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Eliminating Ordor in Books

Book Care and Repair

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1kaykwilts
Aug 10, 2006, 3:04pm Top

I am always buying used books at yard sales, thrift stores and friends of library sales. I always open up th book and check it's condition such as tight spine, marks in book and so forth. Sometimes I accidently buy a book that smells musty or smoky. Any tips on getting odors out of books?

2lilithcat
Aug 10, 2006, 3:06pm Top

From a book arts forum:

"For a small number of relatively small objects, you can seal the items in a plastic bag with baking soda, clay cat litter, or activated charcoal--all will, over time, absorb much of the offending odor."

3trollsdotter
Aug 10, 2006, 3:13pm Top

The Care and Feeding of Books has directions for making a "stinky-book box" that will remove odors. It also has useful suggestions for cleaning books and book jackets.

4MaggieO
Jan 31, 2007, 9:19am Top

I just purchased (on eBay) some great vintage paperbacks of a favorite author whose books have long been out of print.

Unfortunately, they smell like mothballs. Ordinarily, I'd throw away mothball-scented books, as I hate the smell. But these books are hard to find (and besides that, the covers are awesome!)

I can try some of the ideas noted above, but I wondered if any of you have experience with this particular problem. Thanks!

5bcobb
Edited: Mar 4, 2007, 2:12am Top

This message has been deleted by its author.

6MaggieO
Feb 27, 2007, 6:12pm Top

Hi, HTH, and thanks for your response. An update on my vintage-paperbacks-contaminated-by-mothballs problem:

Right after I posted my earlier message I made 2 stinky book boxes, but didn't want to use chemical air fresheners (I didn't know no-scent ones existed - I may try one of those in future). Instead I used several hands-full of charcoal in each box. (I bought it in a garden store; it's the kind that comes in fragments for use in terrariums.) I used some fairly loose-weave fabric to make large "charcoal sachets" so the books wouldn't get dirty.

After 3 weeks, I opened the box and - amazingly - the treatment worked! I could still smell the mothballs a little on some of the books, so I returned them to the box to commune with the charcoal some more.

I have to say that I didn't think anything could get rid of mothball odor. I'm really surprised!

Thanks to those of you who recommended the stinky box procedure. And thank you, HTH, for the other ideas; I'll make a note of them and keep them in my copy of the Rosenberg book:)

7Rule42
Edited: Jun 2, 2007, 5:46pm Top

Maggie,

I only just saw this thread for the first time today otherwise I would have posted my suggestion a lot earlier - like when you needed answers 4 months ago (although I see that your own first posting here was also 5 months after the conversation had initially died!).

I believe an old librarian trick is storing the book awhile with laundry dryer sheets inserted in it. Presumably this will remove all the static cling from your books too! I have never tried it myself but seriously intend to do so for some of my own more stinky eBay purchases.

However, as a testament to the efficacy of this technique, let me state the following. At the beginning of this year I purchased a book from someone on ebay which arrived with a very pleasant bouquet (just as if it had been doused in a woman's perfume). In fact, it smelt so fragrant that at first I wasn't sure whether to put it on my bookshelf or in my sock drawer instead (which is the best I could do since, as a single guy, I don't have a drawer full of pretties to sweeten up! No really, why on earth would you think that? :( ).

In the end I opted for the bookshelf, and within a few days all the adjacent books smelt similarly too. So I wrote the seller and asked her what her secret was and learnt that prior to auction the book had been kept in storage with dryer sheets inserted in it, and that this was a trick she had learnt from a maiden aunt that used to be a librarian (sheesh, aren't ALL librarians maiden aunts?!).

So there you have it. I don't know whether the book badly stank before she did this, or whether this was simply an alternative method to storing the book with mothballs - I'm assuming the latter. But it strikes me as a very good second stage process once you have first removed the more egregious smells by storing the offending books in proximity to baking soda / cat litter, etc. It almost certainly will counter and eliminate your dreaded mothball odor.

Additionally, I don't know which brand of perfumed dryer sheets she used - I'm not very savvy in this area. When I do laundry I'm more concerned with getting all the nasty stains out of my clothes rather than turning my whole wardrobe into a Christian Dior collection! Also, when I eventually try this I don't think that I would put the sheets directly against any pages (she said she had "inserted" them in the book) in case there is any staining / bleeding (from whatever the dryer sheets are impregnated with) onto the pages.

But I can certainly testify that the fragrance lingers, to the point that I can still smell it today (on not only the original book I purchased but also a number of its adjacent shelf-mates).

8Rule42
Jun 2, 2007, 6:43pm Top

>7 Rule42:

Wait a minute ... never mind ... everyone please ignore that last post. My bad! I mistakenly thought the title of this thread was Eliminating Odors in Books!

Now that I have just re-read the thread title I realize that it's actually about Eliminating Ordor in Books. Ooopsie! I apologize for my stupid mistake. Of course, any fool knows that the best way to "eliminate ordor in books" is to not put them on bookshelves, but to leave them laying all over the floors of your home in 3 foot high stacks. And definitely don't catalogue your books on LT if your goal is to eliminate all the order from them ....

Sorry about that. :(

9lilithcat
Jun 2, 2007, 7:28pm Top

> 7 & 8

First, laughing very hard at >8 Rule42:

Second, with regard to dryer sheets: don't use unused dryer sheets. You'll just replace one odor with another, and possibly stian the pages. Use used dryer sheets.

10MaggieO
Edited: Jun 2, 2007, 9:08pm Top

#7 & 8 - Thanks, Rule42. I should try the dryer sheet method, too. I often buy books from eBay and mooch them from BookMooch, mothballs and cigarette odor is a real problem at times. I wonder how well the dryer sheets work on cigarette odor? Also, my library book shop often receives donations of odorous books, esp. cigarette odor. Usually, we throw them away before they contaminate the rest of our stock (I'm sort of in charge of the library book shop), but some books are worth trying to save. We don't have space for a stinky book box, so the dryer sheets may well be a good solution for us.

Oh, and I already knew about the most effective methods to eliminate ordor in books - it's trying to increase ordor that I'm more interested in! But thanks for the tips :)

And, #9 - Thank you, lilithcat - I would never have thought to use used dryer sheets! Is it ok to place a used one between book pages?

11lilithcat
Jun 2, 2007, 10:08pm Top

> 10

The used one should be okay between the pages, as the oils and stinkperfume are gone.

12affle
Jun 3, 2007, 4:27am Top

Here in the Old World we still take laundry to the river to rub on the stones. What, please, are laundry dryer sheets? Or should I post to the Translating American English thread?

13hailelib
Jun 3, 2007, 8:16am Top

They are small sheets about the size of a small handkerchief and are impregnated with fabric softener. Many people use the dryer sheets rather than measure liquid softener into the washer.

14Osbaldistone
Jun 3, 2007, 12:57pm Top

>12 affle:, 13

Here in the US, we have an ulimited, everlasting supply of natural resources such as paper to make disposable fabric softener sheets and land in which to dispose of the related trash. So, we (all 300 million of us) can throw one away with every load of laundry, plus the package they came in, and never worry about our children having all they will need. ;-)

BTW, lilithcat, have you had any success buying those used dryer sheets on eBay? I buy books faster than I do laundry, and it seems to me that shipping two or three sheets across the country by truck to my front door would be a great way add to my supply. ;-)

Os.

15lampbane
Jun 3, 2007, 1:06pm Top

Hey, considering that they usually plant new trees for all the ones they cut down to make paper, there really isn't a problem. And if I ever use dryer sheets for clothing, I tend to rip them in half anyway since I hate the slight oilyness of the clothes a full sheet gives. Sometimes I just don't bother with one.

My suggestion for getting lots of used dryer sheets is to check at your local laundromat.

16oregonobsessionz
Jun 3, 2007, 1:08pm Top

>14 Osbaldistone:

Actually, I think the base for the fabric softener sheets is plastic. Not that I buy the hideous things, but the ones I have seen are either thin spongy sheets or a fiberglass type membrane. Plastic either way.

I can't resist making snarky comments when I find myself in the grocery line next to someone who is buying plastic sheets of fabric softener (massive petrochemical infrastructure to make the base sheet and the "fragrance"), and happily carrying them home in a plastic bag (ditto), both of which they will toss after a single use. The usual response is either a blank stare or dramatic rolling of eyes.

I think school kids should be required to do a class project that involves several days of volunteer work at a waste transfer station. It ~might~ make a small impression that would encourage more responsible choices.

17Rule42
Edited: Jun 3, 2007, 9:49pm Top

OMG, I never thought that there would ever come a day when I (a single male who only does laundry about 6 times a year) would have to explain any facet of doing laundry to members of the opposite gender! But there has to be a first time for everything, I guess.

>9 lilithcat: ... don't use unused dryer sheets. You'll just replace one odor with another ...

But Joan, that is exactly the whole objective here. :( Dryer sheets are NOT designed to remove odors from clothes - in a similar fashion that cat litter IS specifically designed to remove odors from the stuff that gets deposited on it - because, according to my own limited understanding of the whole laundry process, that function belongs somewhere over in whatever the washer thingy does to the clothes prior to you putting them into the dryer thingy. If you feel that you need to use dryer sheets to remove odors from your clothes AFTER you have washed and rinsed them, then perhaps your own washer thingy is not washing them correctly? :(

I dunno, I'm only a guy ... maybe I just don't appreciate all the intricacies and nuances involved in the modern washday processes. For instance, I have never understood WTF a "pre-wash cycle" is! To me, "pre-wash" means "before washing" and in my home, at least, "before washing" is when my clothes are scattered all over the floor of my bedroom, in amongst the dust bunnies and all my three-foot stacks of unshelved books. Why would I want to put quarters and bleach and stuff in a washing machine then? What good would that do? I believe that particular setting on all modern washing machines is some kind of giant practical joke perpetrated on us by the large household products conglomerates back in the sixties ... the most geriatric executives over at Unilever and Procter & Gamble are probably still high-fiving each other in their wheelchairs, and despite their oxygen tanks ROTFLTAO, even as we have this discussion.

Consequently, when I do laundry I NEVER use that setting. If I was king of the world and had any say in these matters, there would be washing machines on the market designed specifically for live-alone bachelors like me, and they would all have just one huge dial with only two settings ... "DIRTY" and "DON'T INHALE".

>9 lilithcat: Use used dryer sheets.
>11 lilithcat: The used one should be okay between the pages, as the oils and stinkperfume are gone.

IMHO, using a used dryer sheet would do about as much good here as making a pot of hot tea with used teabags! A used dryer sheet, if it really is indeed used, has no residual odor because all the stuff it was initially impregnated with has now been used up. If it still has any residual odor / impregnation left in it then, in my home (on the few occasions I have deigned to use dryer sheets in the past), it went right back in the dryer with the next batch of laundry. A truly used dryer sheet is almost odorless because it's not impregnated any more - it is, as oregonobsessionz states in post #16, just a "spongy sheet or a fiberglass type membrane" that no longer contains anything. It strikes me that putting that between the pages of a stinky book would make as much difference to the odor as placing a Kleenex tissue there, although I agree it probably won't stain it (and I'm assuming an "unused" tissue is this comparison!).

18melannen
Edited: Jun 3, 2007, 3:56pm Top

Rule42 - my vague understanding was that the *point* is that a used sheet is no longer impregnated with anything - the scary petrochemical membraney thing or whatever was (presumably) designed to absorb and lock odor for as long as possible while dry, so that the creepy stinky chemicals they put on it in the factory will remain on it until it is used. So you put it in the book, and it absorbs the stink of the book instead, on the same principle as baking soda in the fridge.

That said, I have never tried it, and have no idea if my reasoning is good. My method for removing stink from books is to take them out in the fresh air and carefully read them one page at a time. :D

Of course, I always read this thread title as "eliminating ordure from books", for which my best strategy is keep the books out of the cow pasture.

ETA: Okay, when did we start stripping html formatting out of talk posts?

19Rule42
Jun 3, 2007, 5:39pm Top

>15 lampbane: My suggestion for getting lots of used dryer sheets is to check at your local laundromat.

What a great suggestion, lampbane. I'll now have to remember to add used dryer sheets to my list of items I need to filch from the dryers the next time I go down to my local laundromat in order to steal a fresh batch of women's panties to sniff. :)

20lampbane
Jun 3, 2007, 7:46pm Top

I know you're being sarcastic, but I was serious. Explain to the workers there that you want used sheets for your books, and chances are they won't think it such a weird request... whether they'll help is another story.

21Rule42
Edited: Jun 3, 2007, 9:00pm Top

>20 lampbane: "Explain to the workers there that you want used sheets for your books"

What workers ?????? When was the last time you were in a laundromat bristling with salaried employees just waiting around to help potential customers, lampbane? In my whole life I don't believe I have ever seen a "laundromat employee" - isn't that an oxymoron? You have more chance of talking to a live person on eBay or capturing a unicorn than you have of being served by a mythical laundromat worker! The whole concept behind laundromats is that they don't require any employees other than the person than comes in once a week to empty the coins out of the machines. Try Googling the term "Maytag Repairman", lampbane ... it's a very similar concept!

"... chances are they won't think it such a weird request..."

Hmmm, in that case, perhaps these kind and considerate workers, with nothing better to do, will also help me in my quest to obtain a few of those other frilly items on my list if I explain to them why I need them. :) Hey, you're not the only one that can fantasize, you know!

22lilithcat
Jun 3, 2007, 9:41pm Top

> 21

Actually, many laundromats also provide drop off/pick up services, and they do have employees.

Nevertheless, I'll bet they would think the request is weird.

23skittles
Jun 3, 2007, 9:53pm Top

Used dryer sheets often have residual softener on them.

In fact, many people will also use them to wipe their monitor screen (CRT) to prevent dust captured by the static electricity from resettling on the screen. (no/little static build-up on clothes... no/little static build-up on monitor screens)

The laundromats in my area all have someone working there to prevent people from misusing the machines, to fix problems (& sometimes to take in "dropped off" laundry). I have always found them to be generally nice people, too.

Also, unless they are the owner or related to the owner, they are not paid very much. I always try to be especially nice to people who aren't paid very much, since they aren't paid enough to put up with the abuse they have to endure from people who haven't learned how to treat the rest of the world with the common courtesy (& respect) that everyone deserves.

24Rule42
Jun 3, 2007, 11:18pm Top

>22 lilithcat: "Actually, many laundromats also provide drop off/pick up services, and they do have employees."

Then they are not "laundromats" but some other form of public laundry facility.

The term "laundromat" is a brand name or service mark for what are more correctly called "launderettes". Up until a few years ago the "L" was even capitalized (to reflect that its origins were as a service mark) although it is now so entrenched in the English language as a generic alternative to the term "launderette" it's now no longer obligatory to capitalize the term, in the same manner that it's now totally acceptable to use "hoover" instead of "Hoover" (the brand name origin) as a generic alternative to the term "vacuum cleaner".

I bother to make this distinction because I'm now going to get technical with you and tell you to go look up the definition of the term "launderette" in a dictionary (or the term "laundromat", but some dictionaries might still not contain that word because it's a service mark, which is why I prefaced my challenge with my caveat above).

You will find that inherent in ANY definition of the word "laundromat" or "launderette" is the term "self-service". This is the critical feature that distinguishes a "laundromat" or "launderette" from any other form of public laundry facility. If a public laundry facility is NOT "self-service" then it is NOT a "laundromat" or "launderette" ... it is simply a laundry service.

The term "laundromat" was itself derived from the amalgam of the two terms "laundry" and "automated" ... and it is implicitly tied to and associated with vending machine technology, which in turn is implicitly tied to and associated with self-service.

Thus a laundromat or launderette that offers concierge services is a completely oxymoronic concept. However, a laundry service that offers both automated "self-service" facilities in addition to other "employee intensive" services is not oxymoronic. I guess a fully automated laundry facility with a low-wage custodian onsite (whose primary function is protect and maintain it so that self-service only laundering has high availability) is still a laundromat, but if a laundry facility offers other laundry services IN ADDITION to self-service then it's not really a laundromat, is it?

Oh boy, now we've gone more than a little OT here, but I can't stand by and watch the English language being corrupted and made meaningless on a literary web-site such as this one without putting up some resistance.

25MMcM
Jun 3, 2007, 11:37pm Top

26Rule42
Jun 4, 2007, 12:25am Top

>18 melannen: That said, I have never tried it, and have no idea if my reasoning is good.

Let me try and get the conversation back on track again. Three somewhat different objectives have emerged here:

(1) Removal of rancid odor - via cat litter, baking soda, and possibly used dryer sheets
(2) Substitution of fragrant odors for rancid ones - possibly via unused dryer sheets
(3) Addition of fragrant odors (where no previous odor) - via unused dryer sheets

I'm in the same position as you, melannen, in that I have no idea whether what you stated (see category (1) above) would actually work. Joan, could you please verify whether you have actually used this technique to successfully remove odors, or whether you were merely theorizing like the rest of us?

What I initially reported in post #7 probably falls under category (3), but it possibly may have been a case of category (2) - I have no way of knowing.

My method for removing stink from books is to take them out in the fresh air and carefully read them one page at a time. :D

All I can add to that is that in my own experience, if I merely shelve an odorous book that smells either musty (viz. probably stored for 20 years plus in a damp basement or attic) or of secondhand smoke when I first receive it, once I return to it a few weeks later it is usually vastly improved, and the smell is now only residual. Of course, removing that residual smell is the challenge here, but IMO simply removing the book from the environment that was making it odorous in the first place is a large part of the battle. Also, in my personal experience, musty and smoke-ridden books don't appear to adversely affect the books I store them adjacent to. But maybe I have simply not come across the kind of stinkers that turn up in Maggie's environment.

27MaggieO
Jun 4, 2007, 6:16am Top

#26 I don't think I like the implications of your last sentence, Rule 42! Suffice to say that it is surprising what people donate to the library; nevertheless, we are grateful our library patrons are so generous, even if some of the books aren't quite presentable.

28lilithcat
Jun 4, 2007, 1:47pm Top

> 26

I haven't used it, but it is recommended on a listserv used by book arts professionals.

29Rule42
Edited: Jun 4, 2007, 7:03pm Top

>27 MaggieO:

Oh, I wasn't trying to imply anything derogatory with my: "maybe I have simply not come across the kind of stinkers that turn up in Maggie's environment" comment. I was merely trying to reconcile my claim that storing the few odiferous books (with which I have personally been burdened) adjacent to other books has not adversely affected the good ones, with your own earlier comments in post #10 where you stated:

"Usually, we throw them away before they contaminate the rest of our stock ..."

The other point that I didn't make very well (but which was implicit in my post #26) is that time plays a very big factor in odor removal - it's as important as the "charcoal proximity", if not more important. It doesn't take 20 years to naturally undo the 20 years of improper storage that causes a book to smell musty; a musty book will lose a large portion of that stale, rancid smell in only a few weeks of being stored in a much healthier environment for it. The same goes for books with acrid smoke odors, although they may take longer to dissipate.

If you want much quicker results, use charcoal / kitty litter / dryer sheet solutions. But if you have more patience, simply exposing the book to a good dose of fresh air, as melannen suggested in post #18, may be all that it needs. Her solution is comparable to the age-old technique of drying your laundry on a washing line in order that it has a nice fresh smell, just as the other solutions are more comparable to drying your laundry in a tumble dryer with dryer sheets in order to give a much fresher smell than it would have otherwise.

I understand that in your particular situation, Maggie, you have limited space, time and volume constraints which the rest of us that have only one smelly purchase from eBay to contend with don't have. By that I mean, it sounds like you have to solve your odor problems for multiple books at a time (not just the occasional one or two); that you don't have the luxury of time to sit outdoors and individually read each of the problem books; and you don't have the additional shelf space to store them for a few months away from all the other books while the worst of the odors naturally dissipate. However, these are all viable natural solutions for the rest of us with just one or two problem books that we desire to nurture back to a healthier state.

30MaggieO
Jun 4, 2007, 6:19pm Top

>29 Rule42: Rule42 - I should have added a smile at the end of my first sentence :) All is well.

Thank you to all of you who have offered ideas for addressing this annoying problem!

31lampbane
Edited: Jun 4, 2007, 7:45pm Top

I know this was answered already and we really need to get back on track, but...

When was the last time you were in a laundromat bristling with salaried employees just waiting around to help potential customers, lampbane? ... You have more chance of talking to a live person on eBay or capturing a unicorn than you have of being served by a mythical laundromat worker!

Um, let's see...

Last time I saw one?

The laundromat down the street from me.
The laundromat down the street from me where my aunt works.
The laundromat down the street from me where my aunt works and all the people who work there with her are actually very nice.

It does have drop-off/pick-up, I believe, but the primary function is the machines. Which do need a lot of maintenance, I've heard horror stories about things like chocolate left in pockets that somehow manages to find a home in the machine past the first wash cycle...

But anyway, this thread is about odor in books. I can't admit to ever having this problem with my books, but I have experienced it with other treasured objects. I have tried putting fancy soap in boxes to keep things smelling nice (and to keep silverfish away), and I have a bag of doll clothes that I stuffed with herbs.

..I don't mean the ones you cook with, but the raw, unprocessed ones you buy in froofy new-age stores. A friend gave me some and they worked rather well for leaving a clean scent. If I remembered what type they were, I'd mention it.

32Rule42
Jun 4, 2007, 7:49pm Top

>30 MaggieO:

Thanks, Maggie. I'm just pleased you finally managed to wriggle and writhe your way out of that stenchy cess pool full of repulsively fetid and revoltingly putrid books in order to be able to post that reassurance! :)

33myshelves
Jun 4, 2007, 7:55pm Top

Maggie,
Also, my library book shop often receives donations of odorous books, esp. cigarette odor. Usually, we throw them away before they contaminate the rest of our stock

I have a vision of someone dumping the books accumulated by his late grandfather, a chain smoker and a collector of rare books, at the library. Ouch. :-)

34Rule42
Edited: Jun 5, 2007, 12:54pm Top

>31 lampbane:

Please go look up the word "laundromat" (or "launderette") in any dictionary of quality (OED, Websters, etc.). You will learn that in order to be a laundromat a laundry facility must be completely self-service. If it offers drop-off and pick-up services and does the laundry for you, it is NOT a laundromat. It's that simple, lampbane, and despite the impressively large quantity of aunts and close relatives you claim to have living and working near such laundry facilities, they are still NOT laundromats but something else entirely.

Maybe we don't have a word in the English language for those kind of establishments yet. Maybe the term for these type of facilities is "staffed laundromat" despite its oxymoronic implications. But the term is not "laundromat" all by itself, because something CANNOT be both self-service and NOT self-service at the same time. That's called the Law of the Excluded Middle. No matter how often you or anyone else posts your opinions on the LT MB to the contrary, you are not going to change the laws of logic. I do not deny the existence of these facilities, nor do I deny that they are truly a boon to the busy working person; I merely deny your right to render my mother tongue meaningless with your slovenly doublespeak.

The more I read such posts the greater my respect becomes for George Orwell who over 60 years ago predicted the existence in the English language of issues such as this one ...

"Most people who bother with the matter at all would admit that the English language is in a bad way, but it is generally assumed that we cannot by conscious action do anything about it. Our civilization is decadent and our language -- so the argument runs -- must inevitably share in the general collapse. It follows that any struggle against the abuse of language is a sentimental archaism, like preferring candles to electric light or hansom cabs to aeroplanes. Underneath this lies the half-conscious belief that language is a natural growth and not an instrument which we shape for our own purposes.

Now, it is clear that the decline of a language must ultimately have political and economic causes: it is not due simply to the bad influence of this or that individual writer. But an effect can become a cause, reinforcing the original cause and producing the same effect in an intensified form, and so on indefinitely. A man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks. It is rather the same thing that is happening to the English language. It becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts. The point is that the process is reversible. Modern English, especially written English, is full of bad habits which spread by imitation and which can be avoided if one is willing to take the necessary trouble. If one gets rid of these habits one can think more clearly, and to think clearly is a necessary first step toward political regeneration: so that the fight against bad English is not frivolous and is not the exclusive concern of professional writers. I will come back to this presently, and I hope that by that time the meaning of what I have said here will have become clearer. Meanwhile, here are five specimens of the English language as it is now habitually written."

Now read on ...

35lampbane
Jun 4, 2007, 9:33pm Top

Why can't an establishment offer self-service and service? And why would language present a problem when the *primary* business of said establishment is self-service?

There's nothing forcing people to use said service when they walk in the establishment. In fact, it is completely possible to walk in such a place, get your laundry done, and leave without having any contact with staff if you so desire.

Yes, I am aware that Laundromat started as a trademark. A trademark that has now expired. So it is just a word. A word that people are comfortable with using in reference to any establishment that has automatic washing machines, regardless of whether there is a human behind a counter to provide assistance when needed. A word which people understand, is relatively clear in its meaning, and is going to be used to mean this regardless of what Orwell and language pedants says. The English language is constantly evolving. Hell, there are groups here on LT just to talk about that (like this one). Which is where this conversation should be.

You can respond to this, but I'm done with this line of discussion. You can have the last word if you need it. I'd rather be shown up than continue to make off-topic posts.

Now, can we please get back to proper book care?

36Rule42
Jun 5, 2007, 12:49pm Top

>35 lampbane:

"The English language is constantly evolving."

Yes it is. But evolution is a very gradual process that takes place over a great length of time and it cannot be observed taking place right up close and in real time; the effects of evolution can only be discerned from a broader perspective with the aid and advantages of hindsight.

Before making my post #24 on Sunday night to report my findings I took the trouble to look up the definition of "laundromat" using at least six different sources - some were online such as Dictionary.com (where you'll note that the two main definitions given both identified the self-service nature of this laundry function) and some were from my own book shelves.

So I find it very hard to accept that since late Sunday the word evolved during the subsequent 24 hour period to mean the complete opposite of what I reported - viz. the provision of laundry services to others. I'm sorry, but I don't accept that language evolves quite that quickly! Not even on the internet. :(

Exactly which part of "self-service laundry" do you still not understand, lampbane?

37readafew
Jun 5, 2007, 2:00pm Top

Rule42> you seem to be disproportionately upset about a use of a word that is changing in meaning. Letting people know the correct meaning is one thing, calling them an idiot because they're not using it, is another.

A laundromat is a laundromat, if they decide to hire someone to be available to wash your cloths on site for a fee, it does not make it any less a laundromat, though it could be argued to be MORE. Language is used for communication and as long as all parties involved understand what is being discussed then it is performing its function. If several people and myself decide that "There is no spoon" means "ignore the troll it's not worth it" then when I use "There is no spoon.", everyone in the 'know' knows what I am saying, even though by 'definition' it would mean there is a lack of spoons available.

Dictionary.com
pe·dan·tic adj. Characterized by a narrow, often ostentatious concern for book learning and formal rules:

38MMcM
Edited: Jun 5, 2007, 11:19pm Top

>34 Rule42:

With all due respect, none of the dictionaries define laundromat or launderette as completely self-service (emphasis mine). In fact, the OED does not include self-service in the definition at all. (An establishment providing automatic washing machines for the use of customers.) Though to be fair, the first quotation given, from the Oct. 1949 Vogue does. (A new and interesting development in housekeeping—the advent of the self-service launderette.)

There is no need for an appeal to logic, since no one else has claimed that these establishments are not self-service. Only that they are not exclusively self-service and that the staff and/or additional services do not disqualify them from being laundromats. You might advance the position that a laundromat with pick-up service is a conventional laundry in addition to a laundromat, but to claim that it is not a laundromat is frankly nonsense. Is a laundromat that also sells food or magazines (examples of each of which existed nearby here at one time) not a laundromat?

The question of language change does relate to the fact that the word laundromat originally referred to a brand of automatic washing machine and only later grew to be a synonym for launderette, even to the extent of supplanting it in the States. But again the OED documents that this change took place, or was well under way, over fifty years ago. There is no question of change in the matter of self-service.

When the machine jams at the absolutist launderette, is the patron expected to get a toolbox from the boot of his or her car and fix it? Or is it perhaps not completely self-service in some way?

39Osbaldistone
Edited: Jun 6, 2007, 12:24pm Top

Since when does self-service mean devoid of onsite employees? A self-service gas (petrol) station usually has one employee on hand to take payment. A cafeteria (defined as a self-service restauraunt) must have someone preparing the food, taking money, etc. Self-service simply means you have to serve yourself. The name laundromat is a combining of the words laundry and automatic because of the automatic oepration of the coin-operated laundry machines. It has nothing to do with staff. Having said that, I have, back in my bachelor days, been in many laundromats that had no attendant in sight. I assume someone came along occasionally to collect the coins and make sure some of the machines were working.

For you word mavens out there, other words I've run across for laundromat (I'm a word collector)

launderette
washateria
launderama
washarama

I believe these to all be synonymous with laundromat.

Os.

What was the topic again?

40Rule42
Edited: Jun 6, 2007, 2:05pm Top

>37 readafew:

readafew, I don't think pointing out incorrect word usage that leads to miscommunication is pedantic. Focusing on, say, someone's writing style or format that does not really affect the message to be communicated arguably would be pedantic (but even that would be case-specific), but saying "car" when you mean "boat", or even "yacht" when you mean "skiff", is entirely something else IMHO. However, if you are from that school of nebulous thought that believes language is totally democratic and that everyone has an equal right to assign whatever meaning they want to a word, then I'll guess we'll just have to agree to disagree on this one. Because I believe that words, although they can have very diverse (sometimes even contradictory) meanings and nuances of color, still retain a level of precision, and that the extent and limits of that preciseness are defined by our dictionaries.

"... if they decide to hire someone to be available to wash your cloths on site for a fee, it does not make it any less a laundromat, though it could be argued to be MORE."

And I am clearly arguing that it does indeed make it MORE; to the extent of making it SIGNIFICANTLY DIFFERENT. My main beef with lampbane is that he insists on calling these newest hybrid enterprises simply "laundromats" (rather than, say, "fluff-n-folds") and then he gets bewildered and upset when others - namely myself - misunderstand WTF he's talking about because I quite correctly have a very clear concept of what a laundromat actually is (and has been for the last 50-60 years or so).

Furthermore, virtually all the dictionary definitions I have read fully concur with my own understanding of the CONCEPT that the word "laundromat" describes. The three essential qualities of a "laundromat" that occur in almost every definition of the word that I have come across are:

(1) self-service (WRT to the doing of the laundry, NOT WRT the maintenance of the facility).
(2) automated (which implies minimum to zero service staff).
(3) a facility for the washing and drying of clothes.

"Language is used for communication and as long as all parties involved understand what is being discussed then it is performing its function."

I totally concur ... and if you look at the exchange of posts #20 and #21 you will see that lampbane completely fails to communicate what he wanted to communicate because he consistently used the wrong word. What he had in mind as a source of used dryer sheets that he wanted to share was a "fluff-n-fold" or "staffed laundromat". But he never actually said that. The message he posted simply referred to "laundromats". Therefore what I heard was "automated self-service laundry facility" which is a perfectly correct understanding of what was said (even if not what was intended).

In order to communicate effectively you must say what you mean, and mean what you say. lampbane failed to say what he meant and thus miscommunicated. He meant "fluff-n-fold" but said "laundromat"!

In all of his posts subsequent to #20 lampbane never once referred to the new hybrid services by their correct terminology - "fluff-n-fold" or "staffed laundromat" if we accept Wikipedia as a definitive authority in such matters (which I personally don't) - but instead he continued to load additional meaning onto the word "laundromat" that it just does not have according to all major dictionaries. You will not find a single credible dictionary definition of "laundromat" or "laund(e)rette" which states that such facilities provide laundry service instead of, or in addition to, the basic capability of self-service.

"If several people and myself decide that "There is no spoon" means "ignore the troll it's not worth it" then when I use "There is no spoon.", everyone in the 'know' knows what I am saying, even though by 'definition' it would mean there is a lack of spoons available."

The English language is NOT a cryptic code - it is a communication tool for all English speakers, and that is a much broader population swath than just Americans living in dense urban areas where presumably the majority of the "fluff-and-folds" exist. If I, who live in the suburbs of the American capital, had absolutely no idea that such hybrid laundry services exist (because I personally have no need for public laundry facilities) what chance does, say, an English-speaking person in a rural part of Australia have of comprehending the specific meaning that lampbane imposed upon the word? Someone in the UK has already posted on this thread (amusingly, but genuinely) asking what "dryer sheets" are. I have no knowledge for sure, but I suspect that there are no "fluff-and-folds" in rural America or the Australian Outback, and for someone in NYC to assume that because something exists on his street-corner it must exist everywhere else in the world borders on self-obsessed arrogance IMHO.

If someone so desires to, they are perfectly free to assign arbitrary agreed-upon meanings to words with their friends in order to prevent comprehension of the real meanings of their communications by outsiders, but doing so violates the very essence of effective public communication, which is what you should be striving for on a message board. You should be looking to maximize the comprehension of your audience, not restricting it to just the few privileged members of your own clique. Literature is replete with cryptic, esoteric and arcane meanings buried beneath the surface of the immediate words on the page. I myself use irony extensively which involves saying exactly the opposite of what I mean and hoping that the reader is smart enough to invert the words and get the joke rather than respond with a flame. But that is not the case here.

"Letting people know the correct meaning is one thing, calling them an idiot because they're not using it, is another."

And exactly where have I called anyone an idiot? Posting your own opinion to uphold or disagree with one side of an ongoing debate is one thing, but putting words into someone else's mouth that he never said in order that you can then attack them is what exactly? Disingenuous? ... childish? ... trollish? Or perhaps I'm just being pedantic?

41readafew
Jun 6, 2007, 2:32pm Top

Exactly which part of "self-service laundry" do you still not understand, lampbane?
whether you meant it or not it reads to me as
"are you too dense to understand this simple concept?" or "idiot"

Posting your own opinion to uphold or disagree with one side of an ongoing debate is one thing, but putting words into someone else's mouth that he never said in order that you can then attack them is what exactly?

If you felt attacked by my post I am sorry, that was not my intent.

I was paraphrasing what your posts sounded like to me against lampbane. IF I am the only one who misunderstood your posts in this way, then I apologize...

I myself use irony extensively which involves saying exactly the opposite of what I mean and hoping that the reader is smart enough to invert the words and get the joke rather than respond with a flame. But that is not the case here.

If there was irony in your posts, I am sorry to say it was way beyond me. And once again your insinuating intelligence levels...

42enthymeme
Jun 6, 2007, 2:42pm Top

Haha. Rule42 just got pwned.

43Rule42
Edited: Jun 6, 2007, 4:18pm Top

>38 MMcM:

"With all due respect, none of the dictionaries define laundromat or launderette as completely self-service (emphasis mine)."

Actually, thinking about it, my use of the word "completely" was redundant there (see rest of this post for reason why), and if I had spotted it before reading your post, I would have simply gone back and edited it out of my post myself in order to make my meaning clearer. However, I won't do that now because that would appear devious since you have specifically quoted it.

"... no one else has claimed that these establishments are not self-service. Only that they are not exclusively self-service and that the staff and/or additional services do not disqualify them from being laundromats."

I guess part of the contention about the meaning of the word "laundromat" (and all of its synonyms) depends for a large part on one's own understanding of the word "self-service". Is it a dichotomous term like "pregnant" (one cannot be a little bit pregnant; either one is or one isn't) or does it describe a qualitative continuum like, for instance, "pedantic" (which immediately raises the issue in the hearer's mind: how pedantic?)?

Clearly, I believe "self-service" to be an all-or-nothing concept, which is why I applied the laws of Boolean Logic to it when I stated: "because something CANNOT be both self-service and NOT self-service at the same time." I would similarly say to someone: "you CANNOT be both pregnant and NOT pregnant at the same time."

However, if you believe that "self-service" is a qualitative term - and that varying degrees of self-service exist going from 0% self-service right on through 100% self-service - then you will probably be someone that balked at that statement by me. This could be a whole discussion in of itself.

"You might advance the position that a laundromat with pick-up service is a conventional laundry in addition to a laundromat ..."

I think I would call it a "conventional laundry service with laundromat facilities"! So is the detergent bottle lid half-full of detergent or half-empty? HA!

"... but to claim that it is not a laundromat is frankly nonsense."

Not if I believe that the term "self-service" is dichotomous!

"Is a laundromat that also sells food or magazines (examples of each of which existed nearby here at one time) not a laundromat?"

Is a hybrid commercial enterprise that simultaneously operates in a number of distinct markets really just a "laundromat"? I'm looking in my dictionaries right now ... are you having any better luck than me with this one? :)

"When the machine jams at the absolutist launderette, is the patron expected to get a toolbox from the boot of his or her car and fix it? Or is it perhaps not completely self-service in some way?"

One can possibly argue that, especially if you believe that "self-service" is a qualitative term (and comes in various degrees) rather than being dichotomous. Or you could agree with me in holding the view that when we refer to the fact that a laundromat is "self-service" we are merely referring to the primary service that they offer to the public - namely the ability to wash and dry your clothes - and not to every single aspect involved in running and operating a commercial laundromat enterprise.

Using your approach to language, when I buy a can of Coke from the company Coca-Cola via one of its public vending machines, since I don't personally maintain those vending machines myself nor help Coca-Cola run its various businesses in any other way, the act of buying that can of soda was not a truly "self-service" action on my part. That is, you seem to be arguing that it would not have been possible for me to use that vending machine without the efforts of all those people employed at Coca-Cola (plus all its suppliers and service partners) that are necessary to ensure that that specific can of soda was sitting in exactly that specific vending machine at exactly the specific time that I decided I wanted a drink of soda.

IMHO, that's a very dangerously nihilistic approach to semantics, but I wish you all the best if you insist on maintaining such an absolutist linguistic philosophy in life. :)

44Rule42
Edited: Jun 6, 2007, 7:57pm Top

>39 Osbaldistone:

What was the topic again?

I've completely forgotten, Os ... isn't this the washarama semantics thread?

We could possibly recommend that they now change the name of this thread to something like The Master Baiter but in my limited LTMB experience a bunch of lamebrains will then post here wanting to call it The Chomsky Gnomes Club or something equally arcane. Besides, changing the names of threads and groups at LT is apparently an extremely bureaucratic process that can take upwards of six months labor-intensive effort to approve and execute! Based on passed experience, I really don't recommend that course of action in this instance. :(

Edited to add:

"I assume someone came along occasionally to collect the coins and make sure some of the machines were working."


Hence that wise old Zen Buddhist aphorism: If a laundromat janitor empties all the coins from the machines and there is no one there to watch him do it, does this mean that the laundromat company's stock value will fall in proportion to all that lost revenue?

You may never see a laundromat maintenance guy in an actual laundromat facility but you can always tell when he's been there because of all the new "Out of Order" signs hanging on the machines!

I had better stop here before I start telling elephant jokes ... :(

45Rule42
Edited: Jun 6, 2007, 4:35pm Top

FOOD FOR THOUGHT ...

If I own a hole-in-the-wall food business that sells only take-out Chinese cuisine food (i.e., I have neither a license nor the real estate to accomodate dine-in customers) then most people will quite reasonably refer to my place of business as a "Chinese Take-Out." If I later expand my business into the newly vacated premises next door and now commence providing a full upscale restaurant dining experience with a sushi bar, plus I expand my cuisine to be Oriental (not just Chinese), should customers now refer to my business as ...

(1) Rule42's Chinese Take-Out, or
(2) Rule42's Oriental Restaurant & Sushi Bar?

I think that most rational people in the world would answer (2), but applying the "laundromat logic" I guess some might answer (1) instead. After all, once a laundromat, always a laundromat ... therefore once a take-out, always a take-out!

46MMcM
Jun 6, 2007, 7:09pm Top

>45 Rule42:

Okay, I'd probably agree with you as you've stated the problem, but that is because it's about names, not categories.

I believe a better question would be whether an upscale Oriental restaurant with full sushi bar can be a Chinese take-out restaurant, to which I would respond, yes it can, as an extreme case. More realistically, the Mandarin take-out restaurant that has a couple tables and a couple of Szechwan dishes down the street is still well-known as a Mandarin take-out. There is no fundamental appeal to time here; a synchronic analysis works fine.

I am not sure that I analyze the semantics the same way, but it's true that while accepting "self-service laundry" as a good definition of laundromat, I do not see any conflict in it having a staff. This is fundamental. If I had only encountered unstaffed ones, as perhaps you have, I would say, "I've never seen a laundromat with staff", not "That does not sound like a laundromat to me" and certainly not the stronger, "That's not a laundromat."

The same goes for self-service filling stations. I believe they are required by law to have staff; anyway, they all seem to. Moreover, in some states, the attendant is obligated by law to fill the tank for a disabled driver. (Thanks to advocacy back when a lot of these heavily regulated stations were converting to self-service.) That is, by law, it is impossible to have a 100% self-service station; and now I am limiting myself to the primary filling function, not some other service or station maintenance. But without that qualification, there is no ambiguity in self-service station. Moreover, if it has full-service pumps too, it is both self-service and full-service, not one or the other.

47WholeHouseLibrary
Jun 6, 2007, 8:27pm Top

Anybody wanna know how to make a "stink box"?

48hailelib
Jun 6, 2007, 8:31pm Top

Many very small towns in the part of upstate South Carolina where I live have businesses that describe themselves in their names as being self-service laundries. The two that I have used to wash and/or dry laundry have attendants that will do more than just make change or sell one little boxes of detergent. Having used such facilities in several parts of the US over the last forty years, I can say that it has been at least 3 decades since I was in one without an attendant. They nearly all were called laundromats by their owners.

49Rule42
Jun 6, 2007, 9:06pm Top

>41 readafew:

"If there was irony in your posts, I am sorry to say it was way beyond me. And once again your insinuating intelligence levels..."

That was a reference to the general body of my posts, not to the specific ones being discussed. It was meant to be another example of how true meanings can be buried beneath the surface of the immediate words on the page, NOT a confession of guilt! :(

"If you felt attacked by my post I am sorry, that was not my intent."

I didn't feel particularly attacked per se, OTOH I did get the distinct impression that you were NOT trying to suck my ... But even if I did feel I was being attacked, there's some kind of aphorism that references cooks that ought to stay out of kitchens that might apply here.

"whether you meant it or not it reads to me as
'are you too dense to understand this simple concept?' or 'idiot' "


Well, I must admit, sometimes I do have to resort to scathing sarcasm if I feel I don't have sufficient intellectual wherewithal to match someone that is challenging my posted opinions. In this particular instance I was frustrated because I knew I personally didn't have a sufficient quantity of living aunts with which to endorse the veracity of my own viewpoint as lampbane was able to conjure up in order to strengthen his own arguments!

BTW, readafew, I'm just curious here ... you don't have pointy hair by any chance, do you?

50mansfieldhistory
Jun 6, 2007, 10:29pm Top

I'd love to learn how to make the stink box WholeHouseLibrary. Thats why I keep checking this post in hopes that there will be pertinent information to the topic.

51lampbane
Jun 6, 2007, 11:13pm Top

Today I received a book I ordered from Amazon Marketplace, only to discover something that wasn't in the item description: a strange smell. It's a bit familiar, so I guess it's a common funky chemical library smell (best I can figure it) combined with a strong candy smell (it's a children's book, so no surprise there).

It was pretty strong, and even having it on my desk at work (where I got the package) was a bit annoying.

Through Google I found this eBay Guide with some tips. I've picked up a box of baking soda, and the book is currently sitting in a bag with the open box. I'll probably move it into a proper box soon. I'll let you guys know how it goes.

52WholeHouseLibrary
Jun 6, 2007, 11:21pm Top

I'm not real comfortable with the html stuff, but here (hopefully) is a link to another thread where I describe my stink box. I failed to mention in it that the main box needs to be closed in order for it to work. (Lost in the details...)

http://www.librarything.com/talktopic.php?topic=8704#89278

53oregonobsessionz
Jun 6, 2007, 11:50pm Top

> 45

The correct name for your enterprise could depend on the size of the community. I grew up in a town of 500 people, and if you stop one of the locals to ask for directions, they will tell you to turn right at Oscar Mortensen's place or left at Herman Hanson's, although both gentlemen have been gone for at least 30 years now! In that town, you could put anything you wanted on the sign, or on the menu, but I guarantee the locals would never call it anything but "Rule42's Chinese Take-Out"!

>52 WholeHouseLibrary:

WholeHouseLibrary, thanks for the link to the description of the "stink box". Like mansfieldhistory, I have returned to this thread several times, hoping for useful information on smelly books, only to find increasingly lengthy discussions on the arcana of laundromats! Fascinating, but not much help with the ex-smoker's-libris books.

54WholeHouseLibrary
Jun 7, 2007, 1:25am Top

"That's my job. It's what I do." He walks on...

55mansfieldhistory
Jun 7, 2007, 10:18am Top

Thanks WholeHouseLibrary :) is there any way you'd post pics so I can get a better idea of what I'll need?

56Rule42
Jun 7, 2007, 11:54am Top

>48 hailelib:

"... I can say that it has been at least 3 decades since I was in one without an attendant. They nearly all were called laundromats by their owners."

Sheesh, no kidding?! 3 decades, huh? Yikes, it appears my whole life has been totally closeted. Clearly I need to get out and wash my dirty laundry in public much more often than I do!

57Rule42
Jun 7, 2007, 12:12pm Top

>42 enthymeme:

Haha. Rule42 just got pwned.

Heh, that's my number ... don't wear it out! :(

That's OK, enthymeme, it's my belief that it was only a soft pwn. But if you personally feel it was a hard pwn, that violates the TOS, and you need to alert the mods ASAP.

58oregonobsessionz
Jun 7, 2007, 8:59pm Top

>51 lampbane:

I can't believe the eBay Guide felt they needed to specify "unused" cat litter! Must be in the same spirit as those inane product warnings devised by lawyers. (Sorry - my apologies to any lawyers in our midst, but some of those warnings are truly bizarre!)

Applying used cat litter would certainly make you forget the original odor, though...

59Rule42
Edited: Jun 8, 2007, 12:21am Top

>53 oregonobsessionz:

"... they will tell you to turn right at Oscar Mortensen's place or left at Herman Hanson's, although both gentlemen have been gone for at least 30 years now!"

My personal favorite set of yokel directions to the out-of-town stranger is: "Carry on down this road aways then turn right where the old schoolhouse used to be." :)

I don't disagree with your observation, oregonobsessionz, I believe it reflects true human nature, and man's basic resistance to change. Or maybe it's his obliviousness to change. In a way, it adds weight to my own indignant resistance to the sudden change (sudden for me, at least) in the meaning of the word laundromat from "self-service laundry" (which is what it has meant for the last 50-60 years) to almost the opposite meaning of what I'll call "concierge service laundry". That is, if the word has indeed changed in this way. Personally, I don't believe it has, but I'll play Devil's advocate here for a while.

This would not be the first case of a word in the English language flipping its meaning almost 180 degrees in such a manner. The word moot used to be a legal term that goes all the way back to the mid-16th century when it was used to mean a hypothetical case argued as an exercise by law students. So back then a moot issue was a very contentious issue that tended to trigger extremely lively debate, which is why law students practiced arguing those particular issues. Today, law students might similarly hone their courtroom skills by debating such contemporary moot issues (i.e., in the old sense of "open to debate") as abortion, gun control or gay marriage.

Somewhere in the middle of the 19th century people started to consider the hypothetical nature of a moot argument to be it's most essential trait, and thus the meaning of moot issue now morphed to mean an "issue of no significance or relevance" - which is essentially the exact opposite of what it had originally meant. Thus, a moot point is now considered to be one that has no practical value, and is therefore not worth the wasted effort of debating it. Linguists are still heavily split over which is the correct usage of the word moot, with many still favoring the original meaning of "highly contentious, very debatable" while all the others favor the more recent meaning of "highly hypothetical, not worth debating."

>46 MMcM:

"There is no fundamental appeal to time here; a synchronic analysis works fine."

I think the foregoing is a fascinating piece of etymology that shows the dangers and paucity of taking a simple synchronic approach to semantics. Information without proper context can frequently be meaningless or misleading IMO, and without a rudimentary understanding of the history of the English language (or whatever language you are trying to communicate in, this doesn't just apply to English) one lacks a proper context and therefore one is more prone to being either misled or unable to extract the full meaning from information. Thus, without the context of knowing where the old schoolhouse used to be, the yokel directions are meaningless. Similarly, without the context of knowing how the terms laund(e)rette or laundromat or washarama all initially came into being and what commercial laundry services they essentially replaced, but instead looking at these words just synchronically (i.e., without context) and deciding that they instead only mean "a commercial place for doing laundry" leads to comparable misunderstandings as this thread has demonstrated (or, at least, those portions of this thread that weren't hijacked by all those people addicted to smelly books!).

60littlegeek
Jun 8, 2007, 5:51pm Top

61clamairy
Jun 8, 2007, 6:34pm Top

}:o)

62PandorasRequiem
Jun 8, 2007, 8:14pm Top

-------->msg 60:
LOL, littlegeek!!! That was much needed. :)

63Osbaldistone
Edited: Jun 9, 2007, 1:19pm Top

>59 Rule42:
"self-service laundry" (which is what it has meant for the last 50-60 years)

The intensity of this debate is way out of line with the significance of the word in question, and with the validity of the evidence being offered.

I was using a Laundromat over 25 years ago which had an attendent at a window where one could drop off and pick up laundry if one didn't want to feed the automatic machines themselves (long before dryer sheets, BTW). So, the idea that the meaning was constant for 50-60 years and has 'suddenly' changed is simply the result of being poorly informed. Whatever the word meant when it was originally coined (my 1967 Websters defines Laundromat as "trademark - an electric washing machine"), it has changed over the decades to allow for this modified use (Oxford American Dictionary - "an establishment fitted with washing machines to be used by customers for a fee"). The American Heritage Dictionary actually says "usually coin-operated and self-service". Note "usually", not "exclusively".

So it's evolved. Big Deal! Don't worry, Rule42; When someone says they went to a laundromat, you can bet they have self service washers and dryers and, if it helps you sleep at night (and helps this thread get on with the far more interesting topic of eliminating odor in books), you can simply block out of your mind the possibility that over in the corner of this laundromat is a person who will assist customers with laundry. What you don't know won't hurt you (but it's killing us).

Language evolves and often one does not get an email notification of the change. So it can surprise you. Some laundromats have attendants. Get used to the idea if you can, but stop acting like you've been wronged somehow because others have accepted the change. And, BTW, the change in popular use must occur BEFORE it appears in your dictionary, not the other way around. So one cannot be so absolutist even with dictionary in hand.

Os.

PS - I will not respond to any comments regarding this post, and will not read any that refer to this post or any other laundromat post. Comment away, but you're not talking to me. My purpose is to strongly suggest (and provide some guidance that might help) you end this picking of nits or to move it to another thread.

More help - from Wikipedia
"A laundromat (U.S.), launderette or laundrette (British) is a facility where clothes are washed and dried. Laundromats which have staff to wash the clothing are sometimes referred to as fluff-n-fold or drop-off services." {emphasis added}

"Etymology
The name "Laundromat" was originally coined by Westinghouse as a trademark for washing machines. The term is often used as a generic word for a self-service laundry, as the original registration for this use was allowed to expire. The word (in script form) is still a registered trademark for Westinghouse washing machines. The New York Times and Microsoft Word still capitalize "Laundromat."

edited to add the 'more help' text

64varielle
Jul 12, 2007, 2:20pm Top

Stumbling on this thread was very timely for me (except for the laundromat/launderette/laundry portion). I just received a recently published book through Bookmooch which despite traveling across the US still reeked of Marlboros when I opened it up. One caveat on the laundry sheets, some people are seriously allergic to them.

65jgodsey First Message
Oct 27, 2007, 11:31am Top

book deodorizer - an all natural product
completely guaranteed.

sold at sicpress.com where there are other book cleaning supplies.

worked for me.

66miss_read
Oct 27, 2007, 11:58am Top

Mmmm.... I love the musty smell of old books. Is there a product on the market that will add that smell to my newer books?

;)

67Osbaldistone
Oct 28, 2007, 7:50pm Top

>66 miss_read:
Loan them to me for 30-40 years and I'll see what I can do. Some may take a little longer. ;-)

Os.

68Vonini
Feb 27, 2008, 5:34am Top

I had some books in boxes that also contained some packets of incense. When I took the books out after a couple of years, they smelled wonderful! I'm going to put some incense in all my boxes of books (until I get that huge library of course...) ^^

69yhoitink
Feb 14, 2009, 4:00am Top

#66 miss_read You can buy perfume to smell like old books yourself!

70Nicole_VanK
Feb 14, 2009, 4:36am Top

> 66: I could send you the contents of my ashtray.

> 68 : That's a matter of opinion. I'm building a "stink box" to - hopefully - get rid of the incense "stink" from some books.

71mansfieldreading
Feb 24, 2009, 12:27pm Top

I currently scent my bookmarks with perfume :)

72oregonobsessionz
Feb 24, 2009, 6:46pm Top

>71 mansfieldreading:

If I ever find any of your deaccessioned books in a used bookstore, I will definitely bypass them. For one thing, the perfume could stain the pages. Also, the appeal of specific perfumes is very subjective. One very popular (and very expensive) perfume always causes me to have flashbacks to my time on the college swim team, when we passed the wrestlers' practice room on the way to the locker room. The smell of sweat-soaked floor mats was unbearable, and I can't understand why anyone actually wants to smell like that!

73bernsad
Feb 24, 2009, 7:37pm Top

Oohhh! Sweat-soaked floor mats, that's my favourite! Closely followed by Wet Dog and Rotting Garbage.

74staffordcastle
Feb 24, 2009, 7:52pm Top

I have several friends who are severely allergic to most commercial perfumes; they would not be buying a scented book either.

So, mansfieldreading, I guess you're doomed to keep all of your books! :-)

75mansfieldreading
Mar 12, 2009, 10:01am Top

:) seeing as I'm a packrat that is no problem. As for the scents used, normally something that already has a touch of bookish scent, like Dzing! or a lovely woody scent ala Mechant Loup. It has to fit with the book though, Tea for Two goes lovely with War & Peace.
The bookmarks do no heavily scent the pages, nor stain them. I let them dry for a week before using :) Just a subtle waft of my favourite scents every so often as I turn the pages.

76SilentInAWay
Mar 27, 2009, 4:51pm Top

perfume!!? -- what's wrong with the bookish aroma of foxing and moulded leather?

77Osbaldistone
Edited: Mar 27, 2009, 6:20pm Top

>76 SilentInAWay:
Here! Here!

I happen to like the musty used bookshop smell in my older books (as long as it's not TOO strong). That and leather (new or mouldy) are my favorite library odors.

Hey, perhaps a real money-maker: an aerosol spray (non-staining and pH neutral, of course) to give your books that musty bookstore/mouldy leather smell. I'll bet that would sell!

Or maybe a cologne - I'll call it "Foxey Lady" ;^)

Os.

PS - really wierd: Jimi Hendrix's "Foxey Lady" just started playing on the radio. Eerie

78mansfieldreading
Apr 2, 2009, 6:34pm Top

77 I direct you to CB I hate Perfumes scent, in the library.
http://www.cbihateperfume.com/in-the-library.html
Certain scents have the ability to momentarily transport me to places I have traveled/would like to travel. Paired with the right book, I find this to be a wonderful experience.

79tedcgo
May 7, 2009, 10:35pm Top

My wife is sensitive to odors and I have some musty smelling books I want to keep. I suspect the mustiness may be from bacteria? If so, would not nuking them in the microwave, kill the bacteria, and eliminate the smell? I think I will sneak one into the microwave, lay it open and nuke it when she is away from the house and see what happens. Anyone ever try this?

80skittles
May 8, 2009, 12:19am Top

NO!!

Use the freezer!!

if you use the microwave, it could catch on fire... the glues, etc....

The freezer is a better solution... but I'll let others who are more knowledgeable offer their expertise....

I just know not to use the microwave!!

81staffordcastle
May 8, 2009, 12:43am Top

Moreover, things you put in the microwave leave traces in the works of the machine, so that other food you put in it later could potentially acquire those things.

I know that if you ever use a microwave for dyeing fabric, you cannot use it for food ever again.

82bernsad
May 8, 2009, 7:16am Top

What about if you use food dyes?

83staffordcastle
May 8, 2009, 12:25pm Top

Those are probably safe, as is Kool-Aid as a dye, but mostly not what people use for dyeing fabric.

84SaintSunniva
Edited: Aug 3, 2009, 12:34am Top

Ordor - odor where it ought not be, i.e. out of order

#79, 80, 81 who all wrote about using the microwave to remove odor.

My experience is this: a recent online children's book purchase arrived with that unmistakable odor of mildew/mold, which is not pleasant. It was allowed to sit around the house, not tucked in with other books, for weeks. It still smelled. Then a book seller said microwaving MIGHT help, to try it for 30 seconds. I did so. The book didn't catch fire or anything, but it still smells. And even worse, now the microwave smells like mold/mildew whenever I turn it on! So I sprayed its interior with vinegar to get the smell out of the microwave.

I'm going to try the charcoal treatment...has anyone had success with it getting rid of a mold smell (and I'm NOT talking about the pleasant smell of old books)...as #79 pointed out, it is bacteria causing mustiness, which I am assuming is what I'm calling mold/mildew.

Is there something better to try for the particular problem of mold?

85DawnML
May 18, 2013, 2:16pm Top

I have purchased more than one used book that reeks of mildew and the method that I've used to get rid of the source of the problem was to place it (opened) next to a salt lamp, i.e.

http://www.amazon.com/WBM-8-Inch-Himalayan-Natural-Crystal/dp/B001892AX2/ref=sr_...

and periodically change the pages of the book keeping it adjacent to the on lamp. The salt dehydrates the mold and it is less of a smelly problem.

86EnchantedReader
Edited: Apr 7, 2016, 1:29pm Top

As an individual who has multiple chemical sensitivities the suggestion of using dryer sheets in a book makes me cringe. Those sheets are loaded with VOC's (volatile organic chemicals) and by using them you've replaced a stinky smell with a toxic one. I recently found a solution for unpleasant odors in books on a library preservation site.
https://parkslibrarypreservation.wordpress.com/2011/06/30/stinky-books/

In the past I've been using a makeshift variation of a chamber to air occasional smelly books I purchase but it takes a month or more so I plan on putting together one of these on a smaller scale. Since I just received a used book I bought online that smells of stale cigarette smoke it's a perfect time to try this out. If it works quickly it will also be a solution for the library books I get that are reeking of a previous patron's perfume; in the past I've simply had to return books without reading them.

87shikari
Edited: Mar 28, 2016, 1:53am Top

I did have one hideously musty Syriac reader, which I bought despite the warnings of the seller. In desperation I hung it in the conservatory for a few weeks so that the pages could air, and when I remembered it, to my astonishment it had returned to a usable condition.

88humouress
Sep 1, 2017, 7:57am Top

I'm being a bit lazy about going back to wade through laundromat descriptions ;0) so I don't know if this question has been asked or answered already:

Is there any way to prevent books from smelling musty? My books, I confess, are mainly mass market paperbacks which may - or may not - have some value in about a hundred years. And I live in Singapore - hot, humid, tropical all year round.

I'm noticing that when I take a book off my shelves to read I do get a slight musty odour, enough to make it a bit uncomfortable - but not yet unpleasant - to read.

I have 2 layers of shelves (compressor style) and both layers are equipped with dehumidifiers (similar to neon tube lights without producing light). I keep the ones in the back shelves on but at the moment (partly due to the arrangement of the plugs) the front bookcases (which slide and have glass doors) aren't on. As it is, it gets pretty hot in that room and I thought it would be enough for all the cases.

Obviously I could turn on the second set of dehumidifiers (and hopefully not turn everything into a fire hazard) - but is there anything else that's recommended?

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