Sunday, February 21, 2010

Smoky book remedies

If you buy a lot of used books online, you are bound to receive a book from a careless seller that reeks of cigarette and/or cigar smoke (undisclosed in the listing, of course). Remedies abound in the Internet, but one of negligible risk that I've tried involves sealing the book in a bag with a small bowl (6 oz. or so) of baking soda for about two weeks. I received a particularly egregious example in the mail recently, and the bag & soda cut the offensive stench down to almost nothing.

Does anyone else have any tried and true methods to share?


  1. Thanks for the great tip! My problem isn't so much books smelling like smoke, but those smelling musty from being stored in the basement. I'll have to try this method on those.

  2. If you have any spare silica gel dessicant packs, put those in as well at the same time. The baking soda works best if it remains dry and doesn't cake up, and the dessicant packs can also prevent or at least stall any buildup of moisture that could lead to mold or mildew.

    Oh, and for the love of all that's holy, don't even think about putting the book in the oven, even if it's at a "safe" temperature. It's not that you can't drive out the smell with an application of heat, but most people don't realize that the temperatures listed on most oven gauges is a rough guesstimate. You could work things out beautifully and get a nice smokefree book...or you could catch a power surge and a temperature spike and realize that your book is now scorched. Unless you have an oven that you KNOW is calibrated properly, don't take the chance. (I haven't been dumb enough to try this, but a good friend did, and the scorches ruined the back cover.)

  3. Paul,
    I haven't heard of the oven method, but read tales of placing sealed books in the freezer to kill bugs. I don't imagine that temp extremes of any kind can be beneficial to book materials and binding!

  4. Any advice on the musty basement books would be greatly appreciated as I am working on a great stinker right now. And if anyone has tips on flattening a bathtub book (have received a few of these without, of course, any mention from the seller), I would also be greatly indebted.



If you wish to comment, please sign your name. Otherwise, your submission may be rejected, at the moderator's discretion. Comments containing outside promotions and/or links will be deleted.