How to Remove Lamination From a Document

It is not difficult to remove lamination from a document. (Image: simarik/iStock/GettyImages)

The edges of your membership cards are curling, and your Social Security card is falling apart. One way to preserve paper documents is by using lamination, a process in which clear plastic film is bonded to printed objects using heat.

This is good if your documents are not to be preserved for an extended period of time or forever. Lamination has proven to be destructive to paper and ultimately destroys the protected document. Removing lamination from paper is a delicate process involving either heat or chemicals and must be performed with care if the document is to be saved.

Remove Lamination From ID Cards

One method for removing lamination from ID cards is to use heat. Place the ID cards on a solid surface and put a piece of cloth over them. Heat your iron and press the iron over the cloth for several seconds. The heat loosens the plastic from the cards. Peel it away using a razor to lift the plastic and a slow hand to work the lamination off the cards.

A blower dryer works in the same manner. Cut the edge of the lamination, allowing heat to be blown between the card and the lamination. Blow the warm air under the lamination. Using a sharp edge such as a razor, lift the lamination from the paper and peel it away.

Removing Lamination From Newer Documents

As the laminated sheets interact with the chemicals and fibers in the paper and ink it is covering, damage starts to occur. Removing the lamination from recently laminated documents and certificates is suggested. The heat method works best.

Cut the lamination on all sides where it overhangs the document. With a sharp edge or razor, pick at one corner to lift the lamination. Place the document against a heated iron or a curling iron covered with a thin cloth, and as the lamination heats, release the lamination from the document.

Removing Lamination With Chemicals

Because historic documents need to be preserved for life, lamination is not suggested. The adhesive found in the plastic melts during the lamination process, damaging the irreplaceable document. It also puts off a gas that creates a chemical reaction when bonded to the paper.

Researchers at the National Archives found that when heat removed the laminate, a residual amount of adhesive remained on the paper. An acetone vapor was tested as an adhesive remover depending on the type of ink or writing implement used to create the document. While successful, it is a scientific process and is not suggested for home use on precious documents.

Crisis at Museums

As curators working in archival and museum facilities discovered that their antiquated documents were deteriorating, lamination was determined to be the culprit. A new arm of research has been created to find a way to safely remove the lamination without destroying the paper or ink. The research is costly, and the solutions discovered are even more expensive. Therefore, funds are being set up to further research the removal of the lamination and to cover the expensive chemical baths that are currently being used.

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