Doubtless you can't wipe each page of a book with alcohol wipes, for the wetness will ruin the page, and wiping each page takes too much time anyways. I don't have an autoclave in which I can place books, to decontaminate them.

I'm yearning to borrow from the library, but I'm too worried about SARS-COV-2 as well as pathogens, dirt, food scraps, etc.

  • 1
    Was there a specific contaminant you wish to neutralize? Your link describes a number of different ways to diminish both microbial and viral contaminates. How can we better answer your question?
    – Stan
    May 21, 2020 at 22:16
  • @Stan Nothing specific. Just pathogens, dirt, food scraps, etc...
    – user1869
    May 30, 2020 at 6:19

4 Answers 4


I assume this is due to coronavirus fear. Just Googling how long can the coronavirus last on surfaces, the answer is up to 5 days. Viruses are parasitic. They need a living host to survive and reproduce. If you are that worried, seal the book in a plastic bag for a week, so it cant be touched. After the week is up, the book will be virus free.

  • And if it is not about corona-virus? There are countless bacteria, yeast, mold... growing on / in books. BTW, if the book is borrowed from a library, waiting 5 days is a huge waste of reading time (especially if the book is rare, or if there is a long waiting queue). If it is from the personal library, then chances of corona are pretty much zero.
    – virolino
    May 25, 2020 at 13:58
  • 2
    It only lives for 24 hours on porous surfaces like paper and cardboard. 5 days is unnecessary. Jun 9, 2020 at 12:35
  • @SurpriseDog True, but our local libraries do 5 days, just to be safe.
    – Ken Graham
    Oct 15, 2020 at 19:45

Intellectual property owners care about your license.

They don't care where you get your physical copy of the IP.

Suppose you're a bar owner, and you obey the law and get an annual ASCAP license. You can now play any ASCAP music you please in your bar, all the live long day. Note that the license does not come with a USB stick of every ASCAP song; you must still obtain the songs on your own. Nobody cares where you source your physical copy of the media. If you want to rip it from friends' CDs, trade AAC files, or leech it all off BitTorrent, have a field day.

Exactly the same applies here. Drop the book in a plastic bag while still at the library - this gives you a proper license to have the IP. Now, move it to somewhere it won't get destroyed -- and while it's in your control, BitTorrent or otherwise "obtain" an ebook file of the book. Enjoy it, delete the digital copy, and then return the physical book. Still in the plastic bag.

Do not extrapolate this into "borrow the book, pirate the audiobook" - those are different IPs.

Libraries have looked at delivering obscure books this way for many years - when a Web visitor wants to read a book, you "check it out" in the system meaning no one else can use it; then let them securely see pages at their pace; and after they logout or timeout, "check it back in" so it's available for virtual or physical checkout. (or simply outlaw ALL physical checkout, so the paper book remains in cold storage forever).

  • 2
    For those who do not have a convenient computer/digital reader/internet access? This answer begs the question asked by avoiding it.
    – Stan
    May 29, 2020 at 18:22
  • 1
    @Stan Well, we are on Lifehacks... left handed solutions are par for the course. Also, the only people who will see this answer are those with devices and Internet access. May 29, 2020 at 18:30
  • <rant> Don't get me wrong. I love your answer and worked on a project similar to a "Gutenberg Project" for all publications to avoid the Content-Media product confusion. When you purchase a book, do you own the content or the physical media? If the media is lost, should you still have access to the content you purchased? [YES] </rant> Your answer does not address the condition of the physical media asked by the OP.
    – Stan
    May 29, 2020 at 18:49

If you are inclined towards technology, you can use a UV-C lamp. It does not touch the book in any way. However, UV radiation is know to destroy certain substances - if it is safe for your book, I do not know. Maybe you "decontaminate" a few pages, wait for a few days, try to understand if something went wrong.

  • 3
    I would downvote, but dont have the reputation yet. UV light is one of the main destroyers of books. While UV light can kill viruses, it is not guaranteed. Even if it could, without knowing the amount and time needed per square unit, it is rather pointeless.
    – Keltari
    May 23, 2020 at 6:16
  • @Keltari I doubt virolino's answer is proposing prolonged UV-C exposure sufficient to destroy cloth and paper fibre; however, your point is worth mention. Dosage is everything.
    – Stan
    May 23, 2020 at 14:55
  • 1
    @Stan While I am not an expert, simple common sense prevails. it doesnt take long for UV light to damage human skin, aka sunburn. UV light can cause sunburn in as little as 10 minutes. UV light can also change the color of inks and dyes as well. Im sure you have seen objects that have colors faded by sunlight. Heck, in just a couple hours you can un-yellow plastic with UV light. Plus, even if it only took 10 minutes per page, are you really going to spend 100 hours shining a light on a 600 book, when you can simply let it sit for the same amount of time and achieve the same result?
    – Keltari
    May 23, 2020 at 15:09
  • 1
    @Keltari: If you think that "UV light is one of the main destroyers of books", then you have no idea what children can do to books. Or Water. Not to mention the passage of time itself. As far as I know, the UV-C solution is the only non-contact way to sterilize. And since it is used by hospitals to disinfect large areas, I tend to believe that it is quite effective. If a 40W / 80W lamp is enough for a large hospital area, then a 9W lamp (I guess it is the smallest) is a lot more than enough for a book.
    – virolino
    May 25, 2020 at 13:54
  • 2
    @Keltari Lighting guy who lights archives here. You're making much ado about nothing. Here's what's bad: Having an archive lit 8 hours a day for 40 years with lighting that emits UV (hello LED lighting). Here's what's not bad: Blasting a book for 10 minutes, once. Also, these are circulating library books. If you hate books and want to destroy bonfires of them, just circulate them :) May 29, 2020 at 15:58

Hack the same chemical-free technique using a safe, household appliance in the same manner as the professionals.

Heat is a proven disinfectant. Medical professionals trust autoclaves and heat to sterilize surgical instruments. When conducting a microbial treatment with [BRAND NAME REMOVED] equipment, heat and hold the treatment zone between 66°C/150°F and 71°C/160°F and maintain temperatures until the hardest-to-heat locations maintains that temperature for 2 hours as indicated with a temperature probe.

Taken from A Heat treatment equipment Web site There's an excellent infographic at the site showing laboratory finding for comparing: Pathogen, Thermal Death Point, Treatment Duration, and the laboratory source.

We've got a little box that heats stuff to just over 160 Fahrenheit. It's specifically for bed bugs, but it kills anything, so we'll cook anything we don't like. Doesn't harm the books!

Taken from a web-chat site for professional librarians discussing Corovid-19.

I would conclude (from much similar information) that placing any publication into a normal oven pre-heated to the suggested temperatures will be a relatively fast, safe, and sufficient to do what you need done using normally obtainable household appliances in a similar way to a purpose-made specialty-equipment, autoclave.

Good luck

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