That old book smell.

Purchased on ebay, an old book for SO’s b’day. (Richard Halliburton’s Complete Book of Marvels thanks for asking).

Got it, and, well, there’s a really strong odor. Not necessarily icky odor (almost like old lady bath powder) pretty heady/sweet, and not at all what you want to sniff while reading.

SO is really super sensative to odors. Any suggestions? (I’ve had it ‘airing out’ for a week - and while it’s quite a bit less noticable, it’s still there when you get into reading distance).

Sounds like you’ve got a book that has…mildew. Pretty common. Solutions - well, as a book collector, I checked into this with a very reputable rare-book dealer (Quill & Brush, out of Maryland - they “wrote the book” on collecting first editions)and they said the solution is, if you can believe it, kitty litter. Here’s the recipe:

  • Get some standard clay (i.e., non clumping) kitty litter
  • Put it in a pan deep enough to allow you to bury the book in litter (I can hardly wait to hear the sarcastic comments on that one). By the way, if it has a dust jacket, take it off before submerging…
  • Leave the book in the kitty litter for 3 weeks (!) The clay neutralizes the mildew
  • After 3 weeks, take the book out of the litter,brush off the dust (this part scared me - I assumed the dust would stick into the cloth of the binding, but it came off easily)and put the dj back on.

I have tried this on two books and it did fine. Best of Luck

Thanks! and, as luck would have it, we have 3 cats, so no shortage of kitty litter. Should I remove the cat first? (joking). will give it a go.


That old book smell you describe is nothing short of marvelous, IMHO. I happen to love the vaguely musty/moldy odor of a really old book.

It wouldn’t be a particular problem for me. However, the person who will receive the gift has a real aversion to heavy scents.