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Topic: Removing smoke smells from books

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Subject: Removing smoke smells from books
Date Posted: 9/2/2012 2:36 AM ET
Member Since: 7/28/2006
Posts: 4,984
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Does anyone have any tips to get cigarette smell out of books.  I ordered 3 paperbacks from the same person, and although they said they keep the books in a different room in plastic from the smokers, they positively REEKED of cigarette smoke.  I've had them sequestered in a cardboard shoebox with baking soda for about 7 weeks now.  They no longer make me gag to pick them up, but they still have a lot of the cigarette/musty smell, mostly on the inside pages (as opposed to the covers).  

Any sure way to make the smell go away?  What's worked for some of you in the past?  

Date Posted: 9/2/2012 10:27 AM ET
Member Since: 8/16/2007
Posts: 15,221
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I leave mine in the garage open for about a month and it gets it down to a managable level to read. Whenever I'd leave or come home I'd fan the pages a little. Here our weather doesn't allow for me to leave them outside, but airflow is what helps get rid of it I think. Having it sealed and closed won't let the smell out of the pages.

IMO the smell almost never goes away.  I received a bunch of books from a smoker friend when she moved out of town. I didn't stop noticing smell on those books until 10 years later.

Date Posted: 9/2/2012 11:33 AM ET
Member Since: 10/22/2009
Posts: 1,452
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I do the same as Melanie with good results. Just leave them segregated from the rest of my books and fan the pages even once in a while as I walk by. It does take time--two or three months, but they do eventually lose most of the smokey smell.
Date Posted: 9/2/2012 11:49 AM ET
Member Since: 8/18/2008
Posts: 7,759
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Air and time.

I must not be as sensitive to the smell, though, since to me it's overpowering when it first comes out of the package, but after a few days, it's not as bad unless I put my nose right up to it and sniff.  Since I don't read with my nose literally in the book, I usually can stand it after a week or so of airing.

Barb S. (okbye) - ,
Date Posted: 9/2/2012 12:05 PM ET
Member Since: 3/14/2011
Posts: 5,767
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Yeah, outside is good. I have a separate laundry room that's basically a glorified shed and it works well in there. The laundry scents probably don't hurt either, it smells a bit like fabric softener in there all the time. I have a no smoking RC but my sister smokes and passes on books sometimes. I'm like "Gee, thanks" as I hold it at arms length, lol. 

Date Posted: 9/2/2012 12:46 PM ET
Member Since: 7/28/2006
Posts: 4,984
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Thanks for the suggestions!  I did the shoebox/baking soda thing for a book I got from a swap game and it seemed to take the smell right out.  Guess I will give these a little longer and think about moving them somewhere else...

Date Posted: 9/6/2012 1:03 PM ET
Member Since: 1/3/2007
Posts: 108
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I have a very sensitive sniffer (but no allergy to smoke), and I accept books from smokers. When I get smoky books, I put them next to my sliding-glass door, which is (1) in the sunshine, (2) by an air vent, and (3) on a tile floor. The combination seems to work pretty well. There is always a residual odor, but nothing you'd notice unless rubbing your nose against the pages.

I did get one shipment, several years ago, where the books smelled so horrible I had to throw them all away, even after airing out. It was smoke, but more than smoke. And it takes a whole lot for me to throw a book away, that's like sacrilege.

Good luck!

Date Posted: 9/6/2012 1:39 PM ET
Member Since: 11/28/2010
Posts: 754
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The worst book smell-wise I ever got was purfumed.  It's smelled like someone sprayed it or doused it with purfume.


I left it outside hung over a coathanger, in the fresh air for a MONTH, and the smell never went away.  It did go from about a "10" (scale of 1-10) down to an "8", but that's being pretty generous in my rating of it.   I threw it away.  There was no way I was going to be able to read that.

Last Edited on: 9/6/12 1:40 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 9/6/2012 1:46 PM ET
Member Since: 2/25/2008
Posts: 51
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I find the shoebox + baking soda  trick works better if you sprinkle the baking soda onto the books, then wrap them in newspaper.

Date Posted: 9/6/2012 6:52 PM ET
Member Since: 8/26/2006
Posts: 9,351
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I've heard good things about baking soda, newspaper and sunshine.  Also unscented cat litter is supposed to be good, and putting a book in a zip-lock bag in the freezer helps with some odors.

Last Edited on: 9/6/12 6:53 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 9/6/2012 7:35 PM ET
Member Since: 4/25/2007
Posts: 11,672
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I've had success putting the book in a ziplock bag with an unscented fabric softener sheet.  It can take a while and a change or two of the softener sheet but the smell gets down to a level where I can't tell unless I stick my nose in the book or flip the pages.

I've tried putting the book in the freezer (in a ziplock of course) but didn't think that helped much.

Date Posted: 9/7/2012 12:25 AM ET
Member Since: 7/19/2008
Posts: 15,485
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Even an unscented fabric softener sheet will give me a headache.

With smoke, the goal is to dry the book out with an odor absorbing material. Charcoal, baking soda, cat litter, zeolite, and newspaper are all moisture and odor absorbent. Heat and sun also help, as long as the binding glue does not get too hot as that will turn the spine brittle. (The freezer is meant to freeze dry the book. Does not always work.)