August 13, 2012Removing The Musty Smell From Vintage Magazines – An Experiment
Recently I bought a bunch of vintage magazines off of eBay. Cheap.
I am sure you already know where this story is going, right? Gullible girl sees cheap mags, buys cheap mags, then sadly finds out why mags were so cheap. But I didn’t let my previous life lessons stop me this time! Seeing a price that was so good I couldn’t resist it, I gave in and bought about 75 vintage ex-libris mags for a ridiculously reasonable price. Nothing could possibly go wrong, I stupidly thought, they were library magazines. Can’t get much better storage than that, right? Right?
I am an idiot.
Of course, when the mags arrived, I realized my gullibility. The magazines I received weren’t even the same ones in the pictures I’d seen. These were torn up, the covers were covered with coal dust and, of course, they stank to high heaven from a lifetime of improper storage.
After a heated exchange of emails between me and the seller, things were settled to where I didn’t get completely ripped off. Since it would have cost me a ridiculous amount to send the mags back for a full refund, I decided to keep them at a discount. Fine. Fine. Life goes on and everyone is happy.
Everyone except for Tom, that is.
“Why,” he demanded, “Does our hallway stink so much?!?!”
After lots of explaining and gesturing and some protracted sniffing, the magazine story was retold with probably more drama than it warranted. Tom was sympathetic, but also firm.
“No!” I looked over the sea of stinky mags. “I want to use them for the blog. They can still be scanned!”
“Are you kidding? These REEK! How are you going to scan them? Look at yourself, you are holding that magazine a foot away from your body.”
“I don’t know what I am going to do. I’ll think of something.”
And so, the Great Magazine De-Stinking of 2012 began. I did a lot of research. I knew what I wanted: A stink reduction, not just a cover-up. So, that left out dryer sheets and Febreeze. I also didn’t want to spray any liquid on them, so that left out solutions of lavender or alcohol. In the end, I decided on a multi-pronged effort that started out with the cheapest de-stinker of all. The sun!
The first thing I did was spread out all the magazines outside in the sun. Even though paper seems dry, sometimes it can still have moisture in it. All the moisture in vintage paper needs to be removed to stop the smell. After that, you are supposed to vacuum every page to get out all the little spores and things hiding in the paper. I wasn’t about to vacuum every single page, but the sun was an easy enough fix.
It turns out the magazines were damp! You can see the corners of pages turning up, and this was only after about 15 mins in the hot sun.
I left the magazines out in the sun for two days. During that time, you could really, really smell the funk coming off of them.
See what I mean? Phew!
I closed the windows next to the books after I saw this little complaint.
After their time in the sun, the smell was reduced, but not quite at a tolerable level. I decided to seal them up in totes with kitty litter (the non-clumping kind)…
And a small container of household bleach with holes poked in the top. I snapped the lids on the totes and am going to leave them in a dry spot for about 30 days. Hopefully this will work!
What about you guys? Do you have any secrets for getting rid of serious old paper funk? Leave a comment and let me know!