When I was a fledgling my wonderful mama taught me a lot about cleaning, but I do not recall a lesson about how to care for your books. Dishes, bathrooms, bedrooms, laundry, cooking—yes. Books? No. Maybe it was obvious to her. Or maybe she was so busy enjoying her stacks and boxes of books that it just slipped her mind. Or maybe I’m taking my book obsession to new heights.

But really—how do you care for your books? They look marvelous lined up on the shelves, but I don’t have a magical force field to keep off all the dust. Do you? If so, where can I get one, too?

I want my darlings to last forever and ever, so I jumped on the Google Train. Want to see what I learned?

Care for Your Books (the Right Way!)

  1. Clean hands will make your books last longer. This can be tricky if you like nibbling chocolate or cookies while you read.
  2. Books like average room temperature (around 70°F or 21°C). Cooler is better, but then you’d need more hot cocoa or tea. They also enjoy moderate humidity (around 40-50%). (Should I invest in a humidity sensor, or would that be going overboard?) Warning: exterior walls will experience more temperature fluctuations.
  3. Books are most comfy and long-lived if they are stored flat or upright and not on their spines or fore-edges. This means no tilting your books sideways for the sake of artistry or rebelliousness unless you have an angled shelf. Personally, I prefer ordinary shelves. I can cram more on them.
  4. Speaking of cramming—Don’t! They might crack. They also might scratch when you pull them out, and that would ruin their lovely covers.

  5. And speaking of pulling them out, the proper technique is to push in the two books to either side and grasp the book you want by the sides of the spine. Since my own books don’t have any pushing room, I tend to place one or two fingers on the pages—well back from the delicate spine—and tip it back enough to grasp either side of the book. So far, so good…
  6. Keep them out of direct sunlight unless you want the pages to deteriorate and the covers to fade. (Sorry, there is no known sunscreen suitable for books.)
  7. Keeping them out of dust is more difficult. Unless you have them hermetically sealed away—and unavailable for reading, which is criminal—dust them regularly. Hold the book closed and wipe the outside and edges with a soft cloth. Wipe from the spine outward so dirt doesn’t settle in the space behind the spine. “But wait!” you say. “I have a meeeellion books and it would take me forever to dust them one at a time!” I hear ya! Vacuuming them with a soft brush is an excellent alternative.
  8. Don’t use regular tape (the pressure-sensitive adhesive stuff you get in office supply departments) to fix covers or paper. It can cause even more damage in the long run.
  9. Keep away from pets. Unless your pet can read, in which case you probably don’t want to cramp their style or hold back their education. Most pets, though, are not good for books.
  10. Use a bookmark to save your place—unless it’s a paperclip, sticky-note, rubber band or something similar. The paperclip rusts, the sticky-note leaves dirt-attracting residue, and the rubber band is actually a demon in disguise. Your safest bet is a piece of acid-free paper. (I don’t know about you, but my bookmarks don’t stay in books long. I have yet to see my acid-full papers and official bookmarks gobbling up the pages, or even nibbling on them!) Laying open books face-down will break their spines.

Now that you know how to care for your books, check out 10 Reasons to Read them (in case you need an excuse!)

Image: “Bookshelves at Goodlight Books” by The LEAF Project is licensed under CC0 1.0