Most of us have them. Those old magnetic photo albums (sometimes called Sticky Albums) that were so popular during most of the 70s, 80s and 90s. They were loved because they were so easy to use. Pull back the clear plastic, plop down your photos and you're done. No more trying to get your photos into those annoying sleeves! Am I right?
Fast forward many years and we now know those awesomely easy magnetic albums that made life so much easier, are actually destroying our photos.
Highly Acidic Ingredients
The most destructive to a photo is the corrosive glue applied to the pages. It contains highly acidic ingredients and is eating into our prints over time. We've worked with photos where the glue stripes from the photo pages actually burned through the image destroying it for good. If the images are not destroyed, the edges and corners are many times curled or torn when trying to remove them from the albums to scan. That glue holds on tight.
That plastic cover was so helpful back in the day. It kept our photos safe from fingerprints, liquid damage, maybe scratches. Little did we know we were actually sandwiching our beautiful memories between two horribly damaging layers. Those plastic sheets, especially in cheaper albums, were made with an extremely destructive chemical called Mylar or PVC (polyvinyl chloride). They emit a gas that attacks your photos causing yellow stains on the plastic covers, the cardboard sheets and sadly, your photos.
Removing Photos from Sticky Albums Is Delicate Work
Consider what you want to do with your albums before you start. If you don't care what happens to the prints once they are digitized, you may just want to scan the entire page, use software to separate the photos into individual images and either throw the album away or keep the photos in the album.
If you want to try to preserve the prints the best you can, there are several techiniques for removing them from those sticky pages. And remember to use cotton or nitrile gloves to protect the photos from the oils on your hands.
PRO TIP #1
Start with a photo that is not as meaningful or special. This will help perfect your skills before you move on to the really important photos.
Technique 1: Dental Floss
You will want to remove each photo slowly and as careful as possible. Simply pulling the prints off the pages in hast may result in rips to the middle of the photograph.
Dental floss is a great option to try. It's thin and helps cut through the glue detaching the print hopefully in optimum condition. You will want to insert it under the photo and slowly move it back and forth to loosenly and separate the page from the print.
Technique 2: Hair Dryer and Baby Spatula
You'll use the hair dryer to warm the spatula. Then insert the spatula underneath the print and move it slowly side to side until the print is free from the album.
Technique 3: Glue Removers
Another option is to use an Adhesive Remover. You will need a thin tool with this technique as well because you will need to get the adhesive remover between the print and the album page. The liquid remover won't hurt the photo so don't worry. It basically just breaks down the chemical glue bond allowing the print to be easily removed. The downside to this method is the mess it creates.
Techinique 4: Freezer
Placing your album in the freezer for a few minutes might cause the adhesive to become brittle making the print easier to remove. Changes in temperature can affect the glue on those pages very quickly and tends to work well. Just don't leave the album in the freezer too long because you don't want unwanted moisture or condensation to effect the album pages. This method is our favorite and one we always try first.
PRO TIP #2
You don't have to remove all your photos. You heard me right. Tossing those blurry ones is okay. No longer caring about that building you took a picture of 20 years ago, is okay too. Take the time to get the photos you truly care about and leave the others.
Now that your photos are free from those sticky albums, it's time to decide what to do next. You will want to avoid putting them in a box back to back or stacking them on top of one another. There will most likely be glue on the backs and stacking them together will cause them to stick to each other. We recommend using the glue remover on the back before storing or putting paper between each photo (or both). Archival Methods has a paper you can use between each photo that is already precut, ready and archival safe. If you want a less expensive option, you can use large sheets of baking paper and cut it into perfectly sized backings for your photos.
Before your finely freed photos are stored, you'll want to get them digitized. This is important because even though your photos are free from those stickly albums doesn't mean they will stop yellowing or breaking down. They will still yellow and fade, just slower than they would in those albums.
Getting them digitized is key!
Consider hiring a professional with experience handling a project like this. They have the tools, high end scanners and people skilled in doing all you need done with care and ease. The key is just getting it done. If you don't use us, use someone!
You might want to DIY your project. If so, check with your favorite digitizing company. Most of them have classes or guides to help you. Just make sure you educate yourself before jumping in. The digitizing process takes time and you want to make sure you do it right the first time!
If this is overwhelming and you just want to talk it through, schedule your free 30 minute consultation here.
Once you have your photos digitized, you might have a few or more that need more help. You'll be very surprised how magical photo editting and restoration can be. Rips, fading, discoloration, liquid damage can all be fixed with the right amount of skill or practice!