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I collect stamps as a hobby. I always face difficulty peeling off the stamp without damaging the the perforation around it. Also it is difficult to remove the adhesives and envelope paper stuck behind the stamp.

I usually peel off the stamp with my hands with utmost care, but sometimes the stamps get damaged or the adhesives stick to the stamp itself.

What is a better solution for removing a stamp cleanly and neatly from an envelope?

  • A very good question. I'm sure this will benefit many people. – Varun Nair Dec 7 '15 at 18:22
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METHOD 1 - Microwave

Place couple of drops of water on the stamp along with the envelope and heat it with microwave for 30-45 secs. Stamp will come off from its paper.

Do not overheat the it as the stamp will become curled

METHOD 2 - Soaking:

Cut the section of envelope along with stamp without damaging it. Trim off any excess paper. Put it in the cup of cold water with stamp facing upward. Stamp will float on the water. This is being done to wet the back paper and adhesive and also to avoid the risk of colors running off.

Depending on the thickness of the paper and adhesive used, soaking time may vary. Usually around 10 mins for thin paper and up to 1 hour for thick paper and cards. Dry it with paper towel or few mins on sun light.

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I have done this with steam; hold the stamp next to a boiling kettle so the steam wets and heats the glue, then it will peel off. You might burn your fingers so it's never boring.

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Forty years or so ago, we used to do this by putting a damp paper towel over the stamp and heating with an electric iron set to "cotton". The steam would debond the adhesive, freeing the stamp from the envelope without damage. This only takes 10-15 seconds.

I should add that this and other water or steam methods only work with stamps that require moistening to apply. Newer US stamps have a peel-and-stick adhesive that will respond better to the lighter fluid (naptha, Goof-Off, etc.) solvents that attack the pressure sensitive adhesive.

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Use Ronsonol or a similar brand of lighter fluid (the type used to refill Zippo-style lighters NOT BUTANE). Soak the stamp with one or two drops of lighter fluid, particularly around the edges. After a few seconds you should be able to lift one edge of the stamp. If it's a large stamp or sticker you may have to apply another drop or two of lighter fluid under the edge so it can reach the adhesive near the center. Don't force it if the stamp doesn't come off easily. Apply another drop and give it a few more second. An ordinary size stamp should require just one or two drops of lighter fluid and 15-30 seconds to loosen the adhesive and remove the stamp plus another minute or two for the lighter fluid to air dry.

The lighter fluid will dry clean without damaging the stamp or the envelope. It will not leave a watermark or cause the ink to run. (I use this trick to remove price tags and labels from used books.) Some adhesives are more adhesive than others, but I've never encountered an adhesive label or sticker that I couldn't remove with this method. The procedure is easy and straightforward but you may want to do a practice run on a stamp you don't care about damaging. Observe the obvious safety precautions while working with a highly flammable liquid. Don't work near an open flame. Don't smoke. Ensure adequate ventilation.

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Dry stamps stick when wetted. The best wày to remove them is to wet them again: wàter on, wàter off.

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