Old Photos Stuck Together? Three Easy Fixes

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Most photographs have great sentimental value, and that’s why it can feel devastating when they get stuck together.

While it may be tempting to try and jam your fingers between two photo prints, this can damage your pictures alongside the frame you used! But does that mean every photo that gets stuck to other pictures is doomed forever? Of course not.

In this blog post, we’ll be discussing three ways to finally get those stubborn photos that are stuck together – all without leaving the comfort of your home!

But if you’re just looking for professional conservation services to save and restore your photograph, then save yourself the hassle and order below.

We’re Not Like ‘Other’ Photo Restoration Services.

Take into account that, unlike other photo restoration services, we don’t just fix the obvious problems and throw a filter over everything – we comb through your images pixel-by-pixel to repair damage & create a perfect restoration of your prints!

Why Do Photo Prints Get Stuck Together?

Ever wondered why your photo prints get stuck together? The answer is actually real simple.

Because each print image goes through a series of chemical processes during development and printing, it requires a thin gelatinous “emulsion” layer to keep it safe and protected. When your pictures are exposed to humidity and moisture, the excess water can cause the emulsion to degrade and get stuck to each other.

TL;DR? Humidity makes your pictures sticky, and they remain stuck even after they’re dry.

How To Separate Photos That Are Stuck Together: 3 Easy Ideas

Whether you have pages upon pages of albums or just two stubborn photographs that won’t come unstuck, we have the answers. Here are three photographer-approved methods of retrieving a stuck picture.

Method 1: The Soak And See Technique

Visually Scan Your Photos For Signs Of Dust And Dirt

The first step to this method is real simple: survey your image for signs of dust or dirt. Getting them out of the way before committing to pulling your photos apart makes the whole process much easier in the long run.

Gently Push Away Debris With A Soft Brush

Note: consider putting gloves on for this next step!

If your photo is framed, be sure to remove the glass before gently pushing any dust or debris away. We recommend using a soft-bristle brush to minimize any additional damage on the subject.

cleaning your images with soft brush products

Soak The Images In Room Temperature Distilled Water

Once you’re happy with your image, measure just enough warm water to submerge your photos completely. We recommend using distilled water at room temperature, which is available at most grocery stores. The water soaking process can take up to 60 minutes, so this may be a good time to grab food or make a short visit to some friends.

an effective soaking method is using distilled water

Gently Peel Them Apart

If one photo is hanging off the other, gently try to separate it from the smaller image, being extra careful to account for any ripping noises or damage. You can also try using a silicone spatula to peel them apart if you’d rather not use your hands. They should separate easily if they were sufficiently soaked.

Spread The Wet Photographs On Paper Towels To Dry

Once you’ve managed to pry them apart, gently lay them down on some paper towels for a few hours. This process will allow the emulsion to dry up and make them relatively stick-free. Note that sometimes photos can become distorted during this process, but using a heavy book can quickly flatten them back out.

lay them to dry

Method 2: Separate Pictures With A Hairdryer

Find A Hair Dryer With A Low Heat Setting

For this next method, we recommend taking your hairdryer’s heat settings into account. Like when avoiding damage while you style your hair, you’re going to need something that has a cooling function.

dry your picture image using a hair dryer

Gently Apply Heat On The Exposed Area From 6-10 Inches Away

Photographs can be quite sensitive to heat, so we recommend holding your dryer 6-10 inches away from the actual photo prints. This keeps the paper from getting too hot and avoids any further damage.

Gently Pull On The Edges Until The Photos Are Separated

Our research and experimentation has discovered that the best method is to heat the edges and slowly peel your photos back as they dry. We recommend taking it very slowly during this step.

Method 3: Freeze Your Photographs

Put The Photographs Into A Ziplock Bag

First thing’s first: prepare your photos and stick them into a ziplock bag, ensuring there are no air pockets or little packets of moisture trapped in the plastic. Flatten out the pouch before proceeding to the next step.

Leave Them In The Freezer For At Least An Hour

Put your ziplocked photos in the freezer and account for their surroundings. Take note if the subject gets too wet or falls to the back of the compartment. Leave in place for about an hour and check back later.

fridge freezer

Check For Any Sign Of Moisture And Pull Them Apart

Once the timer’s up, pull the plastic bag out of the freezer and check on your photographs. If sufficiently cooled, the pictures should easily come unstuck with a little bit of pulling and coaxing with your fingers or a thin card.

Leave It To The Professionals

Getting an image unstuck is just one part of restoring your precious old family portraits, especially when the unsticking process can leave it damaged and torn. That’s where we come in. Image Restoration Center can restore, repair, and refresh for a fair price.

We’re Not Like ‘Other’ Photo Restoration Services.

Take into account that, unlike other photo restoration services, we don’t just fix the obvious problems and throw a filter over everything – we comb through your images pixel-by-pixel to repair damage & create a perfect restoration of your prints!

10 Responses

  1. I have 5 clumps of matted color photos I have tried water and microwave without any change. What is your cost to seperate?
    I do not know what is on photos but I suspect nothing important.

    1. James, we are an online restoration company and we require a digital copy of the photos in order to restore them. Best, Emily

  2. I have old photos that are stuck together. They were in an album with no protective sheets, and through the years, some of the pages are stuck. The pictures were in corners, so I could take them out, but the photos from the two pages are stuck that were across from each other. I tried the distilled water and hair dryer, but neither worked. Is this something you can do?
    Where are you located?

    1. Sue, we are an online restoration company and we require a digital copy of the photos in order to restore them. Best, Emily

  3. I live in South Australia and have water damage to around 100 photographs, many of which are stuck together.
    These can not be uploaded and I would like them to be separated professionally as I am scared I will do more damage if I try it myself.
    Can someone please contact me and let me know if this is a service you can perform?
    It appears so from your website, however all links take me to a page where I need to be able to upload copies of the photo (which I can’t).

    1. Greg, unfortunately we don’t provide that service, we do require a digital copy in order to restore it. Best, Emily

  4. Maybe This is a dumb question but I don’t know what you mean by Digital copy?? Take a picture of the picture or can a larger portrait that is damaged with torn edges and creases across the face leaving like white lines and somewhat faded be repaired ??

  5. How can we send you a digital copy of the photos are stuck to each other, blocking out the pictures??

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Emily Hutton

As a photographer, a restoration, and a designer, Emily isn't just a jack-of-all-trades, she's a certified expert. She's a tech junkie, and the most screen-addicted member of the IRC team. When it comes to product reviews, her insights and recommendations are second-to-none.

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