How to Disinfect Books

This information is accurate to the best of my knowledge at the time of publication. For the most recent advice regarding COVID-19 prevention, check the CDC website.

As the world navigates a global pandemic, disinfection is on everyone’s mind. In addition to hand-washing, many of us are taking additional steps to protect ourselves and sanitize our surroundings.

Our family has especially missed the library during this time of sheltering in place. We wanted to do no-contact book swaps with friends, but I was concerned about the risk. Some strains of the COVID-19 virus (full name SARS-CoV-2) can live on paper surfaces for up to 5 days. So I did some research on the best way to sanitize books.

Can you sanitize books?

Sanitizing a paper product like books is tough. Alcohol-based cleaners cause paper to break down, irreparably damaging your books. Bleach and hydrogen peroxide can discolor books, and I’d rather leave the bleach-based cleaners for those who need them most.

Is there a safe way to disinfect books? Yes and no. After doing my research, I went with a vinegar-water solution to sanitize our books. There are both pros and cons to using vinegar as a disinfectant.



At this time, the CDC is not making the recommendation for households to disinfect books. So, if you’d rather not mess with sanitizing new books, you’ll be well within the recommended safety guideline. However, if it will give you peace of mind to take this extra step, we’ve got an easy solution.

How do you disinfect books with vinegar?

Here’s how to get started disinfecting your books:

What you’ll need:

Combine the water and vinegar in the spray bottle.

Spray one cotton cloth lightly with the vinegar-water solution.

Wipe down your book carefully with the damp rag.

Finally, wipe down your book with the second (dry) rag.

After wiping your books down, I recommend laying them flat in a cool, dry place for 24 hours. Then you can return them to your shelves or sit down and enjoy!

I hope these tips help you feel a bit safer, and allow you to fully enjoy reading new books during the quarantine period. Stay home, wash your hands, and remember we’re all in this together.

Looking to get organized during this extended time at home? Check out our tips for decluttering books!


Crystal is an activist, feminist, and mom of three. She loves reading, crochet, and enjoying her family and friends. She lives with her family in Indianapolis.

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