If you are searching for easy and affordable ways to store books, you might have heard suggestions about vacuum sealing your books for storage and the benefits of the method. While sealing foods, clothing, and multiple other items into vacuum bags saves on space and prevents some types of damage to your books and papers, it is not a solution for every damaging element which might occur.
Books placed in vacuum sealed bags have an extra level of protection against moisture, insects, and general dust and debris. However, vacuum seals do not prevent the actions of certain types of organisms that operate in the absence of oxygen.
Vacuum sealing is a process which seals the books inside an impermeable bag. The equipment removes the air and leaves the book intact for long-term storage, inside. The plastic vacuum bag prevents external contaminants from entering the bag, while the vacuum created by the sealer can discourage other sorts of damage. Potentially preventable contaminants include oxygen, insects, or liquids.
How Does a Vacuum Sealer Work?
If you have some valuable books or those which are precious to you, a vacuum seal bag may be a helpful long-term storage solution. To store the books safely, place single volumes into a vacuum seal bag. It will keep all exposure to air away from the book. Placing books in a protective bag will also prevent damage to the corners and page edges.
As with any storage methods, preparing your books correctly before placing them in a sealable bag is important. The books should be clean and dry. While removing air from the bag stops or dramatically reduces the rate of deterioration, it does not necessarily kill off all existing organisms which can cause damage to your books.
If you want to add an extra layer of protection, consider placing your books into the freezer for three to four days to kill off any organisms such as insects and fungi. Once the freezing process is finished, place the books into the bag and remove the air.
Removing the air from the bag also helps to prevent dust mites from getting on the books and causing potential damage. However vacuum sealing every book you own is a time-consuming process, so you may want to limit the procedure for the most valued and fragile books.
Once the books have been sealed, place the packet into a storage container to prevent light damage. The major destructive elements for books have been taken care of by this multi-step process.
How Do You Store Books So They Don’t Get Moldy?
Rare or collectible books can become very fragile over time. One of the major threats to books is dampness followed by mold growth. Mold grows very quickly when the necessary temperature and moisture conditions are met. There are several helpful techniques and environmental steps which will help to prevent mold. If mold is found in your book collection, it is important to take action quickly to prevent further spread of the fungi.
What is mold?
Mold is a type of fungus that can grow anywhere that it can find a source of food and the right humidity to foster development. Because there are so many different types of mold, it can appear as fuzzy spots, colored dust, thick spider webs, or patches of fine threads. It is most often found on porous and natural surfaces such as paper, leather, wool, silk, linen, and cotton.
What is mildew?
Mildew is often found in the same areas as mold, but they are not the same kind of fungus. Moldy or soiled surfaces provide nutrition for mildew. When the food source is combined with the best humidity and temperature levels, mildew may appear and spread rapidly. Mildew is characterized by its smell, and by white, gray, or black flaking areas on the book’s surface.
When there is mold or mildew present, the paper, books, or magazines should be removed immediately. Both mold and mildew survive on organic materials, and their presence can weaken the structure of the book, stain the pages and covers, and have negative health effects.
Humidity above the recommended range of 35 to 50 percent is one of the top contributors to the growth of mild and mildew. When the moisture in the air is too high and the air is unmoving, mold spores can quickly grow and spread. These conditions are one of the major reasons why books should not be stored in musty attics or damp basements without considerable precautions being taken.
What are some mold prevention techniques?
One of the first prevention methods is to ensure that the books are placed on a shelf where there is adequate air flow. They should not be placed in a basement, a closet, or against the outside wall of a house. Good air circulation can be fostered by the use of fans. An air conditioner operating during the hot months and a heater running during the winter months, with a goal of maintaining a temperature in the 70 degree range, help keep mold spores from proliferating and spreading throughout your entire library.
If it is necessary to keep the relative humidity levels below 60 percent, a dehumidifier can help, but it is important that the books do not become too dry, as well. Do not place houseplants near the bookshelves, as they can release moisture into the air. Books should be dusted regularly to avoid the presence of mold spores.
When working on books that show signs of mold or mildew, be sure to exercise caution. As mold and mildew can be harmful to owners, as well as to a trusted library, make sure the area is well ventilated, and wear a respirator mask designed for mold spores, for personal protection.
Preparing books with evidence of mold or mildew for storage
While prevention of mold and mildew is the recommended approach for maintaining your books in best condition, you should also practice removal methods if there are signs of mold or mildew growth on the outside of a dry book, on the pages of a book, or on the outside of a wet book. It is important for books to be prepared properly before placing them into a vacuum bag or other container.
A soft cloth or fine brush can be used to brush away an outgrowth of mildew. A cloth dampened with denatured alcohol can be used on paperbacks, or carefully on leather, hardback, and cloth bound books. Mold and mildew growth on the pages of a book can be addressed by sliding a sheet of waxed paper beneath the moldy page and using a soft brush to remove the fungi. Do not try to remove growth from a wet book, as this is likely to smear and stain the surface. Dry the book first and then proceed with the dry-stain removal techniques.
Lingering mold or mildew odor
If you have followed the above steps and still notice that moldy odor, you may want to try sprinkling cornstarch or baking soda between the pages of the book, along with paper towels to soak up any further moisture. The powder absorbs any remaining moisture and the odor if any lingering smell is noted. After a couple of hours, the sheets of paper towels and cornstarch can be removed and discarded.
Careful cleaning and stain removal before proceeding with more stringent storage actions is important. Brushing moldy and mildewed areas which are on dry book covers and pages, and drying before cleaning and treating moldy spots if the books are damp, is the suggested approach to avoid a spread of mold throughout your entire collection.