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Removing evil smells from books 
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Post Removing evil smells from books
Back in high school (1964-67) I loaned a friend my copy of a 1960 hardback on falconry. He recently returned it, sheepishly explaining that one of his cats had peed on it and he was embarrassed to give it back in that condition.

Sure enough, it stinks to high heaven, even after 40 years. Any suggestions on how to get a book to stop smelling like cat pee would be very welcome.

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Mon Jun 08, 2009 10:52 am
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Post Re: Removing evil smells from books
There is nothing more evil than cat pee, unless it is a cat that will pee on hisher owner's possessions to prove they are smarter.

Having a few odiferous books around, I can say that it is one effin' persistent smell. I doubt there is any easy way to neutralize it. There is an excellent enzyme-based cleaner out there (one brand is Nature's Miracle) but I doubt that getting the book wet is in any way a good idea.

I would look into soaking/rinsing all the pages with a safe petrochemical cleaner - something like naphthalene comes to mind, but DO NOT take that as a given. With help, soaking the pages and rinsing each affected one well, then letting the book mostly-dry fanned open and finish-dry for a few weeks closed with a moderate weight on it might work. Do some research on the right cleaner.

Or, try putting the book in a box with powdered borax, fanning it good so the powder can get into every page. Let sit for a few weeks, agitating occasionally. Remove, and clean every page with a soft paintbrush.

Or, sorrowfully burn the book with all due ceremony, hie thee to ABEbooks for a replacement, and never ever loan a book to a catlover again.


PS - I also have quite a few books with puppy-nibbled corners. My worst cat-pee story is the very expensive sports rain jacket my son got for Xmas one year from his grandparents. A sort of blue rubberized fabric, it got peed on before the new year by a psycho cat we had at the time. Despite being a nominally waterproof garment, the puddled cat pee soaked in. We looked at the tag. The garment could not be: (1) machine washed (2) hand-washed or (3) dry-cleaned. It (4) hung in the garage until I believe it was (5) thrown away.

We don't have any cats because I've made it clear to the family that if the cat goes psycho we have to get rid of it. Two flippy cats - one because she was supposedly scared by a dog at age 3, one for absolutely no known reason at all - is all I can take of the archetype. Once that fuse blows, they are forever ruined, with no recovery. I really miss having a good cat, though. I almost had one and... no, that's a story I can't tell without too much anguish.

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Mon Jun 08, 2009 10:59 am
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Post Re: Removing evil smells from books
dh490311 wrote:
Back in high school (1964-67) I loaned a friend my copy of a 1960 hardback on falconry. He recently returned it, sheepishly explaining that one of his cats had peed on it and he was embarrassed to give it back in that condition. Sure enough, it stinks to high heaven, even after 40 years. Any suggestions on how to get a book to stop smelling like cat pee would be very welcome.


Mmmm...you could burn it. ;) I know that book restoration experts use methods such as desiccant air dry systems, vacuum-freeze drying and so forth, but I doubt any of these methods would eliminate the cat pee scent, and would be very expensive to boot. Maybe you can just spray it with liberal amounts of Febreze and then put it out in the sun to dry.

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Mon Jun 08, 2009 11:04 am
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Post Re: Removing evil smells from books
Well I would really like to know where your friend was keeping this book for the last 40 years. Make sure never to go in there...

After this length of time, the issue of whether the book still enjoys a separate identity from the cat pee is called into question.

I suppose you want to restore it for the novelty value and because you are bored. Therefore I shall not dwell on ideas like Abebooks, imaging each page and reprinting, etc.

I would soak each page in Nature's Miracle (see: pet store) and then follow the procedure for recovering a wet book, i.e., interleave the pages with absorbent paper (e.g. toilet paper), leave flat and repeat as necessary. Do not leave the pages open; do not iron them. I give it one in four odds of working after three iterations.


Mon Jun 08, 2009 11:21 am
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Post Re: Removing evil smells from books
There is one cat odor remover that is a powder rather than a liquid/spray, but I haven't personally tried it. It is called Odorzout and their website is www.88stink.com.
I would be very hesitant to use a liquid enzyme product on an old book, but this might work if you read how they suggest using the product (for litter boxes, on the animals themselves, anything sprayed by skunk, etc.) and then modify for specific need. Good luck!

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Mon Jun 08, 2009 12:05 pm
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Post Re: Removing evil smells from books
James Gifford wrote:
There is nothing more evil than cat pee, unless it is a cat that will pee on hisher owner's possessions to prove they are smarter.
Having a few odiferous books around, I can say that it is one effin' persistent smell.
[...]My worst cat-pee story is the very expensive sports rain jacket my son got for Xmas one year from his grandparents. [...]It (4) hung in the garage until I believe it was (5) thrown away.
We don't have any cats because I've made it clear to the family that if the cat goes psycho we have to get rid of it.

This brings back fond memories of the cat who tried to warn me that the man in my life was psycho. In a very short time, Hondo managed to throw up monster hair balls a) on the guy's leather jacket, b) on the guy's favorite chair, c) on the guy's pillow, and d) in the guy's favorite shoes. It was amazing to watch: the cat realize would that he had a big one coming up fast, then do a quick eye search of the room for the most appropriate target, and run to it (that low, crouching run they use for stealth operations) just in time to hit the target.
The guy turned out to be bipolar in denial and unmedicated, with borderline personality disorder he knew about but was hiding.
Good cat!
Edit: I don't want to imply that I won't knowingly associate with folks with brain chemistry issues, but I do (since that guy) try to stay away from people who live as if their brain chemistry is everyone else's problem. Apologies to any who see that as too cold or unfeeling, but I finally learned that even the innocent can be intolerable.

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Last edited by freesharon on Mon Jun 08, 2009 12:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.



Mon Jun 08, 2009 12:24 pm
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Post Re: Removing evil smells from books
Peter Scott wrote:
Therefore I shall not dwell on ideas like [...] imaging each page and reprinting, etc.

Hmm. If a cat peed on the Book of G'Kar, would they have to reproduce the smell, too?


Mon Jun 08, 2009 12:26 pm
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Post Re: Removing evil smells from books
Suddenly, the answer appears in my RSS reader, courtesy of Neatorama.

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Mon Jun 08, 2009 4:09 pm
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Post Re: Removing evil smells from books
dh490311 wrote:
Back in high school (1964-67) I loaned a friend my copy of a 1960 hardback on falconry. He recently returned it, sheepishly explaining that one of his cats had peed on it and he was embarrassed to give it back in that condition.

Sure enough, it stinks to high heaven, even after 40 years. Any suggestions on how to get a book to stop smelling like cat pee would be very welcome.

You might try burying it in baking soda.
On the other hand, just burying it might be the most effective thing you could do.


Mon Jun 08, 2009 6:37 pm
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Post Re: Removing evil smells from books
Thanks for the suggestion of ABEBooks.com. They had a nice copy for $4.50 for the book and $3.50 shipping. Clearly the superior option, sentimental attachment to the particular copy that got peed on notwithstanding. The order is placed. Thanks to everyone who replied.

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Mon Jun 08, 2009 8:42 pm
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