Brownsville Mini-Warehouses

Protecting Your Paperbacks and Hardbacks in Self-Storage

There may come a time when it is necessary to store away some of your books in self storage. Whether you are moving to a smaller home or have simply found that your collection is growing out of hand, self storage is a great option that will keep your books safe until you need them again. It seems so easy to just toss your books into a box, but you must take special precautions to protect your paper and hardbacks from damage. Books are susceptible to mildew, corrosion and staining while in storage. Book spines are also fragile and require special care. Thankfully, you don’t have to be a curator or a librarian to properly care for your book collection. Simply follow the guidelines below to keep your books in mint condition while they’re packed away.

Cleaning Your Collection

Packing away dirty or dusty books allows for transfer of the grime onto other volumes and staining. Give your books a gentle but thorough cleaning to significantly increase their shelf life. This is especially important when your collection includes historic or archival quality items. Paper and hardbacks are cleaned in much the same way. Hold the book firmly closed to avoid brushing dust between the pages. Using a magnetic dry cloth (available online or in most supermarkets), gently wipe the book from the spine outwards to prevent dirt from settling in the spine or endcap. Extremely dirty books may need to be vacuumed using a brush attachment. Carefully check the book for bookmarks, scraps of paper and flowers between the pages. These items are highly acidic and will damage the pages during storage. Paper clips and other fasteners also cause damage by staining, creasing and tearing paper.

Pack Them Away

For maximum protection, books should be packed together in small cardboard boxes. Large boxes become too heavy and allow more room for shifting and movement that can damage the spines and covers of the books. Do not pack books with other items, especially fragile ones such as glassware or other collectibles. Choosing the right cardboard box is very important. Too often, the use of poor-quality cardboard leads to deterioration and break down of the boxes, which in turn leads to books being left exposed and susceptible to damage. Choose cardboard boxes that are lignin free and chemically purified. The pH balance of the cardboard and any packing paper is also significant. A pH level of 7 to 8.5 is ideal (newspaper is handy, but the poor quality paper is not suitable for packing around books). Organize your books into categories for easy labeling. Though it may seem like a pain at the time, taking an inventory of your books and recording which volumes are in which box allows you to keep track of the whereabouts of each book. If there is a fire, flood or theft at the storage unit, you will have an itemized record to give to your insurance company. Hard cover books should be wrapped in a jacket before storing. There are two types of polyester film jackets suitable for book storage; a wrap-around jacket, or one with end flaps. While end flap jackets are ideal for shelving books, as they protect the tops and bottoms of the book as well as the sides of the cover, they are unnecessary for boxed storage. The wrap-around style is easy to construct yourself. Because it is not affixed to the book as an end-flap jacket would be, there is no need to use an adhesive that could be damaging in its own right. Choose a roll of polyester film that is chemically stable and free of plasticizers, dyes, ultraviolet inhibitors and surface coatings. Four mm polyester film is a great choice, as is Mylar type D from DuPont. Lay the book on top of the film and simply cut a piece the same height as the book and as wide as necessary to cover the front and back with flaps to fold into the front and back covers. Try to pack similar size books within each box. Lay each book flat in the box, one on top of the other, and fill any empty spaces in the box with lignin-free, acid-free paper or packing material. Do not stand books on their ends as this causes damage to the spine. Seal each box with tape, top and bottom. Label each box according to the categories you established earlier for easy access if you need to find a specific book later on. While plastic bins may seem like a great solution for book storage as they are stackable and waterproof, you must take care to choose the right type of plastic. This is more important to those who will be storing the books for an extended period of time, or when books are very valuable. Plastic is not acidic like certain paper products, but some types are more chemically stable than others. Choose a bin constructed of polyethylene or polypropylene for maximum durability. Polypropylene in particular is unusually resistant to chemicals. Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and cellulose acetate are considered unstable and are not suitable for storage.

Into Self Storage…

​ Your self storage unit must be one that is secure, clean and climate controlled. Place wooden pallets on the floor to avoid moisture absorption from the concrete. Wrap each box of books in plastic for added protection against dust and water damage. Boxes of hardbacks should be stored at the bottom of the pile when you are stacking boxes on top of one another. Set each box down so that it is square and will not tip or shift. Do not stack boxes higher than shoulder height. You must be able to remove boxes comfortably from the top of the stack to reduce the risk of dropping one. Check on your books at least once per month. Look for deteriorating boxes and water damage inside the storage unit. Report damage or theft to the storage facility and your insurance company immediately. If you have any questions about your books, or if your collection is particularly valuable, consult a curator, librarian or antiques expert before using any cleaning or preservation products on your books.

Book Storage Tips