View Full Version : Remving gummed stickers off tintypes

Pat Kearns
12-Sep-2014, 20:07
My wife got some tintypes from a former antique dealer but on the back of each is a gummed sticker with the prices written with ball point pens. The stickers have probably been on them for 20 years. What can be used to remove the label and residual glue without damaging the tintypes? Thanks for any info you can pass my way.

13-Sep-2014, 09:02
If they have been there for "only" 20 years, the adhesive is probably not water soluble---but it's worth checking. Wet a ball of cotton or some such and let it sit for an hour or so, then try to gently peel the label.

More likely, you will have to use a solvent such as acetone or lacquer thinner. In this case, put the solvent on a wet pad and cover it with polyethylene film so that it will not evaporate; let it sit for an hour, then check. I take labels off of plastic buckets this way, and find that sometimes the paper separates, leaving the adhesive in place, So far, switching to mineral spirits and a rag cleanly removes the adhesive, but occasionally a generous amount of lacquer thinner has to be used instead.

The most obdurate adhesive I have ever tried to take off is gaffer's tape that had been applied to barndoors, probably thirty years ago . The barndoors must have been used with hot lights, because some of the tape was slightly scorched. Since I didn't want to remove the original black paint, I tried coating the tape with mechanic's hand cleaner (ths stuff with lanolin and very fine pumice) and letting it sit overnight. Somewhat to my surprise, it worked just fine, and a final cleanup with mineral spirits took off the residual hand cleaner.

You might consider taping a tintype face-down onto heavy cardboard, with something to protect the face underneath. This, and care to limit the work to just the label area, should be safe enough. The ultimate would be a "surgical drape" consisting of a large piece of heavy polyethylene with a hole just large enough to allow you to tape the inner edge of the hole to the back of the tintype and still allow access to the label. (Using archival polyethylene and archival tape, of course :) ) But do protect the face from abrasion and solvent, whatever you do.

Jim C.
13-Sep-2014, 10:38
Use Naptha or Zippo/ Ronsonol lighter fluid, most if not all tape / labels use a latex rubber based adhesive,
either one of the aforementioned will dissolve or soften the adhesive.
If it's old and 'baked' on it may take a few minutes for the naptha to do it's thing,
it's also a slower evaporating and the least aggressive solvent in my experience,
unlike lacquer thinner, acetone, and alcohol.

Pat Kearns
13-Sep-2014, 14:06
Harold & Jim, thanks for your advice. I did a 2 step method that seemed to work. First, I put a couple of drops Zeiss lens cleaner solution onto the label, let is soak for a couple of minutes then rubbed it with my fingertip until the paper dissolved, then wipe it off with a paper towel. Second, I put a couple of drops of the Ronsonol lighter fluid on the glue residue letting it soak for about 30 seconds then rubbed it off with a paper towel.

15-Sep-2014, 12:55
Good work. The Zeiss fluid is probably not all that dissimilar to Windex, which seems to be mostly water with a bit of alcohol and a glycol ether. Plain water will probably cause the paper to come off, and Ronsonol is a petroleum naptha, the more-volatile equivalent of mineral spirits.

Not to nitpick, but I just had to go and check my memory: many of the paper label adhesives are acrylic, and not rubber, per 3M product descriptions.

Fortunately, they all seem to react similarly to petroleum and silicone oils in that these substances act as "de-tackifiers". If you can rub the adhesive into a ball and remove it, this is usually preferable to dissolving it and then having to "rinse" the solution from the object. However, there is the occasional formulation which seems to be removable only by solvent, and here the difference in chemistry (alkane naptha versus aromatic lacquer thinner) will come into play.