How to Clean Books with Pest Droppings


Michelle asked: How do I clean the edges of books that have gotten roach droppings on them? My uncle gave me hundreds of books, some very old. Unfortunately, they have roach droppings along the edges of the pages. I would like to bring them in my home, but I’m afraid that I will infest my library. Please help. Thank you.

When books sit in storage, we often forget how easily they can become the homes of pests such as rodents and roaches. When they get damaged, there are a few things that can be done to sanitize them. Keep in mind that these methods may alter the exterior of the book slightly. Though it should not ruin the book, if the book is extremely old or of high value, you will want to weigh your options wisely. Of course, if it is really valuable, it will be worth the extra cost of having it professionally cared for.

You Will Need:

  • Bleach
  • Water
  • Soft cloths
  • Oven

Steps to Clean and Sanitize the Book:

  1. Begin by giving the book a thorough cleaning using the methods in our guide How to Clean Books.
  2. Next, mix one part bleach with 5 parts water in a small dish or bucket.
  3. Moisten a soft cloth with the mixture.
  4. Squeeze out the cloth really well so that it is just barely damp.
  5. Holding the book closed, wipe the edges of the pages. Holding the book closed will give you a solid surface to wipe. The bleach will remove the germs and bacteria, although it may not remove the black dropping stains.
  6. Do not allow the pages to become wet with the moisture or it could lead to other problems.
  7. Allow the books to air dry completely before returning them to storage.
  8. If you are worried about roach eggs being present, they can be killed with exposure to heat.
  9. Preheat an oven to 150 degrees Fahrenheit.
  10. Place the book in the oven.
  11. Watch it closely and let it sit in the heat for 30 minutes.
  12. Remove the book and allow it to cool.

Additional Tips and Advice

  • According to HUD, there are two methods to remove cockroaches from an area. Applying steam or dry heat for 30 minutes. They offer a wealth of information about cockroaches (PDF) if they have infested other areas of your home.
  • Cockroach droppings permanently stain books and papers. While the stains may not be removable, you can ensure that the roaches do not continue to grow in your books and papers.
  • If you are unsure if you have a roach problem, set a sticky trap out near the suspected area. Check it every few days to see if any visitors have been caught. Treat the situation as necessary.
  • Many pests can be removed by setting the books out in direct sunlight.
  • If you are worried that you may have received infested books, check them periodically as roaches can live for up to a year.


  1. Will this discolor my books if I do bleach?

  2. As long as the bleach is diluted enough, it should not stain. But, if you are concerned, thoroughly stir the bleach solution, then test a small, hidden area on the book first.

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