the Little Red Reviewer

this book STINKS

Posted on: January 14, 2011

Yearning for some classics,  I picked up my battered copy of Robert Heinlein’s Podkayne of Mars.

50 pages and an hour later I was working on a migraine, my sinuses were all messed up, and I felt queasy.  this book STANK.

I’d picked it up for pennies at an estate sale over the summer, and who knows how long it had sat in someone’s dark, dank, mildewy, moldy basement. A long, long time, according to my mucus membranes.

Time to destink the stinky book!

That’s three to four tablespoons of baking soda, sprinkled as evenly as possibly between the pages of the book. zipped up tight, leave for at least 24 hours. Do the smell test, and add more baking soda for another 24 hours as needed. The baking soda won’t take care of 100% of the funk, but it should take care of most of it.   I did a sniff test after 8 hours, and although the book was certainly on its way to olifactory recovery, it had a ways to go.

 If your stinky book has decent binding (mine most certainly did not), open it all the way and fan out the pages. leave as fanned out as possible inside the bag. You can use a garbage bag as well, but I don’t suggest the grocery store plastic bags.

While I’m waiting for the adorable Podkayne to destinkify, I picked up Guy Gavriel Kay’s Ysabel. Purchased brand spankin’ new last year, it smells like paper and ink and bookstore.


10 Responses to "this book STINKS"

Haha. this post is brilliant! I’ve come across a few stinker books in my day….never even thought about using baking soda to de-stinkify. Great idea Red!!


You can also put used dryer sheets between the pages to get the smell out. Make sure they’re used though. If you use unused ones, the soap stuff gets stuck to the pages.


I’ve passed on picking up a musty book for that very reason. I never thought to try and fix it.


Wow, not what I expected! Your post stimulated me to do a little Google search and discover that there are a lot of techniques to removing mold and ameliorating musty smell in books. Let us know how the baking soda approach works.


I was expecting this to be a damning review, but this is even more awesome 😀 I’ve a few stinky books that would do with some defunking treatment. Thanks 🙂


36 hours in the baking soda tank, and the kawaii Podkayne is very much less stinky. If I really stick my nose in there, I can still smell something, but it is a vast, vast improvement.

Next time I might try the dryer sheet thing (thanks Jenny!), as I found even after I shook and shook and shook out the baking soda, some of the pages still had that grainy feel to them. I think used dryer sheets might not have that problem.


I don’t mind when a book smells old, but musty and mildewy are not for me. Great tips, thanks!

I was a bit disheartened at first when I read the title of your post because Podkayne is a particular favorite character of mine. I’m glad to see that you haven’t (yet) decided that the “story” stinks.

At least now I’ll be a bit prepared if you come to that conclusion. Ha! Hope you are feeling better, sinus-wise.


Podkayne is quite the cutie, I might like her more than I like Friday! I finished the book this morning, and hope to post a review tonight. the story most certainly didn’t stink, although I think it might be going back in the baking soda tank for another day or so.


[…] ink will probably come off on your fingers.  Beware of mildew and moldy smells, although there are ways around that too.  If the book doesn’t look like it will survive being read, your best bet is probably to […]


[…] if your paperback is kinda stinky, this blog post and the comments may […]


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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.
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