You are here:

Scrapbooking/photos stuck together


Is there a way to separate a stack of photos which were left lying on top of one another for a long time?

If they are truly stuck together it will obviously be difficult. If the reason they are stuck is the chemicals in the photographs, then it will be even more challenging as they have started to join. Do not try to rip them apart--you must re-hydrate the emulsion and let them separate. If they are stuck with adhesive, I'd suggest using heptane. It is an unhealthy chemical so use in well ventilated areas and use gloves. It is sold as Rubber Cement thinner (Brand name Bestane) or more expensive UNDU. It will dissolve the adhesive and evaporate leaving your photos fine. 'Course I can't guarantee it wouldn't damage a photo but it really doesn't.

This past week there was an article in our newspaper about salvaging damp photos...They did say don't let them dry. In fact, place them still wet into plastic bags and freeze them. remove a small batch at a time and work on them. Here's an article about salvaging water damaged pics:

I've never done this but here's another solution too:
Resist the temptation to separate photographs by hand. Doing so will most likely rip them. Instead, water—yes, water—is the answer.

Photos stick together because the gelatin coating acts like glue when exposed to moisture. They can be separated again only by adding moisture and softening the gelatin, says Peter Mustardo, a New York City–based photo conservator who has worked for the National Archives, in Washington, D.C.

The following technique can be risky, so save it for everyday snapshots, not wedding photos! Place stuck pictures in room-temperature distilled water (sold at grocery stores) for 20 to 30 minutes image-side up, so you can monitor them. (A long exposure to water may cause distortion.) Remove, then gently pull apart with your fingers, or slide a thin silicone spatula between them. Shake off the excess water, place each picture image-side up on a stack of paper towels, and weigh down the edges to prevent curling.

If a photo has stuck to a frame’s glass, things get a bit, well, stickier. First, scan the image through the glass so you’ll have a (less sharp) computer backup. Next, use the soaking method, putting the frame and photo image-side up in the bath.

For photos taken professionally or those of great sentimental value (or if you prefer to skip the soaking method), find a conservator near you through the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works ( He can determine if the photos are salvageable and, if so, can separate them.

I hope this helps and I wish you the best of luck. Photos are so important and when they are the only copy it is s hard to lose them. If you do need a safe solvent for hands, tools, brushes, etc check out our Best Cleaner Ever™


All Answers

Answers by Expert:

Ask Experts


Amy R.


I can answer about printing on vellum and other media; adhesives-including making your own adhesive dots, removing adhesive, paint and ink safely from hands and tools; using your computer and printer, making your own embellishments, frugal scrapping & crafting. You can my many "how-To" videos full of tips and tricks at


I market "Magically Perfect Crafting Products" to solve some of crafters' most difficult challenges. My products include The Best Cleaner Ever™, The Best Glue Ever™, Embellie Gellie™, The Perfect Crafting Pouch™, and the Perfect Cleaning Cloth™. I've been scrapbooking since 1999. I exhibit at international craft shows doing demos and creating displays. The Perfect Crafting Pouch was selected as a TOP 20 Innovation, and I received the Golden Press Award Runner Up in 2011.

CHA--Craft & Hobby Association (FORMER: 2003-2012)

Masters in Science; Teaching Degree in Math and Science.

Awards and Honors
Award for Excellence in Teaching Science & Mathematics (Teacher of the Year)

©2016 All rights reserved.