How to Get Old Photos out of Albums without Tearing

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Although storing photographs in “magnetic” albums that feature self-adhesive pages seemed like a quick and convenient way to organize your images, the sticky album pages and their plastic top sheets are not archivally safe and can damage your photos over time, according to the Library of Congress. If you have an old magnetic album and want to remove the images and transfer them to a photo-safe scrapbook, there are tools and techniques that make it easy to remove stuck photographs from the pages.

Things You'll Need

  • Magnetic photo album
  • Photos
  • Metal spatula
  • Blow-dryer
  • Waxed dental floss
  • Soft cloth
  • Adhesive remover

Lift the protective top sheet off of the page in the magnetic photo album.

Wedge your fingernail between the background page and the corner of the photo. Try to lift the photo off the page without “peeling” it off, which can lead the image to curl and retain that curved shape.

Help lift the photo with a metal spatula if the image won’t slip easily off the page. Use a blow-dryer to heat the front edge of the spatula to help “melt” the photo album adhesive. Wiggle the spatula beneath the photo to try to loosen it from the page.

Snip off a 7-inch-long piece of waxed dental floss if the photo is so stuck that the spatula was beginning to disfigure the photo.

Grab each end of the floss between your fingertips as if you were going to floss your teeth. Wedge the floss beneath the corner of the photo, and saw the thread back and forth under the photo, slowly working the floss toward you to separate the picture from the page.

Remove any sticky residue left from the magnetic album page on the back of the photo. Apply a squirt of adhesive remover solution to a soft cloth and run the cloth over the back of the photo. You can also apply two to three drops of the solution directly to the back of the picture to dissolve excessive adhesive buildup.

Wipe the back of the photo with a soft cloth and ensure it is completely dry before placing it inside a new photo-safe album or affixing it to a scrapbook layout.

Tips & Warnings

  • When you begin your magnetic album photo removal, find the least important image in the album and practice the techniques on that photo. Remove the photographs that you cherish the most after you’ve perfected your technique.
  • If you are unable to remove a photo from an old album, don’t resort to tearing a portion of the photo to take it out. Instead, take the album page to a photo lab that can scan the image and give you a new printed photo, as well as a digital backup file of the image.
  • Avoid directing the hot air of the blow-dryer onto the photos themselves to prevent damage to the images.

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