How to Remove Stains from Cloth Book Covers

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Fia asked: How do I remove a stain from a fabric book? There are some stains on the cover of a fabric covered book that I own. I think they may be oily fingerprints. Is there any way I can remove them without damaging the cover? Thanks in advance.

Cloth makes beautiful book coverings, but can quickly collect dirt and dust. Stains that have resulted from this dirt build up can be removed easily with the right products. Here are a variety of cleaning products and explanations of how to use them. Start with the first steps for simple or light stains and work down the list to remove tougher stains.

You Will Need:

Steps to Remove the Stains:

  1. Begin by removing surface dust and dirt by brushing the cover with soft brush and/or soft cloth.
  2. There are horsehair brushes available that work well for removing dirt and dust from creases and crevices. It is gentle enough to use on all surfaces of the book.
  3. Once the dust is removed, a document cleaning pad can be used to remove dirt and dust that is stuck to the surface. Document cleaning pads are filled with a special, absorbent powder that absorbs oils and other dirt so that it can be brushed away.
  4. Squeeze the pad to release some of the absorbent powder.
  5. Gently scrub the surface where the powder was applied.
  6. Brush off any remaining powder with the soft brush or soft cloth.
  7. Repeat as necessary until the stains are removed or are no longer being lifted by the powder.
  8. Dry cleaning sponges, also known as dirt erasers are made of vulcanized rubber and are effective in removing many types of stains from the surfaces of cloth books.
  9. Use a small piece of the sponge and rub it over the stained area.
  10. Dispose of the used piece of sponge, once finished. Since these sponges are not reused, there is no worry about spreading mold spores that are commonly found on cloth book covers.
  11. For additional stains, Absorbene works well. This is a putty that pulls dirt and stains out of the fabric surface.
  12. Remove a small amount of the putty from the container and work it with your fingers until it becomes pliable.
  13. Roll or rub it over the surface in one direction to remove the stains. For a video demonstration of how to use Absorene click here (YouTube).
  14. If the previous three cleaning products have not removed the stains, there is one last product to try. Moisten a soft cloth or cotton ball with Brodex Multipurpose Cleaner.
  15. Rub the cleaning product over the stained areas until they lift. This product is a citrus cleaner that cuts through most dirt, grime, adhesives and other stains.
  16. Once clean, brush the entire cover with the soft brush to remove any residue from the cleaning products.

Additional Tips and Advice

  • There are a variety of document cleaning pads available that can be purchased online or at art supply stores. They typically range in price from $5-$10 and can be reused over and over again.
  • If the book is old and/or delicate, test a small area first to ensure there are no adverse effects to the fabric texture or color.
  • If the book is antique and of high value, it may be best to have it professionally cleaned. While these products are safe to use on cloth books, the cloth coverings on antique books are often fragile and cannot withstand even the gentlest cleaning without some damage.

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