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Techniques for Soaking Self-Adhesives?

Anyone have any success with this?

I saw this page:


Apparently denatured alcohol will work. I tested some myself with mixed results. I have so many I'd like to send them off to someone who could do it for me, who has enough practice to know what they're doing. I sent an email several days ago to Al, but haven't heard anything back. Anyone know of an alternative?



  • Just got this email from Al:

    Thank you for your response Al. I'm sorry to hear of your condition. Hopefully it is reversible, and your eyesight will eventually improve?

    I bought a can of denatured alcohol (should be right near 190 proof nearly pure ethanol), and experimented a bit with about 25 stamps to see how this was working for me. I let the ethanol warm up inside overnight (probably to about 65-70 degrees).

    The stamps I tested in the soak were about 10 years old (from 1998). I was eventually able to get the stamps off the paper, but had a really hard time getting all of the adhesive to come off. I thought perhaps the age of the stamps might have something to do with it (10 years to bond to the paper is a long time).

    I might try this again with some brand new incoming mail (2009) self adhesives to compare. Another thing that might help would be to wait for warmer weather, when the indoor temperature will heat the denatured alcohol up to 75-80 degrees.

    Do you know of anyone else who has time and experience soaking with ethanol who would like to do it? The 1000 stamps is just a start. I have thousands and thousands saved up over the past 15 years or so. I'm working now to sort out the water activated stamps from the self-adhesive ones.


    >>> "Al Harris" <[email protected]> 04/03/09 10:19 AM >>>

    That was an "old" message you ran into -- I've had to give up stamps completely because of an allergic reaction to a cortisone injection that affected my eyesight. Although I won't be able to help, the process is simple enough and you should be able to do it. My "formula" and procedure are still online somewhere; basically, you fill a tray with lukewarm water and a wetting agent (the purpose of which is to soften the paper fibers to allow the alcohol to work much faster), such as Dawn dishwashing detergent (just a drop per tray full of water), let them soak a minute or so, drain the tray and pour in room-temperature Everclear or any clear ethanol (drinking alcohol) that's about 190 proof. I've also had success with 100 proof vodka when nothing better was available, but the removal process is much slower. (CAUTION: HIGH-PROOF LIQUOR HAS A LOW FLASH POINT, which means it doesn't take much of a spark to ignite it! Stay FAR AWAY from all flame sources while soaking stamps in alcohol. I'd also advise you to raise a window or use a well-ventilated room to avoid the build-up of fumes. Use this process at your own risk!) Don't try to soak all 1000 at one time -- try 25 to 50 or so at a time until you get the hang of it or the stamps will become too mushy and become damaged. Until you feel proficient, I would suggest breaking the job of 1000 stamps into smaller jobs -- maybe four sessions of 500 stamps -- you be the judge.) As they soak, rub the adhesive side with your fingers to remove the glue. When finished with a batch, rinse them off with lukewarm water in another tray to completely remove the alcohol. Any globule of alcohol that remains will contain diluted glue, so you have to rinse them very thoroughly to remove all the alcohol-glue globules or your stamps will feel slightly sticky when dry. What you might do is try a small batch of non-valuable stamps first to see how it works -- take them all the way through to the rinsing and drying stage (I prefer to lay them out initially on a dry paper towel and blot the fronts with another dry paper towel before putting them into the stamp press and leaving them overnight with a heavy object on top of the press.) When they're damp but no longer sticky from the diluted residue, then it is time to put them into your drying press. I got excellent results with this procedure and am sure you will too. The keys are to be patient, rinse thoroughly to remove all diluted glue, and to avoid soaking them too long in the alcohol so they don't become mushy. If your first small "test" batch seem sticky, this tells you that you must rinse them longer or use a stronger proof longer for soaking. You can usually "save" stamps that come out sticky from the drying press -- just soak them again in the Everclear or other ethanol, and then rinse them longer with water.

    Regards and Good Luck to You,
  • I think the best and easiest way to save self adhesives is to neatly trim the paper around them and be done with it, I find this less time consuming, messy, and quite pleasing visually. I think the days of soaking are over(well at least in water)
  • Thanks Zac. I agree that the days of water soaking are gone. I may end up adopting the close trim solution, but can't hey myself to give up yet.

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