Deacidification Of Book Pages

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If you have a book, printed with acidic paper, that you didn’t want to remove and soak the pages to de-acidify, could you finely coat each page in baking soda, press the book for a day, and dust off the baking soda? Not sure if this or another method would be safe for amateurs?

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Asked on October 20, 2019 7:01 pm
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This is a great question. To start I just want to clarify what we are talking about when we say deacidification:  It is the process of adding an alkaline agent to an acidic material to buffer the pH. I think it is a natural instinct to want to add baking soda. Unfortunately that application process will not work to deacidify the pages because it doesn't get into the fibers enough and the baking soda is impossible to remove completely so your book will be forever gritty. Bleh.

However, you can buy deacidification sprays like Bookkeepers, that will actually soak into the pages and halt the deterioration. These sprays should not be used on rare books though because the chemisty is not exact. For expensive, collectible books that have this acidity problem, please take them to a conservation lab for treatment. They are all set up for this sort of thing. 

More bad news: The sprays are expensive, and the application tends to be uneven and it is complicated and time consuming to spray a large book because you have to keep the sprayer upright. The American Institute for Conservation's Book and Paper Group Annual Volume 15 from 1996 goes into lots of detail about the chemistry and effectiveness of deacidification sprays. More information is in volume 17 1998 including information about color changes.

That said, I DO use these sprays from time to time. Especially when there is a horrible tape stain or a newspaper article tucked into a book. I have used these sprays to de-acidify whole books by proping them up outside (Don't breathe in the stuff. Although it is not toxic, why take chances?)

What is the book by the way? 

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    Answered on October 20, 2019 7:33 pm
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      An additional note: There are recipes out there on the internet  to create your own de-acidification solution out of milk of magnesia and club soda but they seem to require removing the page to soak it and I have no experience with the chemistry of it so don't try this on collectible books! And even if it seems to "work" right away there is no guarantee it will not damage the page over time. Just be cautious.

       

      An alternative solution to using any deacidification is to place buffered paper on either side of the ephemera or page. This only works for single items of course. "Antique end-leaf" papers are buffered. Available through Talas.

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      Answered on October 20, 2019 8:22 pm