How to Prevent Books from Turning Yellow?

How to prevent books from turning yellow

How to prevent books from turning yellow

For book lovers, books have a high value. And often we want to keep our library in good condition. While books get, the older yellowing process is inevitable. And there is no easy way to stop books from yellowing, but in this article, I will share the best practices to prolong your books’ youth.

Before writing this article, I talked with several experience libraries and book collectors. And I tried to sum up and systemize all practices which protect books from yellowing!

Useful remark

Paper is made from wood. Wood mainly consists of white cellulose and a dark substance – lignin. The lignin’s exposure to air and sunlight results in paper turning yellow.

Lignin + Sunlight = Yellow Paper

How to prevent books from turning yellow

As it was written above, lignin+sunlight = yellow paper.

Both sunlight and electric light release UV radiation, which is destructive to paper. Libraries and museums store ancient and rare books in a room with UV Filters. Of course, UV filters are quite expensive, and a regular will not install this system at home.

So what is the solution?

Store your books in a place where light can’t reach them, and you will prevent your books from turning yellow.

Great places that will protect your books from yellowing:

  • dark or shaded room
  • bookshelf with a cover

Tip

UV rays from the sun can cause fading and deterioration too

Tip

Fluorescent lights also emit UV rays, so turn off the lights when they are not required.

Beware of the Air

How to prevent books from turning yellow

If you live in a place with low air quality, an abundance of nitrogen and sulfur components in the air can speed up the deterioration of your library.

Books and wooden bookshelves release gasses in a process called “off-gassing.” These gasses are not good for books.

What can you do?

  • Use special storage boxes to seal out these elements and gasses
  • and place an air purifier in the room where your books are stored. It will help to improve the air quality and prolong books’ life.
  • point fan toward the shelves to renew the air
  • regularly take your books off the shelf and letting them air out

All these measures will protect your books from turning yellow.

Moderate Humidity Level

How to prevent books from turning yellow

Paper material absorbs water from the air very well. And this fact may speed up the deterioration of your books. Try to avoid storing your books in high humidity locations, such as the basement or attic. But keep in mind if the air becomes too dry, the pages dry out and become yellowed.

What is the solution?

The best way is to have a room dedicated to your library, which is kept climate controlled all year. 70° Fahrenheit (21° Celsius) and 50% Relative Humidity (RH) are ideal for book storage.

Tip

Damp storage conditions lead to mold growth.

Constant Temperature

How to prevent books from turning yellow

Temperature fluctuations in a room full of books are one of the fastest ways to ruin the library. Books love when the temperature is stable. That’s why storing in an air-conditioned room is a terrible idea. As I have mentioned, 70° Fahrenheit (21° Celsius) is the safest temperature for books to live long and white.  

Tip

Fluctuations can cause warping and cracking of materials.

How to prevent books from turning yellow?
How to prevent books from turning yellow?

Keep Yellow Books Separate

How to prevent books from turning yellow

Separate your yellow books from white ones. Your yellowed books are already in an off-gassing process. You do not want your newer books to absorb these gasses and become yellow.

What is the solution?

Store your yellow books on another shelf or bookcase separate from newer ones.

Tip

Remove all bookmarks and inserts before storing them. They can leave discolorations and marks

Use Archival and Lining Paper

How to prevent books from turning yellow

Archival paper is a mostly permanent, durable, acid-free paper. Archival paper is meant to be used for publications of high legal, historical, or significant value. Often, itis used for archival purposes, as it is not made from wood-based pulp. i.e., it will not become yellow and will absorb book papers’ acid.

This method is impractical for an entire library. Still, it may be the perfect way to protect the most important and valuable books.

Wooden bookshelves go through the process of off-gassing too. And an excellent way to protect your books from these harmful gases is by placing protective lining paper on the bookshelves.

The lining paperserves as a barrier between the wood and the books. This measure keeps your books from yellowing.

Tip

The acid corrodes the paper over a reasonably long time, especially when exposed to light. Removing the acid or neutralizing it slows down the corrosive effect. Thus, the paper lasts longer.

Also, acid-free paper absorbs inks better, and therefore print appears sharper and more precise on such paper.

Avoid Pirated and Mass Market Books

How to prevent books from turning yellow

Another smart move you can do is to avoid pirated and mass-market books. As you understand, these books produced from cheap paper means that they will become yellow in no time and “contaminate” other books.

How to identify pirated books?

  • Extremely cheap price: Up to 1/10 of the original book’s cost
  • Low quality: Cheap, grey paper. Misprinted lines of text. Missing pages. Misalignment. Low-quality binding.
  • No publisher’s identifying marks: Missing hologram stickers, proper barcodes, and ISBN.
  • Content inconsistency: Misaligned pages. Missing pages. Out of order placement of pages. This issue is a little harder to identify right away, but reading it usually comes up.
  • Low-quality images: Low-quality cover image, images inside chapters, graphs, charts, infographics, and illustrations.
How to prevent books from turning yellow?
How to prevent books from turning yellow?

How To Read With Understanding: The Definitive Guide

How To Read with Understanding
How To Read with Understanding

Go for Quality from the Start

How to prevent books from turning yellow

I usually buy a physical book only when I’m sure that this book is worth re-reading. So in such a case, the wisest solution is to purchase high-quality hardback books, possibly on acid-free paper. And remember that hardcover books will outlive paperback ones in most cases, making sense to buy those.

My grandpa was a university math professor and had a vast math library. I noticed 95% of his books are hardcover. And some books from his library are close to a century old, but they still look excellent.

Tip

Storing books on their spines or their sides can cause distortion and damage to the book’s structure

Beware of the Dust

How to prevent books from turning yellow

One of the most significant damaging factors for books is dust. As it accumulates, it will eventually cause damage to paper and cover because of harmful acidic elements.

Books should be cleaned from dust at least monthly with a good duster, soft paintbrush, or gentle vacuuming. While you are dusting, you can inspect the book for mildew problems that should be tackled immediately.

Excellent addition to that would be storing books on bookshelves with doors to minimize dust.

How to prevent books from turning yellow?
How to prevent books from turning yellow?

Tips from Librarians

How to prevent books from turning yellow

Don’t grab a book from the top of the spine

How to prevent books from turning yellow

When it comes time to grab the book you want off the shelf, most people go about it all wrong. Tugging books by the upper lip of their binding can compromise and ultimately damage the spine over time. Instead, push in the books on either side of the volume you want. Then, grasp the desired tome by either side of its spine, gently pulling towards you.

Handle with gloves or clean hands

How to prevent books from turning yellow

The oils from your hands can also contribute to deterioration. The experts use cotton gloves to handle valuable text in museums. This provides a nice, clean layer between your skin and the object you’re touching. If you don’t have a suitable pair of gloves at your disposal, hand-washing with soap and water is the next best thing. Skip the hand sanitizer. Some research suggests hand sanitizer can transfer onto paper and cause it to yellow over time.

Tip

Washing hands with soap and water before grabbing a book will sustain your text in good condition

Use wrapping or a storage box

How to prevent books from turning yellow

If books preservation is your primary goal, place archival wrapping on important books of yours, particularly any collection editions. A storage box can also help. These bins are manufactured to fit a vast array of book sizes and protect your most precious ones from any unfavorable or unstable storage conditions.

To ensure the highest protection level, look for reputable brands, like Gaylord or Hollinger Metal Edge.

Food and Books Are Not Friends

How to prevent books from turning yellow

When you read avoid eating any food especially these, which contain oils: chocolate, ketchup, mayonnaise etc.

In case if you do combine these two actions avoid touching pages as much as possible.

Conclusion

How to prevent books from turning yellow

Final Thoughts

Even small enhancements can have a lasting effect on your books. Only moving books several feet away from the direct sunlight, regular cleaning, or keeping them in proper humidity level and temperature can prolong the life of your collection.

Follow advices I’ve shared in this article and you will prevent your books from yellowing.

How To Schema

How to prevent books from turning yellow?

In this article you will learn 9 Best Practices on How to Prevent Books from Turning Yellow and Tips from Librarians.

1. Keep books away from light

Avoid exposing books to a sunlight and UV light

2. Beware of the Air

Air can speed up the deterioration of your library.

3. Moderate Humidity Level

Avoid storing your books in high humidity locations. 50% Relative Humidity (RH) are ideal for book storage

4. Constant Temperature

Temperature fluctuations in a room full of books are one of the fastest ways to ruin the library. 70° Fahrenheit (21° Celsius) is the safest temperature for books.

5. Keep Yellow Books Separate

Store your yellow books on another shelf or bookcase separate from newer ones.

6. Use Archival and Lining Paper

Archival paper is a mostly permanent, durable, acid-free paper i.e. it doesn’t turn yellow.
The lining paper serves as a barrier between the wood and the books. This measure keeps your books from yellowing.

7. Avoid Pirated and Mass Market Books

These books produced from cheap paper means that they will become yellow in no time and “contaminate” other books.

8. Buy Quality Books

The wisest solution is to purchase high-quality hardback books, possibly on acid-free paper. They will last you very long time.

9. Beware of the Dust

One of the most significant damaging factors for books is dust. As it accumulates, it will eventually cause damage to paper and cover because of harmful acidic elements.

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