How To Remove Mold From Paper Documents: 3 Effective Steps

Mold shows no mercy even to our treasured books and documents. Here is how to remove mold from paper documents to help you deal with the problem. 

As time goes by, mold and mildew may grow in your paper documents, especially if stored in areas with high humidity. You have to take immediate action after noticing the signs below so that you can save your important documents.

how to remove mold from paper documents


Signs Of Mold And Mildew In Paper

There are a few signs for you to watch out to know when mold and mildew start to grow in your paper documents. Here are some:

  • Pages of books and a set of documents are sticking together along the edges.
  • Mold and mildew can cause discoloration in paper documents. They create yellowing and brown or black speckling.
  • Paper documents smell musty.
  • Visible signs of mold and mildew, specifically in the book’s spine or cover, particularly on books with covers made of organic materials like leather


Getting Rid Of Mold In Paper Documents

Removing mold from paper requires more care as it is prone to damage. However, you can still do it successfully by following these steps:


Step #1. Isolate the moldy pages of the document

When dealing with a set of documents, isolate the damaged pages and put them in a dry place. Separate the clean papers from the ones with mold. It is best to do this outside.


Step #2. Dry out the pages with mold

Before you proceed with the mold removal, make sure to dry out the pages first completely. You can grab some paper towels and place them between the book’s pages, then close them.

Make sure to press the book firmly to allow the paper towels to absorb excess moisture effectively. You can also try laying the documents flat under direct sunlight for at least an hour.

When completely dried, mold will turn into powder which will be easier to remove. It will help if you do the drying a few times to prevent the wrinkling of pages.


Step #3. Brush off the mold

When the pages are dry and the mold turns powder-like, you can easily remove it by simple brushing. Before doing this, wear protective gear like safety glasses, rubber gloves, and a mask to avoid inhalation and contact with mold spores.

Mold spores stay in the air for a while, so it is essential to keep yourself protected. You can check this article on how long do mold spores stay in the air to know more. 

You can also lay out pieces of old newspaper in the area where you will work to prevent the mold from spreading and easy cleaning. When you have prepared everything, start brushing the mold off the documents.

When brushing is not enough, you can try using a cloth with hydrogen peroxide, wet enough not to leave traces of lint behind. Use this to wipe the remaining mold away gently.

If there are lingering visible stains, use another cloth damp with diluted lemon juice. It helps remove the stains.

Canvas is also important, like paper documents. Here is an article you can check out to help you on dealing with mold in canvas


Removing the musty smell from the mold-damaged paper

Even after successfully clearing the mold from your paper documents, the musty smell can be left behind. It is not exactly a pleasant smell, so here are some ways to get rid of it. 

Lay the documents flat on a surface and sprinkle talcum powder over them. Allow it to sit overnight, then wipe the powder away the next day.

Put the paper documents in a sealed bag together with one or two sheets of fabric softener. Change the sheets every 24 hours and do it for a day or two.

Place the papers in a brown paper bag inserting pieces of unused charcoal wrapped in a cloth inside. Leave it for at least a day until the odor is gone.

Sprinkle some baking soda inside a sealed container or bag and place the documents inside. Baking soda is known as an effective agent in absorbing unwanted smells.


Preventing mold growth in paper

Moisture is the most significant factor in mold growth, no matter what type of surface it is. Paper documents easily absorb water, making them prone to damage.

Preventing this from happening is the best way to fight it.

To protect paper, like books, from mold, make sure to store them in places with good airflow and low humidity. Avoid storing them in closets, basements, or anywhere near a water source.

Regular cleaning and dusting of books and paper documents as well as their shelves will also do the trick. Keeping plants away out of your library or at least away from the shelves is also suggested.



Paper documents, especially the irreplaceable ones, require a decent amount of care. They are prone to different kinds of damage, and mold growth is one of those.

Now that you know how to remove mold from paper documents, it is certain that your precious pieces of paper will live longer. However, if the damage seems out of hand and involves documents of high value like artifacts, collection pieces, or heirlooms, you can ask for professional help in dealing with it.

Document restoration specialists are equipped with the proper techniques to preserve and remediate your documents.

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