I just bought a new book with paper pages. On the drive home, my two year old threw up his supper into the book. I did my best to clean it, but it's paper, not board, so it absorbed some of the liquid.

My mother in law said he had a fever earlier in the day, but I don't know exactly from what, and I sure don't want to make him sick again and again.

Once the pages have dried, is it safe to give the book back to him, or should I toss the book in the garbage as "hazardous waste"?

3 Answers 3


If the book is paper I am not sure it will be worth saving, depending on the severity of the wetness. Even water spilled on a book often makes it not worth trying to salvage unless it is too expensive or sentimental. I once had a college book get rather saturated with just water & it was a misery to finish out the term with that thick wavy book, but I couldn't justify the price to replace it. If you cover with a paper towel, then iron, you can take out some waves if they exist.

Exposure to sun, works to kill anything infectious. You can likewise bet that if you have ironed it, that is also hot enough, although less thorough than a good sunning. Smell could be a factor if it absorbed at all though & for that alone may not be worth your efforts.

  • I'd probably also not keep it. But I suspect that the book is not too damaged from what OP is saying.
    – user28011
    Commented Jul 4, 2017 at 11:16

It depends on what caused him to throw up. Viruses and bacteria cannot survive on dry surfaces but what is considered dry for you is not necessarily dry for a virus or a bacteria. This might be useful for you to read.

What you might try is to put the book in the oven and to heat it up. The autoignition of paper is well - above the temperature (218 - 246 Celsius) that is used to sterilize equipment (130 Celsius).

Note I haven't tried this solution myself yet. But the available evidence suggests that it should work for paper (I don't know about the binding of the book). Personally, I'd watch an experiment with temperatures.

In any case your child should soon become resistant to the cause of his illness through the immune response. Contact with the book once it's dry is at best hazardous for other members of your family.

  • paper will start to "burn" before it autoignites.. it will get brown and crispy. Commented Jul 5, 2017 at 16:10
  • Yes that's why I advised to experiment with the temperature. I don't know what happens when and where from room temperature to 130 to 218 - 246.
    – user28011
    Commented Jul 6, 2017 at 18:11

Short answer: unless you have close contact with immunosuppressed people, or your child has contracted something both incredibly deadly and contagious, it should be safe.

If he is recovered from a fever earlier in the day, and the fever is related to his vomiting, he will have developed immunity to whatever pathogens might be there. If there are other pathogens in the vomit that he has not developed immunity to, he will already be dealing with them and the book will not reinfect him (unless he is himself immunosuppressed for some reason).

Other posters have already suggested ways to clean the book, if it is worth while salvaging.

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