The Best Way To Clean Behind Your Bookshelves

A bookshelf is a great addition to any home, displaying everything from favorite novels to trinkets you've collected over time. Every bookcase is different and can range from a small, narrow set of shelves to a large modular piece that takes up an entire wall. These pieces of furniture are one of the more stationary items in your home and therefore can present a problem when it comes to cleaning. You might be putting off tidying behind your bookshelf because the task appears daunting. Moving it or shuffling everything accumulated on the surfaces does take time and energy you don't always have, but it is important to help keep dust and dirt at bay.

Regularly cleaning behind your bookcase will ensure it looks tidy and presentable, keeping everything from the shelves to the books and ornaments themselves in top condition. A spotless unit will add a truly decadent appearance to any room it is displayed in. According to Life Savvy, busy households filled with pets, kids, or visitors should be cleaning underneath and behind big pieces of furniture at least once a week. Those homes with less activity can afford to wait two weeks between every tidy, but no more than that. These tips for keeping the space behind your bookshelf clean will help maintain a truly pleasing aesthetic for your displays.

1. Remove everything from the shelves

Your bookshelves likely have a variety of items on them, ranging from books and ornaments to picture frames. To avoid breaking anything, take time to remove every item from the shelves and place them somewhere out of the way. Gently relocate breakables to another flat surface away from where you are cleaning, then wipe down each shelf with a soft cleaning cloth and a non-abrasive spray. Depending on the material of your bookshelf, use wood cleaner or multi-surface spray that won't affect the finish. Get all of the dust and dirt out of corners, and make sure to wipe the top of the bookshelf and underneath each individual panel.

According to Housewife How-To's, the best way to get the bookcase completely wiped down is to pull it away from the wall once everything has been cleared off. Once you've shifted it, use the cloth to address dust or dirt buildup. Lastly, check for scratches or cracks that might need to be repaired. If there are any, head to your local store for a scratch repair kit, or try wiping scuffs with a magic eraser. By wiping down the shelves, you are lessening the chance of dirt buildup that would otherwise accumulate behind them later.

2. Place pads or risers beneath bookshelves

When you first install your bookshelf, place felt pads underneath each bottom corner if the unit sits on wood, vinyl, tile, or linoleum flooring. This will allow you to slide the shelves away from the wall more easily when it comes time to clean. These pads protect your floors but also help heavy items slide across them, offering easy access to hard-to-reach spaces. According to Life Savvy, you can also purchase risers, which lift heavier furniture a little off the ground, allowing you to get underneath to clean. This will assist with cleaning behind because dirt and dust can quickly build up at the bottom and back of a bookcase.

If you plan to use risers or felt pads, keep a Swiffer duster on hand to access tight spaces since they can reach beneath and behind furniture. These dusters hold onto dirt once they pick it up, allowing you to grab more than with a standard broom. Life Savvy recommends having a duster with a bendable handle as well in order to reach areas behind heavier bookshelves and get in the corners. 

3. Vacuum, mop & dust behind the bookshelf

Once you've moved the bookshelf away from the wall, use a broom, duster, or vacuum to clean up dirt, hair, dust, and other debris that has accumulated. If you are able to pull the bookcase completely away, use a mop to clean any lingering debris. The cleaner you leave the space, the better it will look over time before the next tidy. Dirt can attract and hold onto new debris, so make sure the area behind the bookshelf is spotless before replacing it. Wipe down the baseboards and wall where it sits for good measure, too. Housewife How-To's recommends checking the felt pads and risers for cobwebs or other grime, as these tend to stick to the material and go unseen. If you can tip the shelves backward without damaging them, use the vacuum to clean these pieces, too.

Once you are finished, push the shelves back in place, then make sure to dust all the items that go on them. This will keep any particles that came from the trinkets or books from dirtying the bookcase. Wipe down each item, then organize them how you like them displayed. Not only will everything look fresher, but your ornaments and novels will last longer thanks to a clean space.