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Many stores are using receipts that, intentionally or not, fade over time.

I bought something about a year ago that I never used and I want to return it. But the receipt is faded to the point of being almost illegible.

Is there any trick to restoring the faded print on a receipt?

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  • 4
    Not that it will help you in this instance, but for future instances, it can be useful to scan/photocopy receipts for high value items as soon as you receive them. – Tim Malone Jul 6 '16 at 21:26
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Scan the receipt with a computer scanner, or even photograph it in a very even light with a cell phone, then use image editing software to enhance the contrast of the image. With this workflow, I have personally recovered images from photographic film that were invisible to the naked eye.

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Obviously, this is not a direct answer to the question asked... but an outside the box alternative.

I don't know if this is the same world-wide, however, in the UK at least - a physical paper receipt is not a legal requirement in order to return goods.

All that is required is proof of purchase.

This could be a bank or credit card statement containing the appropriate transaction. A redacted copy/scan/print is usually acceptable, in the interest of privacy.

This is most apparent when returning goods bought online, as both parties usually still have access to the transaction data already, but equally applies to in-store purchases.

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I have seen several web pages mention that you can restore a faded receipt by applying heat to the back of the receipt, such as by using a hair dryer or holding it up to a light bulb.

However, looking at some Youtube videos (such as this), this technique will not restore the receipt to how it was originally. Instead it will have the inverse effect - the receipt will turn black and the original text will be white.

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Restoring a faded thermal paper is quite simple. Here are 3 ways to do so.

1 – Scan and digitally restore it (as everyone else mentioned)

Assuming that the paper’s surface is still white (not yellowish, brownish or blackish), scan the receipt just as you would a colored photo. Open the image in a photo editing software, like Adobe Photoshop, and make a negative of it by adjusting certain image settings. You should find these options in the tools provided in the software.

2 – Apply heat to it.

If you’re no Photoshop genius, you can try restoring it the old-fashioned way: by gently applying heat to the thermal paper.

Set your hair dryer on medium and then blow hot air directly towards the receipt until the text becomes visible. You can also heat the receipt using a light bulb if you don’t own a hairdryer.

Regardless of the heat source, never try to apply heat on the front as this will cause the whole thing to turn black. Keep the source of heat a few inches away from the BACK of the receipt and make sure to pay close attention to whether the heat is reaching the faded paper or not.

Also, you may want to wash your hands or wear protective gloves before handling the receipts. As mentioned, water and oil (the natural oil produced by the skin included) can contribute to fading. With oily or sweaty hands, you might get distorted text and images, rendering your efforts to restore the faded receipts useless.

3 - Coat it with a heat-insulating material, or replace the thermally-sensitive ink with thermally-insensitive ink

Also I read from those who experimented that by applying highlighter as we do to highlight something on a paper, it will apply a thin coating on the receipt and it never fade.

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  • Thanks. Upvoted! Your second suggestion, "Apply heat to it", is a real interesting idea. By any chance, did you have success trying that technique yourself? – RockPaperLz- Mask it or Casket Apr 21 at 10:37

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