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How to Remove Mildew From Paper

When it's allowed to live in dark, warm, damp spaces, mold can produce a messy by-product called "mildew" that spreads quickly across cellulose-based items like fabric and paper. This substance can stain or even cause irreversible rot, not to mention a nasty, musty smell. Preventing the conditions that create mildew by storing paper in clean, dry, airy places is the best way to keep your belongings safe; but if those things become affected, it is often possible to fix the problem on your own.

Things You'll Need:

  • Drop cloth
  • Clothesline
  • Paper towels or blotting paper
  • Cornstarch or talcum powder
  • Clothespins
  • Hair dryer or space heater
  • Soft rags
  • Soft-bristled toothbrush
  • Bowl
  • Dishwashing liquid
  • Water
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Denatured alcohol
  • Lemon juice
  • Chlorine bleach
  • Spray bottle

Drying Mildew

Spread the drop cloth over the area where you want to place the mildewed objects, to avoid transferring the mildew to the surface where you're working. String up the clothesline or use the one in your laundry area.

Remove the affected paper documents or books carefully from where they are currently being stored and lay them out on the drop cloth so they will dry.

Stand the books up and "fan" them open if that will not hurt the spines. Place paper towels or blotting paper between the pages and press down with more books if the material is too delicate to stand or hang as in Step 4. Replace the absorbing materials every half-hour if the paper you are trying to save is very damp or wet. Sprinkling a drying agent such as talcum powder or cornstarch between the pages and letting them dry for several hours is another alternative.

Hang less delicate papers from the clothesline if the wind is not prohibitively strong. Set up the space heater for the area or turn on the hair dryer to a low setting and, from at least a 6-inch distance, gently wave the air flow back and forth over the mildew to help it dry more quickly.


Any dark, damp, closed area is a potential mold farm, and all natural-fiber or plant-based material is fodder. Carefully store or use rugs, draperies, shower curtains, books, and paper archives in dry spaces with good air flow.

Removing Mildew

Brush off the documents or books with the clean, soft rag or carefully use the toothbrush to work at thicker spots.

Add a few drops of dish washing liquid to a bowl of water. Dip a clean rag in the sudsy water and dab gently at the mildew on washable paper material with a small corner of the cloth to further clean stubborn areas. Avoid soaking the paper or scrubbing at it to prevent more damage. Wipe off the paper carefully with a rag dampened in clean water. Pat it dry gently with a dry, soft cloth.

Replace the soap in Step 2 of this section with hydrogen peroxide, denatured alcohol, lemon juice or chlorine bleach. Make a 1:1 mixture of these substances with water. These substances will both clean and help kill the mold. Pour the mixture in a spray bottle and spray the solution onto the paper that has mildew. Make sure not to spray too much that the paper will be soaked. Then pat the paper with a dry, soft cloth.

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