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Topic: Opinion - is a musty basement odor mold?

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Subject: Opinion - is a musty basement odor mold?
Date Posted: 12/17/2007 9:08 PM ET
Member Since: 9/18/2005
Posts: 3,370
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I just received a beautiful book with a really strong musty smell which I reacted to -- got a headache.

The book looks brand new. I've found differing opinions on library and archival websites on whether to consider the book moldy and a risk to breathe (and store by other books). 

I've not attempted deodorizing a book for musty odor before -- I'm afraid I'd just be masking something not healthy for me to breathe.

What's your opinion? Is a book with a strong musty smell (without seeing mold) considered a book with mold?

Date Posted: 12/17/2007 9:27 PM ET
Member Since: 6/30/2007
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If it were me, I'd pitch it.  I don't take any chances with mold (very allergic).

Date Posted: 12/17/2007 10:50 PM ET
Member Since: 7/8/2005
Posts: 1,010
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Wasn't there a post somewhere about being able to microwave a book to kill the mold spores?

Date Posted: 12/17/2007 11:47 PM ET
Member Since: 5/18/2007
Posts: 13,223
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I think if the book looks brand new then it's highly unlikely that it's moldy.

I've bought some new hardbacks that have a perculiar smell to them - one even reeked of cigarette-like-smoke smell for the middle 100 pages or so but I was assured it wasn't smoke by B&N.

I work in our large FOL and we're instructed on mold etc ... and there is a difference between a musty smell (stored in a basement) and midew/mold because of wet conditions.

As for your case, I'd toss it if it bothers your allergies but if it's a new-looking book with no visible mold the sender shouldn't be responsible.

Last Edited on: 12/17/07 11:49 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 12/18/2007 12:57 AM ET
Member Since: 9/18/2005
Posts: 3,370
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Thanks for the reply. I'm just interested in finding out from anyone else with sensitivities for an opinion on whether or not this odor is likely to cause a sensitivity reaction linked to mold or if trying to desensitize the odor is worth the attempt w/o the possibility of still causing a reaction. (I  react to  bleach,  cigarette  smoke and heavy fragrances).

Just looking for info to help me  -- I never intended to make a fuss and report the book as a problem.

Date Posted: 12/18/2007 1:04 AM ET
Member Since: 9/16/2007
Posts: 1,003
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Shirley -

I agree there's a big difference between mold and mustiness, and if you're not sure which it is, it probably isn't mold.  But it can certainly cause a reaction either way.  I like old books, and used to love that musty smell, but now with asthma I can't tolerate it. 

I'd try to desensitize the smell before giving up on it.


Date Posted: 12/18/2007 1:16 AM ET
Member Since: 9/18/2005
Posts: 3,370
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Michelle, I thought about that and see several google posts about it. Also found the post here that suggested a microwave might help repair a bent cover which sounded safe enough if the damage is very minor.

Did find an article on booksmart that lists lots of reasons not to cook a book: www.bookthink.com/0005/05cook.htm 

patticom - ,
Date Posted: 12/18/2007 2:35 AM ET
Member Since: 11/3/2007
Posts: 416
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Virtually all vintage books (published prior to 1960 or so) have a unique old-book musty smell.  I don't think it is even remotely like mold, but if someone has a no mold condition on their requests I will always turn them down for a vintage book because I don't want to take a chance the smell might offend them and they may count it as moldy, kwim?  To each his own nose.  :)


Date Posted: 12/18/2007 6:03 AM ET
Member Since: 2/24/2007
Posts: 6,447
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Well I've seen moldy books and it's definitely something you can see. I have musty books that have been stored in the basement. I haven't posted them cause I haven't even gone thru them but I think that for the musty smell you can place the books in an airtight container and add either a brown bag with kitty litter (clay) or a box of Baking soda and let it sit for a week or 2. That will remove the musty smell. Also works for cigarette smoke.

Date Posted: 12/18/2007 8:56 AM ET
Member Since: 1/8/2007
Posts: 8,139
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Has anyone tried putting musty books in a container with those dehumidifying kits, like those ones that you can get for your closet? I wasn't sure if that might help the smell, but I'm sure it would remove any possible moisture from a moist environment.

Date Posted: 12/19/2007 2:28 AM ET
Member Since: 5/18/2007
Posts: 13,223
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Shirley - I apologize. I didn't mean to offend nor intrude in a topic I was not wanted in. I simply stated my opinion on the entire topic (mold vs mustiness) - I wasn't pointing fingers and I never meant it to come across that way. I also wasn't aware you were seeking opinions from allergy sufferers only - your OP didn't state that. I was simply stating what I would do, how I would handle it and what I've been instructed to do at the library.

My apologies once again. .

Last Edited on: 12/19/07 2:34 AM ET - Total times edited: 1