HERE, KITTY, KITTY
Deodorizing a book
by Ellen G.K. Rubin
(reprinted from Movable Stationery May 1999 vol.7, no.2 )
From the pop-up book, Alice in Wonderland,
illustrated and paper engineered
by Vojtěch Kubašta
Your feline friend is sitting on a miracle cleanser… of books! Kitty litter! Yes, cat litter! I've proven it. I happened upon a suggestion in an antique weekly newsletter to use cat litter to deodorize old books. Being an avid antiquarian book collector, I usually associate the smell of old books with pleasure. Until recently, I did not have the occasion, let alone the thought, to ‘deodorize’ a book. But then the necessity arose.
Through a catalog, I purchased a Blue Ribbon (1934) Little Red Ridinghood "pop-up" Book. It was in very fine condition, as described. But what was surely lacking from the description was the book’s smell. There was no doubt the book had been rescued (Phew!) from a fire; it had that strong acrid smell of smoke (Phooey!). Here was another opportunity for an experiment. (See Step Right Up!) I had been successful (read ‘lucky’) with the TidyPen and hoped my ‘luck’ would hold out attempting to use kitty litter to rid this book of its most unpleasant odor. Not owning a cat, I borrowed the kitty litter from a neighbor. (Can‘t you just see me, container in hand, "May I borrow a cup of cat litter, please?")
Using a large zip-lock bag, I put the kitty litter in with the book, shaking carefully to bring it into as much contact with the paper as possible. The bag was sealed and put in my garage. The next day, I removed the book for a test whiff. Most of the smell of was gone. Best of all, the litter’s contact with the book had done no damage to the paper, something I was most anxious about. Ignoring the maxim, "The enemy of good is better," I put the book back into the bag, this time carefully shaking the litter into the crevices of the spine where the odor was strongest. I hoped one more day would get rid of the rest of the smell. I still was anxious about a longer proximity of litter on paper. Well, I experienced an extended ‘senior moment’ and forgot about the project. A week later (!), I rediscovered the bag. No damage to the book (Whew!) and the smell was totally gone. In fact, it now had a slightly aromatic scent. There was no problem shaking the litter from the spine and movables, another anxiety of mine.
Conclusion? One can buy smelly books with impunity. But if you don’t have a cat, make friends with a neighbor who has one.