how to disinfect books

This question came in through the contact form so I'll share the question and answer here and encourage anyone else who has recommendations to contribute it here!

Q:  What are you recommending to clean books?  Demco Book Cleaner is good for dirt and debris and Clorox wipes are hard to get.  Do you have suggestions? 

My answer:

Alcohol can be used to clean book covers without destroying them as long as you don't get the book too wet. Be sure to use at least 60% isopropyl alcohol.  You can just pour your alcohol on a cotton ball or some kind of towel to wipe it down. You don't have to use someone else's wipes since all it is is straight alcohol without anything added to make it easier on your hands.  So, use latex gloves or something to protect your skin.

I'm more of a fan of the quarantine method but I"m having a hard time getting a fix on how long a book would have to be quarantined to be safe (for sure.)  

I am also aware that UV light (sunlight) kills the virus so there might be a way to quarantine books in the sunlight that will ensure they are safe to use soon.  But, I haven't found anything from a reliable source on that idea.

- Lori


What do you think?

In case you missed it and don't want to spend an hour listening to it, I've summarized the IMLS webinar from yesterday entitled "Mitigating COVID-19 When Managing Paper-Based, Circulating, and Other Types of Collections."

The spent a lot of time covering the basics you've probably read everywhere including washing your hands in soapy water for 20 seconds, covering your cough, don't come to work sick, keep all people 6 feet apart. They talk about the components of an Emergency Operations Plan including having a way to communicate with people, making sure they don't come to work sick and having a way to telecommute.  

They finally (at 23 minutes) they start talking about the workplace and suggest that if someone at the library develops symptoms to close off their work area for 24 hours and then clean the non-porous surfaces in that area with alcohol (70%) or bleach. Not too worried about fabric but if you can wash contaminated fabric, do so. Advise janitorial staff don't need to do anything special in terms of PPE, just what they'd normally wear when using cleaning products.  

At 26 minutes they talk about paper-based products and say, like mail, this is not a high concern but do say hard plastic is more problematic so those should be wiped down with alcohol (60%-70%).

At 30 minutes Q&A begins and first question is about survival on paper-based products. They explain that for the paper-based products to be problematic, someone would have had to have just coughed on the item before returning. Suggest staff doing check-in could wear gloves, wash hands after handling returns or quarantine material for 24 hours to be extra safe.  They are more worried about DVD cases and suggest cleaning those with alcohol (unless you are quarantining for 24 hours which should be sufficient).

For all questions about disinfectants, they refer you to this page:

If you DO want to watch it or read the entire transcript, it is here: