Mother Nature's "Sun"

by Craig Stark

2 April 2012

The Poor Man's Method of Removing Book Odors

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By Craig Stark

What's that line from the Beatle's "Mother Nature's Son"? "Swaying daisies, sing a lazy song beneath the sun." Ah, now that the languorous days of summer are approaching, this might be a good time to discuss a method of deodorizing books that I've had success with and in fact uses Mother Nature.

This method takes advantage of a phenomenon you might not be familiar with. For lack of a better term, I'll call it the fan effect. If you stand a book upright and open it, it will usually separate into sections of leaves, like this:

If you're doing this to air the book out, it doesn't work all that well. It's almost impossible, in fact, to fan the leaves out. But something magical happens if you face the book into a gentle breeze:

Within minutes the breeze gently opens all of the leaves with remarkable uniformity, exposing each down to the gutters to both fresh air and sunlight, allowing the sun's ultraviolet rays to do their thing. If you do this with books that smell musty, smoky, etc., many odors will be either greatly reduced or eliminated altogether within one to three afternoons of exposure. If there's no breeze, a fan switched on low will accomplish the same thing.

Some words of caution:

Sunlight can fade a book's cover in pretty short order, so take care to position the cover away from the sun - and besides, you'll want the fanned leaves to face the sun anyway to maximize its odor reducing powers. Sunlight can also fade some types of text, but typically inks used to print books require much longer exposure times to be significantly affected.

Questions or comments?
Contact the editor, Craig Stark

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