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How to remove glue from your old photos

How to remove glue from your old photos

All of us have probably done it and yeah it might have seemed like a good idea at the time but now we know using these sticky backed albums is everything but a great way of preserving old family photos. The chemicals used in these adhesives are often very aggressive and can damage your images over time. Furthermore, the paper your photos are mounted on is often produced with acids and bleaches and it’s a feast for mold and insects. On the practical side, it’s very hard to properly sort and archive them as long as they are all randomly glued into an album. So the best way to preserve these images is to take them out and get rid of the glue sticking to the back of your photos.


What sounds easy has to be done with the utmost care. You can easily damage your images while removing them. Keep in mind that an undamaged photo stuck to your album is always better than a damaged one in your archive. Luckily, we as a photo restoration service can repair your damaged photos. Nevertheless, before actually starting the process of demounting your photographs make sure to create digital copies. While scanning sometimes can be hard because of curly paper you can always use a digital camera to capture your original images.

Getting rid of the glue on the back of your photographs can be tricky but we have a couple of tips to make that easier. Nevertheless, the most important one is to never use force!


This is one of the safest methods to perform. Start with this one and from here decide whether you have to try another more “aggressive” one.
Us a scalpel or razor blade to gently scrape off that glue on the back of your photo. By working in a very flat angle you make sure not to cut into the photograph.


Depending on what kind of adhesives were used it might make sense to put your photograph into a plastic bag and store it in the freezer for a couple of minutes. This hardens the glue and makes it easier to scrape it off. This works especially well for very hard adhesives which are mostly based on solvents.

Working with humidity

An old trick often used by the stamp collection community. Use an airtight container and put a wet sponge on the bottom of it. Now cover the top of the sponge with a layer of wax paper. Finally, put your photograph, glue side up, onto the wax paper and close the container. Over a 24 hour period, the glue will be humidified and it should be a lot easier to scrape or rub it off. This works especially well for water-based adhesives.

Heating things up

As glue becomes soft and loses its strength with rising temperatures you can try to slowly heat up the glue by using a hairdryer. Nevertheless, be careful. Heat can damage your photographs. Only work with the lowest temperature.


There are some solvents out there which are being produced for the sole purpose of removing stickers and glues form surfaces. Some of them also say that they can be used for photographs. We at InstaRestoration think that you have to use these kinds of chemicals very carefully. Always test them first on a small non-important part of your photo. Also, wait for a day before proceeding. Some reactions take time before they actually become visible.


Removing stickers and glue from photographs has to be performed with the utmost care. Always create digital backups before you start removing them.
If anything goes wrong can digitally restore your photographs.