What is Red Rot?

What if your leather book has red rot. What is that?

Red Rot on Leather Books

Example of Red Rot

Red Rot or Red Decay is the term used to describe the decayed condition of leather or the process of becoming decayed. A book could be said to be suffering from red rot... and you could also say that the red rot (meaning the powdery red stuff) is getting all over my fingers when I handle the book.

According to the Roberts and Etherington Dictionary of terms called "Bookbinding and the Conservation of Books" red rot includes book leather that has become "hardened and embrittled"  but is more commonly known as leather decay that is dry and powdery.

Leather Book Care Kit for fixing red rot

Leather Book Care Kit

This kit includes Klucel-G the consolidant, SC6000 the sealant, and Hewit's Leather Dressing for polishing undamaged leather.

The AIC (American Institute for Conservation) Wiki page tells us that red rot is mostly the result of sulfuric acid that was part of the leather tanning process (especially vegetable tanned leathers). There is no cure for red rot; no reversal in any case. But there is a recommended treatment. It is suggested that the best treatment is a mixture of Klucel-G and SC6000 but creating the mixture is not simple since the SC6000 doesn't mix well. I have had very good luck using the Klucel-G and then applying the SC6000 as a sealant afterwards and so that is what I recommend.

Be sure to use a mask and consider using gloves whenever handling red rot. The fibers are insidious and can cause skin irritation when handled. Don't breathe it in! Sneezing on your books is never a good idea and you don't want that stuff in your lungs!

Also, Never use Klucel-G or SC6000 on Suede. Suede will darken and become stiff if you add moisture of any kind.