Do’s and Don’ts of Handling Magnetic Albums

Do’s and Don’ts of Handling Magnetic Albums

We see many prints that have been damaged as they have been removed from a magnetic album. They are difficult to handle and time consuming to repair. Today we are sharing some tips for working with prints that are in a magnetic album. Archivists have learned that the glue in these albums have high quantities of acid in them and you have probably seen the damaging results yourself if you have ever tried to remove a print from one.

Why should you remove prints from magnetic albums? This acid is eating away at your prints and they are deteriorating. We recommend getting them out before further damage is done to your precious memories.

How will you recognise one and what do we mean by magnetic? Don’t worry this one stumped me too as there doesn’t appear to be any magnets – really it is just professional lingo for sticky/gluey album from the 60’s and 70’s. These albums are easily recognised by their thick card stock backing (having aged they most likely now have distinctive yellow stripes), a plastic cover sheet (usually Mylar or PVC) and a spiral ring binder.


  • Consider scanning the whole page before you start. That way if something goes wrong all is not lost. Remember we have equipment to help with all sizes and shapes.
  • Start with a photo that isn’t as meaningful or special. This will give you an indication of how badly stuck the prints are. Some pop off like a dream with the simplest of nudges others are really ‘cemented’ in there.
  • Wear cotton gloves. Yes it is tricky to work in them but this will firstly ensure that you work slowly and carefully and secondly prevent you adding finger prints to the images.
  • Check the layers. Take a peak underneath as they start to lift and check that the entire print is coming up not just the top layer. If only one layer is moving stop straight away.
  • Try using dental floss. You can use a string of floss to ‘saw’ underneath and help lift the image. Easy does it.
  • Consider crafters tools. There are spatulas and scraping tools that can be used to help lift stuck prints. Remember this is a risky option and you could end up with a tear, we think this is one best left to the professionals.
  • Try adding some warmth. Sometimes using a hair dryer to warm the glue will assist alongside of the floss.
  • Remember the end goal. If you plan to scan then discard the images you are removing, determine if you could cut them out of the album. Most of this type of album had double sided pages which can enable you to slide scissors between the pages and trim them out so they are intact with the album backing. This won’t help preserve the original print as it will still be in contact with the acidic glue but if you planned to throw out the originals after scanning this is a viable option.


  • Over stretch as you peel them off (especially when using floss or other tools). If you pull too hard and stretch the image as you peel it out you can warp the print and the end result will be an image that is heavily curled around its edges. In our experience because of the glue residue curled images are very hard to flatten again and therefor can in turn be really difficult to scan or re album.
  • Force them off. Go slowly and carefully, a corner might come off easily but the centre could be stuck and you could end up with a tear right through the middle.
  • Stack them once removed.  Even if you can’t see it there will be sticky residue on the backs of the photos once removed.  If you stack the prints the residue from one will end up on the face side of another and then in turn appear on your scanned image.  Use slips of paper (we like to use baking paper large rolls are easy to get at a low price).
  • Try any of these techniques unless you have a confident steady hand, careful disposition and understand the risks involved.
  • Forget that we can help. As certified members of The Association of Personal Photo Organizers we are trained to handle these ‘sticky’ situations. Please contact us for further advice.

We encourage you to get those precious photos out of those harmful albums.

Take time today to rescue them from the flawed albums of the past.

  • Lesley
    Posted at 09:52h, 22 August

    I found dental floss didn’t help much, in fact it can cause damage attempting to do this. You need to get a flip pal scanner that can be placed on top of the pages or else use an iphone scanner to scan the photos.

    • Mara
      Posted at 13:41h, 22 August

      You do need to be extremely careful, attempting any of these methods. I hope you got the scans you needed Lesley

  • The Filing Fairies | 7 Steps to Filter Photo Memorabilia
    Posted at 14:36h, 03 December

    […] it comes to albums if the album contains all of the same size and type of photo you can remove (carefully) add those to your other groupings e.g. a 1990’s slip in album will likely contain all 4×6 […]

  • The Filing Fairies | The Summary Issue
    Posted at 14:43h, 05 November

    […] Old magnetic or “sticky” albums contain unsafe components that act as a chemical sandwich for your photos. The acids from the plastic and adhesive are very harmful to your photos and will cause them to deteriorate. Remove the photos as quickly as possible! Read our tips for handling magnetic albums here  […]