Removing cards glued in a scrapbook

We have recently inherited 3 big scrapbooks full of greeting cards that were glued into them. We don’t know what type of glue and we can’t ask it anymore, but it was done in the late 80s/early 90s and the person who did it was not a crafter, they probably used the most widely available glue at the time.

We want to take out some of the cards without damaging the back (as much as possible) because they contain messages from family members that are deceased now. There are some cards that are unimportant to him so we can try removal methods on those first. I’m just looking for some inspiration for those methods. We’ve tried carefully ripping them out but that doesn’t work. Internet suggests these things:

  • steam (not sure because it’s a paper scrapbook and cardstock cards)
  • a very sharp knife
  • a very thin guitar string

I was just wondering if anyone has any other suggestions that we can try or has any experience with this. We will probably try to get them out this weekend.

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Not exactly the answer you’re looking for but a great way to preserve them perfectly is to digitize the ones you want to keep. Extra bonus, you don’t make clutter of your own.

Or, you know, just keep the scrapbooks, or the pages you want to save. They are already assembled for you.

Or remove them & paste decorative paper on the backs to cover any mess.

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We are actually only interested in the back of the cards, not really in the image on the front. And the backs are glued down. Just removing the pages from the scrapbook would be an easy option if we just wanted to keep the front of the cards.

90% of the cards can go, most are sent by people Mr Imma has never even heard of, but he is very interested in the ones that were sent to him by his grandma. He was very close to her but she died when he was quite young and other than a handful of low quality pictures he doesn’t have anything to remember her by. He’s very interested in seeing her handwriting and reading what she wrote to him. He was young enough when she died that he doesn’t really remember receiving the cards at the time.


Oh, like the written part is glued down? So someone saved the fronts but not the actual messages?
Why? Why would anybody do that? Ugh. That’s a mess.

Try steam, it can soften glue enough to peel the paper apart but some inks run when wet.

Good luck!

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I have long given up trying to understand the thought process of my MIL :roll_eyes: But yes, what we have is several scrapbooks with basically hundreds of pictures of dogs, cars and footballs. Including one dog with the words “last card from grandma” written above it. Who could guess that a person would one day want to know what their dying grandma wrote to them?

I try not to be annoyed too much, it’s all water under the bridge now but I can’t imagine why someone would spend all of this time glueing hundreds of cards in a scrapbook and at the same time barely keep any actual pictures.

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I wonder if there is an art- or historical document conservator you can contact, perhaps through a museum or even an online search. They’ve been trained in saving things from the insults of people who didn’t know better.


So I just reached out to my friend who is an Archival Librarian. Her job is to take deceased people’s papers and curate them into a preserved collection.

She says there is no safe way to remove the glued cards without tearing damage until the glue dries out and fails on it’s own. She would recommend keeping the pages intact.

You could cull the pages you don’t care about and keep the important ones for now and periodically examine them for glue failure, maybe?


Sounds like this may be the best idea, thanks a lot! As I was going through the pages I did notice a few cards are already starting to get loose, of course not the ones we want to see, but maybe with a bit of patience in a few years they will start to fall out.

Argh, how frustrating!

If you’re ok with cutting up the books, I’d try steam on a few individual cards to see what that does. Are the cards all glued back to back on opposite sides of the page? If not, you might also test very carefully wetting the page behind a card to see if you can peel the paper off and read thru the glue.

Waiting may be safest, tho. :woman_shrugging: If your goal is to dry the glue, maybe see if you can store the books somewhere very dry to continue dehumidifying them?

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I’m going to guess she used mucilage glue, a water based adhesive that came with an applicator cap for gluing down papers.

I just did a little reading on it, and vinegar seems to soften it (vinegar softens white glue, too).

Try putting a test card in a sealed container with a dish of vinegar. The fumes might be enough to loosen the glue.

You might try sponging a little vinegar on the backing paper of another test card and see what happens.

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I definitely would try all of the methods on cards you are not going to keep…sounds like a doable project and worthwhile for your husband to hang on to some of his past memories!

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How frustrating that they glued them on the text side.
That’s the most important side.

I would try steaming (I remember my older brother steaming stamps off of postcards and the postcards always stayed intact.
Off course stamps have a totally different kind of glue…

I was wondering…, would putting them in a freezer for an hour or so help? I’m not sure if that would make the glue less sticky, it’s just a thought. Perhaps worth a try?
ETA: In a plastic bag of course, against the moisture.


I know that it hardens gum and then makes it easy to remove…good idea to experiment with that as well!

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We have a couple hundred or so to try it out on! I’ll ask him to mark the ones he wants to keep. There are two cards glued to each side so 4 in total per sheet of paper. I’m sure there must be plenty of pages full of random cards from people he’s never heard of.

I’m glad I’m not the only one who thinks it’s stupid to glue the written side down. Sometimes I’m worried that my opinion of her colours my judgement. I’m always on my best behaviour with my in-laws, I was raised to be polite and I’ve worked in customer service, but sometimes I’m boiling on the inside.