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Old September 10 2014, 03:16 AM   #1
Unicron
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Help needed - book mold?

I need some advice. The other day I was looking at an art book in my collection (specifically, The Art of Brom) and I noticed something unusual. There's a spread in the middle of the book of four RPG type characters, and there was a smallish (pinkie nail size) dusty white blob I hadn't seen before. It had carried over to the next page and I was able to rub it off fairly easily, but I'm concerned about whether it's damaging and if it's a mold of some sort.

I've had books for years and never had any sort of mold issue, even though a few of them got water damaged once in my school days. I've checked several other nearby books to see if there's any evidence of mold or another parasite, and thankfully there's none. There don't seem to be any spots throughout the rest of the book, although there are several tiny white specks on the other pages of the spread. I can't easily judge whether this means it could spread, assuming it's a mold, or if it's just collateral.

Can anyone suggest any advice? I can take pictures if that would make the description easier.
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Old September 10 2014, 03:30 AM   #2
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Re: Help needed - book mold?

This site gives extensive advice on how to clean mold and mildew off a book:

http://www.biblio.com/book-collectin...ve-mold-mildew
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Old September 10 2014, 03:44 AM   #3
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Re: Help needed - book mold?

Thanks. I regret to say that the description of mildew resembles what I found, and perhaps if that's true I may have had the luck to catch it early. Or I could be wrong, hopefully... * crosses fingers * Ideally I'd prefer not to have to replace any of my books if I can do a simple repair, particularly since I'm a bibliophile and some of mine are expensive. Brom's book is a coffee table size.

I wish I knew more about the potential cause if it's actually mold or mildew, since my home environment doesn't have unusual humidity and I make sure to keep my books in pretty good condition. I'm sure that's not always enough in some cases, but if there's an environmental factor it'd be nice to know.
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Old September 10 2014, 06:23 AM   #4
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Re: Help needed - book mold?

These are very good tips indeed! *bookmarks page*
I've had a similar prob some years ago - my old appartment was so damp that even my VHS tapes and CDs got moldy. I'd never have thought they could!

I can recommend dabbing the moldy spots with white spirit. With photobooks you must be very careful, since the spirit may destroy the paint (depends on what the printers used). You get the best results if you dilute the spirit down to 70% alcohol contents. For some reason higher concentrations will be less lethal on the mold (technically, mildew is mold as well, just a different species).

I've never tried Peroxide but it totally makes sense and I have no doubt it'll work perfectly. Mind, that it has a bleaching effect. You should be able to remove black mold without a trace, this way. However, it might bleach photos as well, so I'd try it first in some spot where a damage won't show so distinctly.


As for the cause: your place needn't be moist for mold/mildew to develop. What it needs is some organic substance to feed on, preferably something high in carbohydrates. That might be wood shavings in the paper itself or a cookie crumb that fell between the pages. It could have happened when the book was printed or later when someone handled it.
This makes it next to impossible to avoid that mold develops. All you can do is to regularly dust and air your books and shake them out.
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Last edited by Rhubarbodendron; September 10 2014 at 06:28 AM. Reason: confused mold with mould - might be lethal when cooking
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Old September 10 2014, 07:45 PM   #5
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Re: Help needed - book mold?

A small dehumidifier may be a good investment as a further means of prevention. Good luck.
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Old September 11 2014, 12:28 AM   #6
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Re: Help needed - book mold?

Is it possible for books to have normal aging that resembles mold, but isn't? The ones that suffered water damage might actually have developed a small amount of mold (the damage occurred on the bottoms of the pages, but we got them dried out okay), but I'm not really sure. I don't mind replacing them if it becomes a necessity, but that was more than a decade ago and they're still in pretty good reading shape. If a bit of mold has crept in, it hasn't caused damage to any other books in my library (thankfully )

I mainly just want to be sure before I try to fix a problem that might not actually be mold or mildew, and wind up damaging books in the process. I'm grateful for the advice, and it crossed my mind that maybe I could ask at the local B & N and see if they have any recommendations for me. I saw some other white flakes on a few pages in the Brom book flipping through it today, but they don't necessarily seem like the same stuff and sometimes you have a page with a colored background next to a page with a white background. I'm wondering if that's just the binding slowly aging or something else.
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Old September 11 2014, 12:35 AM   #7
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Re: Help needed - book mold?

I dunno, wouldn't a regular rectangular cake pan make for good mold to make a book-shaped cake?
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Old September 12 2014, 07:52 PM   #8
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Re: Help needed - book mold?

It sounds like mold to me, and if so I would take measures to isolate this book from your others, as the mold does have a tendency to spread like wildfire. Books that have been wet or in high humidity are of course more prone to mold, but really it can happen for a number of reasons and it would be impossible to completely prevent it. Humidity, temperature, and light will always have a negative impact on paper products over time. You've probably found better advice on how to treat the actual book, but as I mentioned before I suggest isolating it until you know that the mold is gone, to be sure that your other books stay clean of it.
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Old September 13 2014, 12:06 AM   #9
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Re: Help needed - book mold?

I'm going to try and see if I can clean it over the weekend. I really appreciate all of the helpful advice.

Edit: found another book with some tiny spots of the same stuff (damn it ). Paranoia is not welcome. I'm starting to wonder if maybe it could just be related to the change in seasons.
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Last edited by Unicron; September 13 2014 at 02:21 AM.
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Old September 14 2014, 02:24 AM   #10
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Re: Help needed - book mold?

I experimented a bit tonight with using a hair dryer to hopefully kill the mold spores (and not damage the book).
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Old September 15 2014, 08:32 AM   #11
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Re: Help needed - book mold?

A normal hair dryer is not hot enough to kill mold spores, I'm afraid. They can easily resist temperatures around 200°C
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Is it possible for books to have normal aging that resembles mold, but isn't?
yes and no. It doesn't really look like mold but there is a natural decay:
in order to reduce costs in wartimes, paper from the late 19th/early 20est centuries was made of wood shavings only (really good paper is made from old cloth, mostly linnen and cotton). This pure wood paper is too acidic and gradually that acid damages teh structure of the fibres. The paper gets eaten away, turns brown, thin and brittle, develops holes and finally dissolves into crumbles and dust. These papers can be de-acidified but that's expensive and time-consuming.

A similar effect takes place on old manuscripts written with iron gall ink. It eats holes into the paper and even into parchment. Terrible stuff
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Old September 15 2014, 10:12 PM   #12
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Re: Help needed - book mold?

Hmmm... one recommendation I read suggested using a microwave for heat treatment, but I don't know if that would be any better. The most common suggestions are to treat the spots lightly with hydrogen peroxide or denatured alcohol, but what sort of moisture risk is that?
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Old September 16 2014, 07:58 AM   #13
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Re: Help needed - book mold?

I have no experience with peroxide, but alcohol evaporates rather quickly and hence causes no additional moisture risk (don't use it on photos or coloured pictures, though - it dissolves the paint, causing stains)
If you want to make certain, you can use a hair dryer to dry the pages. Or you just iron them (at a medium setting and preferably with a sheet of newspaper between the iron and the book)

The microwave makes sense: the book contains hardly any water, but the mold's tissue does. This way the book stays cold while the mold gets boiled. However, if it's a book from approx. 1910-1970 you shouldn't microwave it: back then books often were not glued or sewn together but the stacks of pages were fixed together with staples. Their metal can destroy your microwave.

I haven't tried microwaving books yet, so I am not certain if all modern materials can survive it. I imagine it'd work well with paperbacks but I wouldn't dare to try it on an expensive photo volume (particularly those hardbacks that are covered with a plastic-like substance on the front and back)
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Old September 17 2014, 02:12 AM   #14
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Re: Help needed - book mold?

These books are much more recent, so age shouldn't be an issue. Sunlight's another recommendation, so perhaps I can explore both possibilities.
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Old September 18 2014, 09:26 AM   #15
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Re: Help needed - book mold?

Sunlight is a pretty good idea. It wil dry the mold out and with a little luck kill it completely. You'd still have to clean the pages with a soft brush afterwards, as under stress the mold will grow (sun-resistant) spores and those would germinate the instant the book gets moist again.
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