how to clean your books

April 28, 2010

I buy a lot of used books. In fact, most of the books Juliet owns are ones I found at our local Goodwill or other thrift store. We buy so many books, there is no way I could afford to buy them all new!

As you know, sometimes used books are slightly dirty and a bit gross. You don't know where they've been...which can be worrisome. But don't let that stop you! With a little TLC, you can rid slightly grubby used books of all their smudges and grime with your own homemade, eco-friendly cleaner!

Here's what I do: 

Take a spray bottle (any kind will do) and fill it with white vinegar 3/4 full. 

Fill the rest with plain tap water.

Add several drops of tea tree oil


You're done!

This is a good multi-purpose cleaner--I use it on my countertops, doorknobs, floor, etc...anywhere I need to clean up a spill. 

But my main use is for cleaning up my used books as soon as I bring them home. The tea tree oil is supposed to have antibacterial qualities, so I like to think it kills some of the germs. 

I spray a bit on a paper towel, and wipe the book down. Smudges, caked on dirt, and fingerprints come right off the covers. I also use this just on the cover of regular books, but also on all the pages of board books. 

It's non-toxic, so it's safe to let your kids use, if they want to help out. (Juliet LOVES to help with this task.) The vinegar WILL sting their eyes if they spray it in them, but if you handle the spraying, there is no real danger of that happening. (And while it will sting, it won't damage their eyes at all like other cleaners would, should the unfortunate event occur.) 

You might be able to see the frownie face I drew on my spray bottle. This let's Juliet know that she should not be spraying this bottle! 

Now, keep in mind that I have never read anywhere that this is a good way to clean your books. It's just something I do and it works for me. I buy a lot of vintage books and I use it on them as well. I have never had the vinegar damage the covers at all. But again, this is not scientifically tested! 

How do you clean your books? Got any good tips for me? 

I'm linking up with Works for me Wed--head over to We are that Family for more Works for me Wed. Tips!


Ginny Marie said...

This sounds great! I haven't had to clean too many books, since I have a "library" in my basement...that's where all the books I bought when I was teaching are kept, and they are slowly making their way upstairs!

Silly question--where do you get tea tree oil?

The Activity Mom said...

great tip!!!!

Raising a Happy Child said...

Great idea. I admit that it never occurred to me to clean my second hand books - they were never that grimy. But I will keep this tip in mind for later use.

vanessa @ silly eagle books said...

You can find tea tree oil at any natural food store--I think I bought mine at Wild Oats years ago--it lasts a long time! I've seen it at Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, and other smaller local health food stores.

April said...

I seriously have hardly ever bought a brand new book unless it was from Burlington Coat Factory, Big Lots, or Ross. There has been the occasional brand new "full price" book that I bought for my daughter because I really wanted her to have it. I clean my books with a baby wipe and it works great.

Young Wife said...

Thanks for the tip! I will have to try this.

Renae said...

If I get books with sticky residue on them, I use a bit of Goo Gone or a similar orange cleaner.

Bitterroot Mama said...

Good tip! I get a lot of used books too!

Love and Lollipops said...

Hi there!

Thanks so much for this tip. I also buy a lot of second hand(sometimes very grimy) books.

I really enjoy receiving your posts in my inbox...thank you for all the sharing.

I hope that you will pop over and come and visit me sometime.

Kind Regards,
Georgia (

Jenny said...

I have used baby wipes to wipe down sticky books. Baby wipes seem to work on everything!

Good idea with the spray though.

anadrol said...

Thanks for this great tip!

familyofthree said...

Normally I just wipe them clean w/ a baby wipe, but I'll have to try this next time... I also use a lot of vinegar/water for cleaning!

Anonymous said...

I can't tell you how glad I am to know that I am not the only one who cleans books when they come home from the thrift store. I feel a little nutty everytime I take a Clorox wipe to one. I have no idea why i didn't just use my spray bottle of tea tree oil/Vinegar to it like you did. Thank you!

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