How do I Remove Old Pictures That Are Stuck to Glass?

Photography has changed over the years.
Photography has changed over the years. (Image: old man taking a picture image by Bo Widerberg from

From the first color photo of 1861 to the present day, photography processes have changed many times. A review of the history of photography by National Geographic illustrates this well. Because of the differences in emulsion and paper used in photographs, some old pictures stuck to glass can be removed and others cannot. This is a risky process, even for photographers and conservators. Michigan State University reports that “responsible advice for the emergency salvage of wet photographs is difficult to provide.” Sometimes it is worth the risk to save the memories.

Things You'll Need

  • Kodak Photo-Flo 200 Solution
  • Bowl or cup
  • Water
  • Cloth

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Take a picture of the photograph with a camera or scan the photograph before you start the removal process. Be certain you have the best copies possible before you start, since you have the potential of destroying the photograph.

Mix a solution of Photo-Flo and water in a ratio of 1-to-200. Use just a drop of Photo-Flo. There are 48 teaspoons in a cup, so 1/4 teaspoon of Photo-Flo to a cup of water would be 1-to-196 ratio.

Rinse a cloth in clear water to remove all soap and possible bleach. Place in the Photo-Flo mixture and wring excess back into the cup.

Lay the cloth over the photo that is stuck to the glass and leave it for a few hours, but make sure it does not dry out. Brian’s Gallery encourages the use of water, reminding the reader that the last process in photography is a water rinse.

Repeat the process until the picture releases from the glass, suggests a Rochester Institute of Technology article. The Library of Congress preservation website recommendations include rinsing the photograph with cold clean water while still wet.

Lay the picture with the emulsion or picture side up so that the picture faces the air. The Library of Congress warns not to touch the print area while it is wet.


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