You can easily remove mold from baseball cards by covering your card surface with baking soda, then gently rubbing it off with a tissue or soft cloth. Musty smells accompanying mold can also be eliminated with the help of baking soda and aeration.
When baseball cards sit untouched for years, they tend to accumulate mildew and musty smells. That is, unless you take preventative measures when you put them in storage like placing them in weather-proof containers or accompanying them with odor neutralizers! If your cards do end up covered in green speckles, don’t worry. There are plenty of solutions for removing mildew!
The New York State Department of Health reminds us that mold exposure can cause respiratory problems so you should always clean moldy cards immediately in an isolated area while wearing rubber gloves and face coverings. You may also choose to turn on a fan and cover your area with butcher paper. These precautions prevent inhalation and contamination as you disinfect your cards.
How to Remove Mold from a Baseball Card
Mold isn’t the end of the line for your baseball cards. In fact, with the help of baking soda, you can easily restore them to their fullest! Baking soda helps soak up moisture and makes wiping away mildew hassle-free.
Quickest Mold Removal Solution -Tissues and Elbow Grease
This is a tactic suggested for cards with low mildew which can be wiped off without any additional effort.
You should always use a tissue or gentle cloth to wipe off your cards, so you do not cause further damage to your cards. Using a non-abrasive fabric like microfiber, instead of cotton or linen which may scratch your cards because of their rough surface, will help ensure you do not damage your cards any further than they already are.
As you wipe your cards, you should place them on a flat surface and hold them carefully at the edges and gently wipe them front and back until each card is mildew free. Be extra cautious that you do not bend or rip the corners of your cards. They are at a much higher risk for damage because of their exposure to mildew!
Baking Soda as a Mold-Removal Technique
This mold-removal technique requires baking soda and a tissue or soft cloth. Using baking soda to remove mold should soak up moisture and make removing mold from your baseball cards easy and fast.
One by one, generously cover your cards in baking soda then wipe them clean with your cloth. Repeat this with each card, front and back and do not forget to clean the edges. I suggest changing your tissue between each card.
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How Soap and Water Will Ruin Your Baseball Cards!
Many amateur trading card collectors unknowingly use soap and water the first time their cards start smelling funky, but this is a major mistake that can ruin your cards!
Soap is full of chemicals which can cause permanent discoloration like fading and color smearing. Even worse, water is paper’s worst enemy! It can cause warping, discoloration, and even thinning in some cases. So, think twice before you trade baseball cards in the hot tub!
How Do You Get the Musty Smell Out of a Baseball Card?
After retrieving your cards from storage, it is likely they will have a putrid odor (yuck!) but fear not, there are quite a few ways to rid them of their rancid smell. Unfortunately, there is no “quick fix” that can make your cards smell fresh-out-of-the-pack again but luckily there is a way to rid your cards of that nasty smell and get them back to normal.
The easiest (and cheapest) way will be to aerate your cards. If that does not work, you may want to try a more rigorous process like wiping your cards down with baking soda which should neutralize and prevent further odor.
The most common reason for musty odors comes from the presence of mildew so before attempting to combat odor, you should always check the cards for mold. If you notice any fungi growing on your cards, try going through a cleaning process first and see if that helps with your problem.
- If that does not work, you may want to try aerating your cards or using baking soda to eliminate the odor.
How to Aerate Musty Smell from Baseball Cards
The easiest tactic you can try is airing out your cards. It is by far the cheapest method but depending on the stench, it may take the longest. So, this may not be the best option if you are looking for a quick fix.
Spread your baseball cards out individually on a hard surface (i.e., tile, wood, concrete, etc.) and let them air out for a week or two in a room with good circulation.
If possible, you should try using an overhead fan or a space fan on low setting to increase air flow. This will prevent that musty smell from staying stagnant. But be sure your fan is on low before you turn it on, or you might have cards flying all over the room!
Opening a window may also help increase air flow but be careful not to let wind blow and scatter your cards.
- Do not expose your cards to direct sunlight. This can cause discoloration!
How Baking Soda Can Help Remove Musty Smell from Baseball Cards
Dear Donia, from the American Library Association, offers a simple and affordable solution for removing musty smells from baseball cards. You will need a box of baking soda, a fresh plastic bin (with a lid) and mildew-free baseball cards.
Place your mildew-free baseball cards inside the plastic bin along with a fresh, opened box of baking soda. Then, seal the lid and leave it alone, out of direct sunlight for two weeks (or longer depending on how bad the odor is!).
After two weeks, open the box and remove your cards. By now, the smell should be gone.
- If you still smell a tiny hint of mustiness, you may need to aerate your cards for a few days!
Using Dryer Sheets to Remove Musty Smell from Baseball Cards
Dryer sheets are a common solution among the sports trading card community for refreshing smelly baseball cards. Forums like Collectors Universe suggest using dryer sheets as a temporary solution.
Chemicals in the dryer sheets can cause staining so you will want to place pieces of broken up carboard (i.e., soda boxes, cereal boxes, etc.) between your baseball cards and your dryer sheets to protect your cards from damage.
Leave the dryer sheets and cards like this for as little as a few hours and check back in.
- This is a temporary fix so you may notice a musty smell returning once you start handling your cards again.
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Finding the right method to clean your cards varies depending on the type of environment your cards have been stored in and the amount of mildew your cards have been exposed to. No matter which method you try, always avoid bringing your card in contact with soap and water (unless you want to ruin your cards!).
After your cards are clean and must-free, find a new, weather-proof container and dispose of your other container properly, especially if it is a paper material box (shoe box, moving box, trading card box, etc.). When it comes to paper boxes, these tend to encase smell and pass their odor to the items inside.
For the best, long-term results, always store your mildew-free baseball cards in a cool, dry environment and place a fresh box of baking soda inside your storage bin alongside your cards which you can change, as required. Baking soda will combat moisture and act as a natural deodorizer in any environment, dry or damp!