How To Clean Book Shelves

Keeping your book shelves neat and clean may seem like a tedious job, but you will be glad later if you do it right.

As a child, did you ever take a shortcut when asked to dust the book shelves? When you mother wasn't looking, perhaps you simply dusted the top of the books and the visible edge of the shelf, saving the rest for another day that never came.

While such shortcuts may seem worthwhile when you have a lot to do, in the long run it's a bad idea not to care properly for your books and their shelves. For one thing, if a guest pulls out a volume to look at, you'll be embarrassed by the trail of dust that follows the book. Another concern is that if your books continue collecting dust, they may develop mold or mildew over time and eventually suffer damage.

Follow a few easy steps to provide your book shelves with proper care:

1. Dust the shelves periodically. If you can't get to it each week, at least try for once a month. Don't let this task go too long or your books may pay the price for your neglect. Collect the best cleaning materials for whatever substance the shelves are made of, such as wood, hard vinyl, or metal. Then when you do get around to the job, you'll be ready to get started. Use a soft cloth with perhaps a little polish for wood, a damp cloth possibly enhanced by rust inhibitor for metal, and a plain damp cloth with a little bit of gentle cleaner for hard vinyl.

2. Remove all books from the shelves first. You may want to set them in each row of order on a separate surface, such as on a table or the floor. That way, when you replace them, you won't need to sort and organize them again, which could take a considerable amount of time depending on how many tomes you have. Dust each book's cover, back, spine, and top, bottom, and sides before setting it with its mates. Those that appear especially dusty may benefit from a gentle opening and shaking. Avoid using moisture or a cleaning product on the books.

3. Prepare the proper cleaning substance and cloth for the type of shelf structure you are using, wipe it carefully to avoid splinters and to prevent excess moisture from seeping into the surface, as may be the case with wood. You don't want water dripping into the screws that hold together a metal shelf, either, or you could see some rust build-up later. Wipe each shelf, the fixtures that secure them to each other and to the general framework or even the wall, and if possible, move out free-standing models to clean the floor beneath the unit. Also wipe off the wall behind it, catching spider webs or dust bunnies in the process.

4. Allow the shelves to air-dry or mop up extra moisture with an old towel or clean cloth. Keep a window or door open to promote healthy air circulation, which will help to kill bacteria and promote quick drying. Inspect corners, screw assemblies, and brackets to make sure you have removed all bits of dust and debris.

5. Return the books in their proper order to the shelves. Review each area once more as you fill the shelves with books to see if you have missed anything and to be sure the area is completely dry. Dust nearby walls, furniture, and other fixtures to prevent a build-up that can spill over onto the shelves with air currents.

Clean shelves can help to protect and preserve your book collection. Don't neglect this important task when you plan the routine housekeeping chores.

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