How To Remove Stamps

Most stamps require moisture to stick them to paper, these types of stamps can be removed using the below method of trimming off the excess paper, floating them in water and then carefully peeling then stamp off.

If the stamp is self-adhesive (it doesn’t require any moisture – and is more like a sticker) these can be a lot more tricky to remove – click here to skip to read about how to remove a self-adhesive stamp.

old stamps soaking in bowl

How To Remove A Traditional Stamp

To remove a traditional (moisture based) stamp follow these steps:

1. Remove Excess Paper

Use scissors to cut around the stamp, leaving a paper border of roughly 10mm. The border is important as it will allow you to gauge when the paper is damp enough. 


2. Soak The Paper

The best way to soak the stamp is to fill a bowl with cold water (only a few millimetres of water is required) and float the paper on top of the water with the stamp face up.

This means that the paper backing gets wet but the stamp should stay relatively dry thereby helping to stop damage to the stamp such as the colors running.

The length of time required to soak your paper sufficiently will vary from a couple of minutes to a whole hour depending on the thickness of the paper.

If you are soaking a very thick piece of paper or card you can speed up the process by peeling paper layers back using a scalpel or sharp knife (be careful though!).

If you have a particularly resilient bit of paper or card it may also be necessary to fully submerge it if floating is not softening it sufficiently.

3. Peel The Stamp Off The Paper

When the border looks completely damp carefully lift the stamp out of the water using a tweezer.

postage stamps

Put the stamp face down on a solid surface and press into it, this should cause it to stick just enough to allow you to peel the paper off. 

Do not be tempted to grab hold of the stamp and peel it directly from the paper as this may cause the stamp to rip if it is wet.

If the paper doesn’t easily come off then continue soaking for a few more minutes.

4. Dry The Stamp

All you need to do to finish is let your stamps dry out. 

Lay some blotting paper or kitchen roll on a flat surface and place your stamps on it so that water from the stamps can be absorbed.

vietnamese stamps

Be careful how you do this though as there are a few ways you could damage the stamp if you don’t dry them properly:

  • Do not dry them on a radiator or another hot place as this will cause the stamp to curl, instead dry them out at room temperature.
  • If you are using kitchen roll or blotting paper make sure that it is white and has no colour of its own, otherwise there is a danger that colour may seep into your stamp.

Leave your stamps to dry for at least two hours.

Also read: Where To Buy Stamps

How To Remove A Self-adhesive / No-lick Stamp

Self-adhesive stamps came into existence in Sierra Leone back in 1964 to solve the problem of humid weather causing traditional stamps to stick to each other..and anything else. This created a lot of waste which cost many companies a lot of money.

Today self-adhesive stamps are increasingly becoming the more common form of stamp across the globe including in the USA and the UK.

used UK stamps

The problem with self-adhesive stamps is that instead of using a water-based glue it uses an oil-based glue which won’t break down with water.

In order to properly remove a no-lick stamp you will need to something a bit stronger than water to break down the oil, acetone-based nail polish remover is ideal.

When handling acetone please wear gloves.

Once you’ve got your nail polish remover drip a few drops onto the paper until the paper is thoroughly soaked but the stamp is still dry. Leave it for 10 minutes or so to give it time to break down and soften the adhesive, if you get it right you should be able to peel the stamp off with ease with no paper residue left on it.

If you don’t have any nail polish remover available and if your stamps are not old stamps then this method will also work (please don’t use this method on old stamps as the hot water is likely to damage them causing them to curl up or making the colors run):

  1. Fill a bowl with hot water.
  2. Add some lemon washing up soap.
  3. Put the stamps in and let them float on the surface for 15 minutes.
  4. Peel them off!
  5. Dry them out (dry them at room temperature to prevent them from curling).

Things To Avoid

Damaging stamps is easily done, they are fragile, especially when wet. To keep your stamps in peak condition be aware of the following:

  • Stamp steaming is commonly thought of as being the best way to remove stamps, while this method does work it is both dangerous (scalding) and can very easily cause your stamp to become misshapen. So if you care about your stamps and your hands don’t use steam!
  • Be aware that if you are removing stamps from coloured paper soaking the paper can cause discolouration of your stamp, so try to remove as much of the coloured paper as possible (using a scalpel if necessary) before soaking it.

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