Last month, we explained how to best care for aging photos and we mentioned avoiding magnetic albums. But why are magnetic albums so harmful? And what can you do if a magnetic album that houses dozens of irreplaceable, one-of-a-kind photos of your ancestors was passed down into your possession?
You can recognize a magnetic album by its thick paper stock pages with Mylar or PVC plastic covers. Thirty to forty years ago, these were popular as a simple way to showcase photos. To stick a photo between the lightly adhesive pages and sticky plastic covers took a matter of moments. However, it has since been discovered that the glue utilized in these magnetic albums have a high acidic content that can potentially eat away at the backs of photos. Not to mention that the plastic page covers hold in the toxic fumes from the acidic reaction, essentially helping the photos to decompose faster.
Many precious photographs have been completely destroyed by these magnetic albums, so it’s best to remove the photos that remain in these destructive bindings. Follow these steps to do so:
- Make Copies and Be Aware – All of the methods of photo removal from magnetic albums have the chance of damaging any writing on the backs of the photos, if not the photos themselves. It’s best to make photocopies of the images that you do not wish to lose.
- Lift a Corner – There is a chance that the photographs will come up easily, despite the deterioration and old adhesive. Attempt to gently lift a corner of a photo that means less to you. If it lifts easily, slowly peel the photo up the rest of the way. Keep in mind that all of the photos may not come up in this way, so no hurried movements.
- Use Dental Floss – Using unwaxed dental floss pulled taught, slide the floss between the paper stock page and the photo. Saw back and forth gently until the floss can move down the entire length of the photo.
- Freezer – Place the entire magnetic album or just a single page in the freezer for a few minutes. Do not allow it to stay in the freezer much longer or condensation on the photos could damage them. The glue should become brittle, allowing for easier removal.
- Microwave – Place an individual album page in the microwave for around 5 seconds. Then flip the page over and heat for another 5 seconds. Repeat until the photo seems able to shift away from the page. The heat allows the adhesive to heat up, making the photos easier to remove. But it can also heat the glue up to the point of damaging the back of the photo, so take care not to overheat!
- Metal Spatula – A spatula works similarly to the floss and microwave options combined. As you slide the metal spatula under the photo, use a blow dryer to heat the metal and sever the adhesive more easily.
- Un-Do – This product is a special adhesive remover that comes with a special tool that directs the solution safely under the photos. However, it is not safe for the front faces of images, so be careful.
Finding photos in magnetic albums is never a good thing, even if they seem in perfect condition. If the removal process is going to take a long time (ie a few days or weeks), it’s best to cut out the plastic covers from the albums and replace with temporary acid-free tissue that can keep the photos separate and ventilated better.
Once your project of removing photos from the magnetic albums is complete, chances are that you’ve found some pretty spectacular images you would like to give special attention to and maybe even hang! Frame Warehouse offers a wide variety of photo frames that are sure to protect as well as display those rescued family memories – just in time to display or give as gifts for the holidays!