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How Can I Uncurl Old Photographs?

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Moisture, age and improper storage may lead to treasured photographs curling. Often, these photos cannot be replaced. The question then becomes how can you uncurl old photographs. Fortunately, you have a few viable options depending on the age and condition of the print.

Old Photographs

The older the photograph, the more care that needs to be taken in uncurling it. Old print techniques were often based on the layering of materials and print. If you try to flatten the photo , you can crack it or even find yourself holding pieces of your once treasured photo. The careful use of steam, such as a steam iron or even a pot of water, can soften the materials and make the image easier to manipulate without destroying it.

If using an iron, place the image between two protective layers of tissue or butcher paper and gently apply steam but limited pressure until the photograph begins to unfold. Once the materials are softened, the photo can be placed between two paper towels and weighed down with a book or some other flat, heavy object. The paper towel will absorb the moisture from the steam and the book will keep the photograph flat while it dries.

If using a pot of steaming water, carefully hang the picture from a clothes line above the pot until it softens, then repeat the paper towel and book method mentioned above.

Newer Photos

If the picture appears to want to uncurl without damaging the print, it may be possible to put it in an envelope and feed it through a laser printer one direction and then another until the image flattens. The laser printer will heat the photo, and the printer feed will help the picture return to its normal flat condition.

You may also be able to simply weigh the picture between two books or place it on a flat scanner bed weighed down with a book, a heavy piece of glass or simply the scanner lid.


The older the photograph, the more apt you will be unable to return it to its full previous glory. Consider contacting a family member instead and making a copy of their print. Another good preventive feature is to keep a copy of all treasured photos digitally. Place the copy in a safe deposit box or leave it with a trusted friend or relative. In the event of flood, water damage or other disaster, you can print a new copy.

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