How to Bleach Paper White

Paper turns yellow as it ages. Even when you store your documents in folders locked away away from light and dust, they can still yellow over time, most often around the edges. Books are also prone to yellowing along the exposed edges. You can bleach the paper white yourself, so long as you are only bleaching the edges. If an entire sheet of paper needs to be bleached, take it to a professional who specializes in document restoration. Such professionals have experience submerging and handling wet documents without tearing or disintegrating them.

Things You'll Need

  • Water
  • Hydrogen peroxide
  • Ammonia
  • Bowl
  • Soft bristled paintbrush
  • White paper towels
  • Cookie sheets

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Bleaching Edges of Sheets or Book Pages

Mix a bleaching solution of 1 cup of water, 1 cup of hydrogen peroxide and 3 to 5 drops of ammonia in a bowl. If you are only bleaching a single document, you can cut the amounts in half.

Dip a soft bristled paintbrush into the bleaching solution and shake off excess water.

Brush the bleaching solution along the yellowed paper, avoiding any ink. Never brush over ink unless you are absolutely certain it is not water-soluble and that it is colorfast. If you are bleaching an unprinted sheet of paper, you can brush the entire surface of the paper.

Allow the paper to air dry. If you are bleaching single sheets, you can press each between two sheets of white paper towel and place a cookie sheet on top to prevent the paper from curling. Preferably, the paper towels should untextured to avoid transferring impressions to the wet paper.

Brush clear water over the previously yellowed paper with a clean paintbrush.

Blot the paper with a white paper towel.

Repeat steps 5 and 6 three more times to dilute and pull out the bleaching solution and then dry the paper again according to step 4.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you are making homemade paper and want a whiter final product, add 1 cup of white vinegar to the soaking solution. You can also add a few drops of bleach; however, over time, bleach will weaken and disintegrate the paper.
  • Do not use this technique on antique documents or valuable books. Take the documents or books to a professional specializing in document restoration.
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