Is there a way to safely separate two sheets of paper glued together?
July 23, 2012 11:25 AM   Subscribe

A printout was inadvertently glued to a copy of a historical photo. How do I get it off?

At work we've just discovered a stack of photos, on paper of unknown type, mounted to wood. Someone had the idea of separating each of these with old printouts. One of the printouts in the middle of the stack had glue on it, and is now stuck to the photo.

I don't know what kind of glue it is.

I also don't know what kind of paper the copy was made on, but it can apparently take and keep a visible fingerprint, as someone left one on it. The copy is probably decades old and the photo is on some sort of paper--apparently something had been stuck to it before, and resolved it by simply tearing the paper off, tearing the top layer off the photo in the process. And then made that same mistake again. Yes, yes, I know. It wasn't me, honest.

The original photos are no longer available, so this copy is all we have.

Is there a way to get this printout off the photo without destroying the photo?

I've looked into it a bit online and am not optimistic; most people seem to recommend steam, in hopes of loosening the glue. That doesn't strike me as the least risky option, since the photo is also on paper. Is dry heat a viable option? Wouldn't that just make the glue set further?

Photo of the situation:

Photo of the masses of glue visible through the printout:

Photo of the damage done before:

Photo of the corner, which has started to peel away and shows the layers:
posted by johnofjack to Media & Arts (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Some of the answers in this question (how to remove labels from papers) might help you.
posted by ocherdraco at 11:53 AM on July 23, 2012

Ooh. Awesome, thanks.

Did you know about that question beforehand? It wasn't suggested to me & I didn't find it.
posted by johnofjack at 12:05 PM on July 23, 2012

I read it when it was posted, and remembered it because it struck a chord with me (I have had to handle important, irreplaceable paper materials before and the thought of getting labels stuck on something like that made me all anxious just thinking about it).
posted by ocherdraco at 2:47 PM on July 23, 2012

After using a hair dryer for a few minutes then pulling gently on the top paper, I could start lifting the printout off the photo without tearing the photo further. It took awhile, constantly applying heat to the next patch before attempting to lift further, but I separated the two.

Now there's some sort of yellow glue residue left behind; I'll look into ways of removing that.

Thanks, ocherdraco!
posted by johnofjack at 10:07 AM on July 26, 2012

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