How To

Book Repair 101

Karina Glaser

Contributing Editor

Karina Yan Glaser is a full-time writer and illustrator with a varied career teaching and implementing literacy programs in family homeless shelters and recruiting healthcare professionals to volunteer in under-resourced areas around the world. Karina is the New York Times bestselling author of the middle grade books, The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street and The Vanderbeekers and the Hidden Garden. She lives in Harlem with her husband, two daughters, and an assortment of rescued animals. One of her proudest achievements is raising two kids who can't go anywhere without a book. Website:; Twitter: @KarinaYanGlaser; Instagram: @KarinaIsReadingAndWriting

We’ve all done it. Tried to scratch off a stubborn price sticker, leaving the book cover sticky and full of dents. Purchased a used book before realizing the smoky smell is not going away. Spilled water on a book, leaving it mildewy and wavy.

What to do with these book accidents? The following are some basic book repair 101 hints found around the web. *Please note that damage done to rare or valuable books should be taken to a professional book conservator.*

Torn Pages

Align the parts of the tear and apply a strip of Filmoplast P mending tape (around $20) over the tear. Filmoplast P mending tape is a lighter and more flexible acid-free tape. The full width of the roll is not always necessary; cut in half before applying.


Page Tip Ins (When pages come loose from the spine)

Use Archival PVA (about $6), a glue that is similar to Elmer’s but has more flexibility. Run a thin bead of PVA along the spine edge. Insert the pages into the gutter, making sure the pages are aligned, and let dry.


Loose Book Spine (when the cover is still attached but the spine is loose from the pages)

Open the book so there is space between the spine and the cover, then take Archival PVA (about $6) and apply a small amount of glue to a metal knitting needle or other long thin instrument. Insert the knitting needle into the space between the cover and the spine and spread the glue in a thin layer along the spine. Remove needle and close the book, running your fingers along the spine to make sure the glue is adhering to the pages. Keep pressure on the spine for at least thirty minutes while the glue dries.

Price Stickers

Most book price stickers come off easily, but for those that leave a sticky residue try using Goo Gone (8 ounce bottle around $5). Put a little Goo Gone on a paper towel and rub over the sticky area gently. This removes any lingering adhesive.

For stickers that don’t come off at all (the ones that you can’t help but chip away at with your nail, thus ruining the cover), try using a razor scraper ($6) to gently lift the sticker us. Do this slowly and gently to prevent scratching the cover. Once the sticker has been removed, use Goo Gone to get rid of any stickiness.

Smoky Smell

The easiest and most effective way I’ve seen to get a smoky smell out of books is to create a fumigation chamber and nestle books inside with Gonzo Odor Eliminators for Homes (around $17). A full tutorial can be found on the Parks Library Preservation website here.


Wet Books

The course of action for wet books depends on the severity of the damage. There are different methods for dealing with books that are moderately wet to books that are dripping wet. Take a look at; they have a comprehensive list of what to do with wet books here.



Share your book repair tips in the comments!