Photograph Preservation 101: How to Get Glue off of Photos

Putting photos in one of those sticky-backed albums or scrapbooks may have seemed like a good idea at the time, but unless you made copies, preserving those photos might be tough.


Your first step will be to pull those photos off the pages without ripping or damaging the prints. Your second step will be to send those photos to us so we can scan them and make digital copies for you to keep for years to come.

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But let’s not get too ahead of ourselves—getting that glue off in the first step will be tricky. If you try using force or ripping the photos off the pages, you run the risk of ruining the photos forever. Fortunately, we can help.

Here are some of our handy-dandy tricks on how to get the glue off of photos.


The scraping method


Using your nails, a scalpel, or a razor and gently scraping the glue away from the photo is one of the safe methods to try—but it’s also one of the most time-consuming. We recommend starting with this option and assessing from there if you need to try one of the others below.


The sweatbox solution


This is a common trick for stamp collectors who are trying to get a stamp off an envelope without damaging it—but this can work for photos, too. Take an airtight container—like Tupperware—and place a wet sponge at the bottom. Add a layer of wax paper over the sponge, and place your photo on top—glue side up. Then seal the box and let things humidify. Within 24 hours, the glue should be tacky and easy to rub off. That said, you will want to check it often throughout the process to make sure there is no damage being done to the photo.


The blow dryer technique


Using a low-heat setting (do not use high heat as it will damage your photos!) move the blow dryer back and forth over the glue. After a few moments, check to see if the glue is loosening up or becoming tacky—once it is, try rubbing or peeling it off.


The freezer burn off


Use this method in combination with the scraping method, especially if you had trouble getting the glue off. Put the pictures in a bag or Tupperware and place them in the freezer for about five minutes. The glue will freeze and harden, making it easier for you to try to chip and scrape off.


The solvent solution


When nothing else will work to get that glue off, it may be time to use an adhesive solvent. A popular product to try Un-Du Adhesive Remover—but be sure to do a small test area in the corner of the photo first. If it damages the photo do not continue use.

NOTE: All of the above methods should be done with the utmost care. This is not a project that should be rushed as photos are extremely delicate. If one of the methods appears to be harming the photo, stop immediately and try something else.


If, in the process, you do damage a photo, never fear! We can scan your photo, and retouch any of the damaged parts so it’ll look as good as new.

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