Cleaning and Caring for Books


Whether we’re sprucing up books for our own collection, or tidying up inventory for the shop, we want every book we handle to look its best. That’s why we use a four step cleaning process on every book we acquire. These extra steps are never reflected in our price, but we think it’s a convincing reason to choose our listings when shopping for books online.

We’ll go into detail below, but here’s the highlights of what we do.

• Remove all stickers and tags
• Wipe down covers and dust jackets
• Vacuum
• Seal in protective plastic

Sounds simple, right? It is! And it can do wonders for the appearance and lifespan of your library.

Removing Stickers

Book stores love slapping stickers onto the covers of their books, especially academic books. A used textbook that has changed hands a few times can have sticker on top of sticker on top of price tag on top of sticker.

We put a stop to that.

To keep these stickers from tearing to pieces while we pull them off, or leaving behind a sticky residue, we use a heat gun to gently loosen the glue that adheres them to the cover. This lets us pull them off in one piece and prevents them from damaging the cover underneath.

Wiping Down Covers

Removing scuffs, fingerprints, and other marks from the cover of books is a must. Glossy coated covers, and glossy dust jackets that can be removed, can be cleaned with tiny bit of cleaning solution on a clean cloth. To clean, dampen the cloth, then start in the center wiping out toward the edges, preventing any moisture from coming into contact with the text block.

Paper towels are naturally abrasive and can leave fibers behind, so always be sure to clean with a cloth!

For open grain covers or paper dust jackets, which will absorb moisture and ruin, I use Dry Document Cleaning Pads to touch up the surface. These are essentially small satchels filled with a super fine eraser dust. Twisting the satchel lets out a bit of the dust onto the book. Rubbing the pad over the surface helps absorbs dirt and dust, leaving your cover clean without using moisture.

For spot cleaning book pages, documents, maps, and other open grain paper, I use a product called Absorene book and document cleaner.  Absorene is a dry putty, kind of like a malleable eraser. Knead a small amount in your fingers and rub in one direction for gentle and safe cleaning.

Absorene can be labor intensive to work with so it’s best used in small areas or reserved for particularly important or valuable documents. It’s not a miracle solution for dirty paper, but I find it to be the best product for cosmetically improving blemishes without harming the paper.


All books, not just used books, are dust magnets. Book retailers constantly battle dust. The most effective way to combat this is to vacuum it away. Make sure to hold the book up by the spine and vacuum along the text block from underneath. This prevents particles from being driven down between the pages.


After all that TLC, we want our book to stay that way for its new owner. That’s why we seal each book in a BCW Book Bag 
after cleaning. These clear, acid-free archival bags are made specifically for books and protect them from dust and moisture during shipping.