Sparkle & Smile

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Green Cleaning Tips and Tricks

How to Clean Books and Bookcases

March 27, 2017


Warmer temperatures this winter have brought pollen out sooner than expected. May is Asthma and Allergy Awareness month, but if you or someone in your household is suffering asthma or allergy attacks, it’s probably time to do a deep cleaning targeted at removing the allergens than trigger these attacks. Pollen, dust, dust mites and pet dander are some of the main culprits and they are lodged in your carpets, upholstery, drapes, bedding and stuffed animals.

One often overlooked area to address is books and bookcases. Triggers that build up here can really be a problem for an asthma or allergy sufferer. But with the right deep cleaning tips you can alleviate suffering from asthma and allergy attacks. Here is the proper way to clean books and book shelves:

Quarterly cleaning your books and bookcases

This process should be followed every three months to keep asthma and allergy attacks at bay. For more information on cleaning for asthma and allergy sufferers, view this infographic.

Cover the floor. Start by placing a towel on the floor in front of the bookcase to catch any falling dust. Place another towel nearby – you will be placing the books on this one when you remove them from the shelf.

Work top to bottom. Start with the very top of the bookcase and completely remove the dust using a lightly dampened, large looped microfiber cloth folded into quarters (this makes 8 clean surfaces).  Then proceed in the following manner with each bookshelf, starting at the top and finishing with the bottom one.

Clear and clean. Remove all the books from the top shelf and place them on the book towel. Remove all the dust from this shelf, including all five shelf surfaces.

Dust all six sides. Using a fresh, clean surface on your cloth, dust the tops, sides and bottoms of the pages of each book while closed, as well as the front and back covers and the spine. It doesn’t really matter what order you do it in, just that you follow that order with each book, so that you won’t forget any surface on any book. Return each one to the shelf as you finish it.


Repeat.  When the top shelf is completely dust-free, remove the books from the second shelf. Dust all the surfaces of the shelf.

Before you start dusting the books, change to a fresh, clean surface on your cloth.

Continue in this manner, changing the microfiber surface when you are dusting the books, not the shelf so that the cloth is as clean as possible when contacting the books.

Once you are done, place the book towel over the other towel and fold them together to prevent dust from falling off the towels. Place them in the washing machine to launder with other soiled items.

While you are cleaning the books, check for damage.

Caring for books

If you notice marks on the covers as you are dusting them, set them aside for extra care. We recommend Absorene Paper and Book Cleaner. It works like a pencil eraser to gently remove marks and stains.

If any books smell a little musty, place them and an open box of baking soda in a plastic container with a lid for at least two days and up to a week if necessary to let the baking soda absorb the odors.

Books last longer when they are stored in the “sleeping position” which is flat. They can be stored in an upright position like you see in a library as long as they are pressed together firmly. Never store your books leaning against another book.

If you don’t have enough books to keep them tucked together tightly, buy some inexpensive book ends to hold them.  If you don’t have bookends, place a stack of books in the sleeping position and use that as your bookends. This will give your books a pleasant looking arrangement.

Organizing and purging books

While you have your books off the shelves, it’s a good time to do some organizing and purging as well. As you work, set aside books that no longer interest you to give them to someone who will appreciate them. Donate your books to your local library or other charity.


Leslie Reichert is a cleaning expert that uses her sparkling personality, great sense of humor and contagious passion to encourage her fans and followers to think differently about what they are using in their homes. Leslie is known as a Green Cleaning Coach and she is changing the world – “one spray bottle at a time”.  She is a national lecturer, a frequent homekeeping expert on The Dr. Oz Show, Martha Stewart Living Radio, Maid Brigade’s DIY Cleaning Expert and author of the book: The Joy Of Green Cleaning– a handbook for DIY cleaners. She works with Better Homes and Gardens, Real Simple, and other national publications.  You can see more of her work at




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