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How Do You Unstick Stuck Envelopes?


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9 replies to this topic

#1 beak

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Posted 03 October 2011 - 11:53

Just found a whole stack of beautiful, high-quality, vintage envelope and paper, but the envelopes have obviously been stored in a humid atmosphere and they're all stuck down!

I though of steaming them open, but that's an awful lot of time spent holding them over a kettle - does anyone know a better way? Thanks in advance.
Sincerely, beak. God does not work in mysterious ways – he works in ways that are indistinguishable from his non-existence.

#2 Shangas

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Posted 03 October 2011 - 11:59

Well traditionally, steaming them open over a pot of hot water or a kettle was the accepted way to do it. Unless you want to risk a delicate operation with a letter-opening knife.

If they're as old as you say, then steaming them is probably the best way to do it.
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#3 Catsmelt

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Posted 03 October 2011 - 12:49

I recently read in Lifehacker (lifehacker.com) that placing the envelopes in a freezer would work. Haven't tried it, but it makes sense...

http://lifehacker.co...-in-the-freezer

#4 colrehogan

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Posted 03 October 2011 - 13:44

I have had similar issues, but with books that were stored ini less than ideal coniditions. To date, all I've done is remove the books from the shed and brought them inside.
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#5 spiv

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Posted 03 October 2011 - 15:24

if there is no gilt or metal or plastic
microvave a few seconds
repeat until you can gently prize them open with a blunt blade

you might toast one envelope trying to find the right timing

Edited by spiv, 03 October 2011 - 15:25.


#6 beak

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Posted 04 October 2011 - 00:36

I've tried...

Freezing overnight
Ironing though a moist cloth
Microwaving (dry and with water present)
Steaming

And only prolonged steaming has managed to get even one of them open successfully. I think these have been stuck down too long (30 + years?), and unless anything else occurrs to anyone (thanks for the suggestions, BTW) I shall cut them on a guillotine and use the paper of very short letters and notes - just can't waste this paper because it has such a pleasant aged patina.
Sincerely, beak. God does not work in mysterious ways – he works in ways that are indistinguishable from his non-existence.

#7 USMCMom

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Posted 04 October 2011 - 01:30

I've tried these within in the last few months and they worked for me ... found them originally with an internet search.

Place the stuck envelope into the microwave oven. Place a mug of water in a rear corner of the microwave to add moisture to the microwave. Turn the microwave on and run it for up to 20 seconds. Remove the envelope and open the flap. It should unstick easily. The mug of water worked with the microwave ... without the water, it failed.

Steaming the flap has worked for me also, but you have to have enough steam. I used a tea kettle for this, as the spout gave me a narrower steam source than a pot and had the water at a good rolling boil. If you have sensitive fingers, use a pair of tongs.

If nothing seems to help, including a steam iron ... I'm at a loss of what to suggest next. Perhaps a local print shop would help.

Edited by USMCMom, 04 October 2011 - 01:31.

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#8 dnayakan

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Posted 04 October 2011 - 12:30

The freezer idea basically makes the glue brittle, so the glue breaks when you open the envelope instead of tenaciously holding onto the paper till it tears. The steam basically reconstitutes the glue - sort of taking it back to the open time when you have licked the envelope and you have a few seconds of open time to position things before the glue sets. An extreme solution might be to soak the envelope in water. This should dissolve the glue (assuming it is water soluble) - you will have to treat the envelope with kid gloves - it will be heavier and will tear more easily. Dry the envelope with the flap held open. It may dry with curls and waves but it may not be too bad depending upon the quality of the paper. There may not be enough glue to just do a 'lick the flap and stick it down' act but you could always apply a dab of glue on it when you are ready to seal it. Good luck.
Cheers, DJ

#9 beak

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Posted 04 October 2011 - 12:38

......


Thanks. I'll try soaking.
Sincerely, beak. God does not work in mysterious ways – he works in ways that are indistinguishable from his non-existence.

#10 LuckyDog10

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Posted 04 October 2011 - 16:48

You could try "spot-soaking" with a wet rag, one bit at a time, while prying open the flap with a thin blade. My office supply store sells these little water bottles with a sponge on top, designed to seal a large number of envelopes without wearing out your tongue - something like that would make this task a bit easier.

Of course, by the time you do that, you probably could have successfully steamed the flap open - then you would have an open envelope AND a cup of tea. :thumbup:

Good luck. Hope you can salvage the bulk of them.
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