The effects of different image pre-processing methods for document image binarization are explored. They are compared on five different binarization methods on images with bleed through and stains as well as on images with uniform background speckle. The binarization method is significant in the binarization accuracy, but the pre-processing also plays a significant role. The Total Variation method of pre-processing shows the best performance over a variety of pre-processing methods.© (2010) COPYRIGHT SPIE--The International Society for Optical Engineering. Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.