface like a cutting board, cooling rack, or cookie sheet. Any flat, level surface will do so long as it's raised at least 1/2" off the bottom of the container.

If your board isn't already perforated, you can easily drill a liberal amount of holes through it to do the trick.

Use this same technique for removing musty odor smells as well.

The final item you need will be a large box of baking soda. Dump the baking soda into the empty container so that it completely covers the bottom. The rack will go in the container so it sits flat on the bottom.

You can buy all of these supplies for just a few dollars at major department stores and increase the value of old books by getting ride of offensive odors.

Here's How to Do It

Place your book on the rack sitting on its bottom edge with the covers open and pages fanned out as much as possible.

You may need to use a pair of book ends to support paperback books. Musty old comic books will need a hanging rack of some kind.

Finally, seal the container with an airtight lid so the baking soda can absorb any odors the book may have.

After three days open the container and give your book a "smell test" to see if the baking soda has done its job and removed any unwanted odors from your smelly books.

If more time is needed, put the book back in the container and wait another three days.

Keep repeating this process until the book no longer has the offensive odor. Once you've gotten rid of that old book smell, your book is ready to be cleaned and listed for sale online.

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