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How to Get Musty Smells Out of Paper

Mary Ylisela

Books, magazines and other paper products with a musty smell obtain the odor through exposure to mildew. Mildew is a fungus that grows on surfaces when warm, damp conditions are present. Even if mildew doesn't grow directly on the surface of paper, the naturally absorbent material can still absorb the musty smell.

Removing mildew odor from paper must be done carefully to avoid inflicting damage. Natural absorbents help neutralize musty mildew smell and deodorize the paper.

  1. Place a layer of crumpled up newspaper in the bottom of an airtight container. Lay the musty-smelling paper on top of the newspaper. Add more crumpled newspaper on top of the musty paper; the newspaper absorbs the musty odor and removes it from the paper.

  2. Put a dryer sheet on either side of the airtight container. Push the dryer sheets down into the container. Seal the lid on the container and allow the contents to sit overnight.

  3. Remove the paper from the container. Discard the old newspaper and dryer sheet.

  4. Spread the papers out on a flat surface. Treat any remaining musty odor by sprinkling the paper with talcum powder. Leave the powder on the paper overnight to allow it to absorb the remaining musty smell.

  5. Brush the powder off the paper with your hand. Wipe the surface with a dry cloth to remove powder residue.

  6. Tip

    Repeat these steps, as needed, until the musty smell is removed. Heat the oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Turn the oven off then place the papers in the oven until it's completely cooled. The heat kills mildew that causes musty odor. Lay papers in direct sunlight, near an open window, to get rid of a musty smell.


    Store important papers in a climate-controlled environment or airtight container. Mildew can destroy the fibers, rendering the papers useless.