How to remove self-adhesive stamps from a paper backing?

Hot off the press!

Hot off the press!

One of the questions I get asked a lot is how to remove a self-adhesive stamp from an envelope or paper backing. Soaking it in water simply isn’t a consideration, as many of you already know. A little bit or research on the internet turned up this fool-proof method.

Bestine solvent & thinner

Bestine solvent & thinner

A chemical named Bestine, which can be purchased in hardware stores or art stores works miracles. Bestine is a fast-evaporating solvent which won’t damage the stamp even if it is embossed or has foil on it. Since today’s stamps are not as fragile as classic stamps of the past, this chemical is safe to use on them.

Here is the technique:

  • Trim the paper around the stamp to a few millimetres and apply Bestine to the back of the paper with an eye-dropper. You will see the paper become translucent within a few seconds.
  • You should be able to peel the stamp off the paper in about 10 seconds. Place the stamp face down on a flat surface and let it dry. The back of the stamp will remain sticky because the Bestine evaporates quickly, leaving the adhesive on the back of the stamp still active.
  • To remove the stickiness of the adhesive, once the stamp is relatively dry, apply a bit of baby powder to the gum side. The stickiness will disappear, but you will still be able to stick a stamp hinge to the back.

A few extra tips: It’s best to work with one stamp at a time since Bestine evaporates so fast that you need to peel off the stamp almost immediately. Or else, the Bestine will dry and you have to start over. Don’t worry if your stamp appears greasy, once it dries this will disappear.

Citrus magic air freshener

Citrus magic air freshener

If you can’t find any Bestine, another solution is a can of 100% natural non-aerosol citrus based air freshener, like Citrus Magic or Zep. The procedure is the same, just spray the back of the stamp with the air freshener, wait a few seconds and then peel off the stamp. Talc it to remove the stickiness as above. It is then ready to be mounted in your stamp album.

I hope this helps all of you out!

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12 Responses to How to remove self-adhesive stamps from a paper backing?

  1. Carmen Gauvin-O'Donnell says:

    Thanks for the tips, Lisa. Indeed, as Canada Post (and all Post offices) use increasingly more and more self-adhesive stamps, this will definitely come in handy!

  2. Paul Warren says:

    If you live in the UK “Sticky Stuff Remover” from Lakeland works well. I use a small plastic container which can be kept sealed so the fluid does not evaporate after use. Also with a close fitting lid you can “shake” the container and ensure the stamps are well coated and not waste too much liquid (which is relatively expensive) as you might with a pipette or eye dropper being used.

    Talc on the back after drying removes the residual tackiness.

  3. Margaret kuo says:

    Hi, Lisa: I’m trying to figure out how to safely retrieve valuble postage stamps hinged to a paper backing by double-sided Scotch tape. would Bestine or Citrus work also? I live in California. thank you for sharing your knowledge.

  4. Pingback: FAQ:How can I safely remove gummed stamps from paper? | The Stamp Echo

  5. michaeld says:

    I soaked several stamps in medium hot water in a shallow plastic basic. for not more than two minutes and all the stamps came off easily… no chemicals, no hassle. I was done in 5 minutes and retrieved 60 stamps. They are now drying on a towel, face down. Some of the glue is not present on some of the stamps, slightly present on others. No problem.. 1 drop of super-glue, press and mail.

  6. Ken says:

    Claude,
    What Michaeld offered may have been illegal (some places more than others!) but he was trying to progress the discussion and (although I have not tried it) his suggestion may be better and certainly cheaper than some of the other ideas.

  7. Ken says:

    Further to my comment above, I have done a bit more research on the subject and found some learned discussion on the relative merits of soaking and chemical means of removal. It appears that some countries (the U.K. included) utilise cuts through the paper base which leave parts of the stamp behind if you try to peel them off the envelope. It was reported that, after soaking, these cut-outs will also become detached. From this, it would seem to indicate that chemical means with the absolute minimum of agitation is to be preferred. The choice of chemical needs a great deal of experimentation, because the inks used in some countries are likely to be unstable with chemicals which work well on stamps from the U.S. or U.K.

  8. M says:

    I appreciate Michael’s tip as I had several pre-stamped envelopes for my wedding that we did not end up using (so the stamps have not been used) and I would like to take them off the envelopes they are on (which are cardboard) and put them on regular paper envelopes. Thanks!

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