removing oil from bookcloth
unfortunately, after a long saturday in september, i got a smudge of grease (likely from the sichuan greenbeans i had for dinner) on the bookcloth of a book i'm fond of. as you can see in the image below, it's just about the size of some old panamanian coins i had lying around, which are conveniently the exact same size as a dime. i had wanted to remove or reduce the stain without too much damage too the book, if possible, so i put on my 5th grade science project hat, googled around, and tried some things out. i believe it is 341-39 1/2 japanese 100% rayon bookcloth from Campbell-Logan bindery.
i decided to just YOLO and put corn starch on it. the vicissitudes of life meant that i left it on there for 72 hours. although in the end-state photo, it's very hard to see, in person it's quite obvious, especially if you know it's there.
in summary: if you see a novel oil stain on your bookcloth, put corn starch on it ASAP. based on the experiments below, if i had put corn starch on it right away, there's a chance the result would have been better!
experiment time: the setup
since i don't have the actual cloth handy, i tried a variety of substitutes, all sprinkled with different oils. you'll note that the pure oils spread a lot, compared to the oil from the leftovers i had. this makes me pretty certain that some sort of sauce got on the cover, which means it might be stained with soy sauce and thus much harder to remove (i assume).
heat + towel
this didn't do anything.
i'm not sure this did anything either, except for maybe spread the oils more evenly? you can see in the close up images that the oil is still there, it's just now everywhere. it did, however, pick up more of the chili oil. the bookcloth definitely still smells like chili oil, for what it's worth.
it appears that this did pick up some of the oil! however, it's also hard to tell, so a second test is warranted. with some vigorous brushing, it was still covered in starch. i tried vacuuming it - that actually seemed to clean it more without noticeably damaging the bookcloth. so a quick blast of suction on the book itself might work here.
heat + corn starch
after they sat for 24hrs, i tried heating them up and then putting corn starch on the warmed up oil. the hope was that it would make the oil more liable to be absorbed by the starch. i applied heat directly for 30s, which maybe was a) a bad idea and b) too long, as two of the bookcloths started to curl.
the two on the left are corn starch test two. the rightmost are the heat + corn starch. unfortunately, the heat didn't do anything, so not worth diving furth in.
corn startch: immediate application
to test my hindsight, i applied some of the oil from my leftovers on to the bookcloth and then immediately applied corn starch and left it for 24 hrs.
the idea here is that while the oil is not yet sunk into the bookcloth, the corn starch will do a better job of sucking up the corn starch. turns out, that seems to be true (see also tl;dr).
this is most obvious on the orange bookcloth, where it is very difficult to see in the picture or in person any remaining oil stain from the 2nd test.
the light color of the blue bookcloth does allow one to see the non-oil residue in the sauce (eggplant, if i had to guess).
the bookcloth used in the above tests aren't mounted on any boards, which may not make for a truly accurate test (paste/pva might create a protective barrier from the backs getting soaked). you can see this soaking clearing in the back picture:
what are other people saying?
'to take spots of grease out of paper'
from the society of bookbinders, tips and trips vol 1
To Take Spots of Grease out of Paper by Gina Isaac (NL March 1991)
Recently I was repairing a book called a Repository of Arts published in 1816 with the following advice.
'After having gently warmed the paper that is soiled with grease, wax, oil, or any other fatty body, take out as much as possible by covering it with blotting paper and passing over it, repeatedly, a heated flat iron such as is using for ironing linen. Then dip a small brush or camel’s hair pencil into rectified oil of turpentine (not common oil of turpentine which would leave a stain, which has been heated, and draw gently over both sides of the paper. After each application apply blotting paper and a heated flat iron. The grease is dissolved by the oil and then soaked up in the fibres of the paper. This operation must be repeated as many times as the quantity of grease or fatty matter imbibed by the blotting paper, or the thickness of the paper, may render necessary.
When the grease is entirely removed, recourse may be had to the
following method to restore the paper to its former whiteness, when not completely restored by the former process. Dip another brush, or camel’s hair pencil into a mixture composed of equal parts of highly rectified spirit of wine and sulphuric ether, and draw it in a like manner over the place which was stained, and particularly round the edges, to remove the border which may still present a stain. By employing these means with care and caution, the spot totally disappears, and the spot totally disappears and the paper resumes its original whiteness: and if the process has been employed on a part written on with ink, or printed with printer’s ink, it will not suffer the least alteration.'
The above extract is a challenge to SOB members. How would we do
this now? Certainly we have been advised that Sulphuric Ether is not Health and Safety Compatible. And does anyone know what is a
camel’s hair pencil is?
attempts to replicate this
i haven't tried yet – i should find some blotting paper and give at least the first part a go. "rectified turpentine" appears to be the british term for "distilled turpentine", neither of which i have on hand.
last updated: 2023-10-11 21:42:30