I have a book from 1989 that I inherited recently. The cover and some of the pages have these dark stains and/or mold. It does not seem to have a bad odor (as far as I can tell).

  1. Is it possible to clean this book to remove the stains/mold?
  2. If so, how can I clean this as DIY at home?
  3. How can I prevent the stain/mold from spreading?

If need be, I might be willing to consider a professional job, if such a thing exists. I know there's book repair but from what I found, they seem to focus on binding. And Google tends to return results on carpet cleaning (sometimes Google is strange)

  1. Are there professionals that will do this?
  2. If there are book cleaning professionals, what kind of cost can I expect?
  3. If there are book cleaning professionals, is it actually worth it? More specifically, are they likely to do a better job than I can at home?

Dark mold and stains on book cover and pages

  • Eek, those are some nasty stains Commented Oct 20, 2020 at 14:53
  • @NorthLæraðr I double that "Eek". Commented Oct 20, 2020 at 15:06
  • Be aware that if this book gets damp and the mould reactivates (ie isn't completely wiped out) it will spread to your other books. Possibly keep it in a sealed bag, and be aware that if you read it, you will be breathing in mould spores.
    – NiceOrc
    Commented Oct 20, 2020 at 21:48

1 Answer 1


According to NLR in Australia, there are various ways to [get rid of mould in books]:

  • HEPA vacuum,
  • gamma irradiation,
  • freeze drying with anti-microbial treatments,
  • fogging treatments,
  • vapourisation and
  • vinegar / alcohol solutions

The page contains a video showing someone using a HEPA vacuum cleaner. The cost of this service is not mentioned on the NLR website; you need to request a quote.

The YouTube video Mould Removal by Archives Society of Alberta also demonstrates a method that is more appropriate for libraries and archives than for private individuals.

However, if you want to remove the mould yourself, most of the methods listed above require too much extra equipment.

The YouTube video Smelly books: How to easily kill/remove mildew and mold spores proposes a different methods: put the book into a plastic bag (e.g. a zipper storage bag), add some sodium bicarbonate (also known as baking soda) and store this in the freezer for a week. The bag needs to be sealed very well and it is recommended to change the sodium bicarbonate a few times. (How often this should be done is not mentioned.) This should kill the mould. The video also mentions that putting the book in the microwave also works, but heat can damage some books, especially older ones.

The YouTube video How to Clean a Mould affected book shows how to remove mould using a tea tree oil, which consists of 5% tea tree and 95% ethanol. This video only shows how the covers are cleaned, not the pages inside.

The YouTube video The Only Sure-Fire Way to Deal with Book-Mildew! by Steve Donoghue has a more radical way of getting mildew in books, but it comes at a price ...

  • Thanks! Do you think it's definitely mold? How can I identify what it is? Could it just be some kind of dirt or ink stain? Commented Oct 21, 2020 at 2:28
  • If it's just dust, you should be able to blow it away (but do that outside, since you don't want to spread spores into your house if it is mould after all). An inkblot would have a more regular "density"; the irregularity makes mould more plausible. (And mildew wouldn't cause black stains, apparently.)
    – Tsundoku
    Commented Oct 21, 2020 at 10:25

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