Help! My Pictures are Stuck Together!!

How to get pictures unstuck

I have a TON of printed photographs. Back in the day where you actually sent film in to be developed. (my grandkkids would call this the dark ages) You had the option often times to get double prints so you could share pictures with family and friends. While this was a great concept in theory it also meant if no one else was going to be interested in them, that now your pile of pictures is twice as high will lots of doubles. Fast forward to moving day and my husband picking up the plastic box by the handle only to have the lid come unfastened and all the 500 pictures this plastic photo carrier was suppose to hold were now laying, all mixed up on the street.  You gather them up, put them back and seal it shut.The case just fell open

I decided it was time to sort those photos and found stacks of stuck together photographs. The above stack alone is stiff as a board, and I can see just by the edges of the pictures that my dad and his wife are in one, my grandmother in another, some long past family in others. I just couldn’t toss the stack so I found this article on separating pictures online from the Real Simple Magazine.  I wanted to share what I found.


I recently moved and discovered some of my photos are practically glued together. Can I unstick them without destroying them?
Jenna Schapiro

Potomac, Maryland

A. Yes, give them a (gentle) bath. 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 did look up and see if water from the Britta was the same as distilled water and learned that no, that the Britta only takes out some of the impurities and that you need all the chemicals removed as to not damage the pictures. I also looked up how to distill water at home, because let’s face it, when I get something in my mind, I am just not very patient!  Too much work for the quantity of water I need… Later on this afternoon I will go get some distilled water and give this a try and report back on how it worked.