Clean Tu Casa Blog 

~ Armony in your home
Published On
September 8, 2023

Bookshelf Cleaning and Book Care: An Essential Guide for Book Lovers

Written By
Osi Egwuogu

It's International Literacy Day, and we're gonna talk about books!!! Everyone loves a great book collection, so much so that even after the advent of e-books and audiobooks, 32% of the American population exclusively read print books, 33%, both digital and print, and only 9% only read digital books. If you’re reading this article, you want to know the basics of bookshelf cleaning and care. We got you. 

Proper maintenance and care are essential in preserving your book collection. This guide will help you with effective bookshelf cleaning and maintenance hacks to keep your literary treasures looking splendid for decades.

The Significance Of Clean Books And Organized Bookshelves

  1. A clean and aesthetic book collection makes you want to dive right into your books. It just generally provides an enjoyable reading experience. You might even not remember to eat or sleep (Don’t worry, it happens to the best of us). 
  1. Clean, well-maintained books boost the aesthetic appeal of your book collection and your home in general. 
  1. It can be frustrating when you want to read your favorite book or series but can’t figure out where it is. It could trigger feelings of anxiety and stress. Having your bookshelf organized, on the other hand, gives you a sense of control, soothes your brain, and provides your brain with obvious cues for navigating chaos. 

Essential Tools And Supplies For Book Cleaning

bookshelf cleaning

Our guide on book care tips will start with giving you a list of the tools you’ll need to provide your books the TLC they so desperately need. The necessary tools for cleaning your books and bookshelves are:

  1. Soft brush: This could be a duster, makeup, or soft paintbrush. This is to brush off the accumulated dust.
  2. Microfiber cloth: You’ll need this for wiping dust on the bookshelves or spills. 
  3. Cornstarch: Perfect for removing grease stains.
  4. Vacuum with attachments: This is optional but can be used for vacuuming the dust, debris, and motes on the books and bookshelves. You’ll need a mesh cloth with this.
  5. Magic Eraser: This is to remove scuff marks on your bookshelf.
  6. Art Gum Eraser: This is to get rid of smudges on your book cover.
  7. Saddle Soap: This is to be used for leather-bound books.
  8. Compressed Air: Perfect for reaching crevices and tight spots where dust may hide.
  9. Old Sheet/ Towel: This is for catching dust or dead insects on the bookshelf or within the books.

Step-By-Step Guide To Cleaning Books

  1. Preparation and Inspection

This is the first step in book maintenance. Start by carefully removing all your books from the bookshelf. Gently place them on the floor or any surface. Flip through the pages of each book to check for dust, dirt, or dead insects within each page. Place an old sheet or towel on the floor to catch all of it.

When you remove your books from the shelf, always treat your antique books with the utmost care to avoid damage. Keep them away from direct sunlight and moisture.

  1. Dusting Off

Dust is your enemy, as it can damage the covers and pages and make your books look terrible. With your soft brush, gently dust the pages of each book. If you want to use a vacuum cleaner instead, place a mesh fabric such as cheesecloth over the hose's nozzle. This reduces the suction and prevents damage to your book. Don’t forget to dust the cover or jacket of your book.

  1. Cleaning Covers and Spines

Wipe the book covers with a lightly damp microfiber towel until clean, then buff with a dry towel. You can also use an art gum eraser to gently rub smudges away from your paper- or cloth-back books.

  1. Removing Stains

For cleaning book covers or pages of your book that might have grease stains, sprinkle generously with cornstarch. Place a white paper towel over the cornstarch and weigh the book down with other books for about 24 hours. Dust or vacuum the cornstarch off the book. If the stain isn’t completely gone, repeat.

Use a mixture of saddle soap and water for stains on leather-bound books. Dampen a microfiber towel with this mixture to clean the leather. Buff dry with a dry microfiber towel.

  1. Caring for Book Pages

Care for your books by keeping them away from food items, moisture, and direct sunlight, as these could damage the pages of your book. Clean the pages using the steps above if they accumulate dust, smudges, or stains. 

Maintaining And Organizing Your Bookshelf

book care through tags

To keep your bookshelf in a pristine condition, it needs regular dusting and organizing. Dusting should happen once a month, but this can be flexible depending on where you live. If you live on a farm or near a dirt road, you might have to dust your shelves more often. Shelf dusting shouldn’t be neglected as dust could weaken the wood of your bookshelf. You can also use a magic eraser to remove scuff marks on your bookshelf.

You should organize your bookshelf to boost its appearance and for easy access to your favorite books and authors. Organizing your bookshelf wouldn’t be much of a problem if everything had its place. Depending on the contents of your library, you could organize based on color. However, if your library contains several authors, series, or book genres, it’s best you organize it according to subjects. 

To prevent your books from falling or leaning on each other, you could also use bookends to support them.

Storing Books Properly

To do this requires that you follow some ground rules. They are:

  1. Dust your books regularly.
  2. Keep your books in a stable environment. Don’t store them in an attic or a basement because of heat and moisture, respectively. Too much of either can speed up deterioration and encourage mold growth.
  3. Keep them away from direct sunlight to prevent discoloration and deterioration of the paper.
  4. Shelve your books in an upright manner and use bookends so that they don’t get misshapen. If a book is too bulky, lay it flat instead.
  5. Grab your books by the middle of their spine instead of the top.
  6. Keep food items and drinks away from your books to prevent staining.

Preserving Collectible And Antique Books

antique books

Preserving rare books is an art that needs to be mastered by every antique book owner. Improper storage causes mildew growth, rapid deterioration, and aging of rare books. They need to be kept in good condition to keep up their value.

  1. Storage: They should be kept upright on shelves with some space between the texts so they can be pulled out easily. Storing books on the shelves should be based on size so larger books don’t indent smaller ones. Don’t stack them either to reduce strain on their spines.
  2. Humidity: Invest in a dehumidifier to monitor humidity levels in your home or library. Store the books in a room with minimal windows. Increased humidity encourages mildew growth, while low humidity can cause book glue to dry out or leather covers to crack.
  3. Sunlight: Exposure to sunlight and the resultant UV rays can cause bleaching, yellowing, and paper browning. It also causes cracks in the binding and the deterioration of the fabric. Simply put, keep your books away from direct sunlight. Store in a dimly lit room or use dust jackets with UV protection.
  4. Dusting: Dust your books regularly to avoid mold and insect infestation. Make sure to dust the books gently. Also, dust the bookshelves before returning the books.


A clean and organized bookshelf will enhance the aesthetic of your bookshelf and allow for easy accessibility. Remember that to enable your books to last for a very long time, you need to keep them away from direct sunlight, moisture, heat, and excess pressure, as well as food and drink items of any kind. You also need to dust and inspect your books and bookshelves regularly.

Celebrate this International Literacy Day by implementing these book care tips in your library for a beautiful book collection. Don’t forget to share this knowledge with fellow book lovers.

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