|FAQ's : What is the best method to wash stamps off paper?
Taking stamps off envelopes is not recommend. Once a stamp is removed from the envelope, all that can be said about the majority is that they were used and did some service. However, if kept on the envelope, it tells so much more about what service it did, when it did it, from where to where, usually from whom to whom and how long it took. Once the stamp is removed, this “history” is lost forever. Although this was common practice for many years, so much postal history has been lost forever and regrettably so. Today, the philatelic emphasis is on postal history and covers should be kept intact, whenever possible.
Alternatively, some collectors cut the stamp off the envelope, but leave enough paper to capture the full postmark and keep it in this form.
When is washing stamps off paper, the correct method is as follows:
- Trim away as much paper from around the stamp as possible, without cutting into the perforations or design.
- Fill a basin with luke-warm water (much nicer to work with than cold water).
- Completely dunk one piece at a time to ensure they separate, before putting the next one into the water.
- Allow the stamps to float off, do not rush the process as you may damage or thin the stamp.
- Take the paper out of the water and discard, leaving the stamps in.
- If the water is dirty or murky, carefully pour the majority away and slowly refill with fresh warm water.
- Take a whole newspaper (or section if the paper has them, like the Sunday Times) and open flat on the back page.
- Take the stamps out of the water and allow them to stick to the top rim of the bowl for a short while, to allow excess water to run off.
- Remove the stamps from the rim and place them face up in rows, on one half of the newspaper and close the newspaper back on its original fold.
- Lay the newspaper on a flat surface in a well-aired, dry place.
- If there are more stamps to wash off, use another newspaper and when filled, place it at the bottom of the pile. Wash as many stamps as there are enough newspapers to dry them in.
- Place some weight (e.g. telephone books) on top of the newspaper/s and allow about one week to dry. Stamps may be left in newspapers indefinitely but the longer they remain, the drier they will become and they will not curl when they are removed.
- Take the dried newspapers off the top, when the stamps are ready to be removed and sorted. The stamps will come out nice and flat and will be easy to handle and store.
- Newspapers may be re-used a few times before discarding a page or a few pages. If deteriorated or showing signs of mould or discolouring, discard completely.
- If any stamps get stuck to the paper again, wash these separately in even warmer water and try removing the gum from the back by rubbing carefully. Especially older stamps had quite thick glue, which may not dissolve easily.