At some point in every booklover’s life, they find themselves wondering how to clean bookshelves and care for books so they free of dust and mildew, and don’t become a home for insects.
Even if your bookshelves aren’t bulging with reading material yet, they’re probably still a focal point in your living room or den, so it’s important to keep them tidy. Caring for your bookshelves will also preserve the life of your books.
How To Clean Bookshelves
Regular, Light Cleaning Reduces Dust
On a weekly basis, it’s sufficient to wipe the top and sides of the bookcase with a microfiber cloth, then the tops and spines of the books and the part of the shelves that stick out beyond the books. Take this chance also to remove any items that don’t belong on your bookshelf, and to restore misplaced books to their proper location.
Annual, Deep Cleaning Protects Books
- Remove everything from the shelves. Don’t bother sorting at this point, just get the shelves bare.
- Clean the bookcase then pull it away from the wall and dust both the back of the case and the wall behind it. Now is a good time to vacuum the floor there, too.
- Clean books individually by dusting them, both outside and inside the dust covers where debris builds up. Dust along the tops of the pages, or use a hand-held vacuum.
- Organize your books in the method you plan on displaying them. Personally, I display fiction alphabetized by title in one bookcase, and non-fiction books, organized by subject and then author, in another bookcase. But I’m kind of weird about my books.
- Return your books to the shelves, but feel free to play around with how you arrange them. Leather-bound books look lovely all in a row, while colorful, contemporary books become decorative objects when stacked horizontally like book ends. Photography, coffee-table, and art books almost look like paintings when their covers are displayed face-forward.
Tips To Care For Books
Choose a proper location. Humidity breeds bugs and mildew, so never store books in a basement or attic or they’ll develop that “old book smell” which quickly loses its charm when you’re trying to read. Various insects will also nest in books stored where there’s high humidity, particularly cockroaches and silverfish, which love to eat paper. Also, sunlight fades book covers and can destroy leather bindings, so position your bookcase away from bright light.
Give them space and treat them gently. Storing books too tightly together eventually warps their covers and makes books difficult, if not impossible, to read. Even with adequate space, be careful when taking a book from the shelf. Many people select a book by pulling it from the shelf by its head cap, or the top of the spine. This will eventually ruin the spine. The best way to remove a book is by gently pushing its neighbors to the side, then pulling the chosen book out from the middle. Since you’re not cramming them together (see above), this should be easy enough to do.
Most of all, read and love them. Books are like secret gardens for our minds, containing places and times to which we can travel without ever leaving the comfort of home. An unread book is a lonely book. Don’t let your books feel lonely! But, if you do find it’s time to part ways with a book, let it go where someone else can love it the way you once did. Sites like BookMooch let you swap books with other readers for nothing more than the cost of shipping. Or cultivate your book karma with BookCrossing, where you register your books and leave them in public locations for others to find. When someone stumbles on your book, they register it as found and someday pass the love along.