how to clean tape adhesive off tintypes

by:CROWN     2024-05-16


Tintypes, popularly known as ferrotypes, were widely used in the late 19th and early 20th centuries as a form of photography. These unique images were produced on a thin metal plate coated with a photosensitive emulsion. Over time, if not properly cared for, tintypes can develop a layer of tape adhesive residue, making it essential to know how to safely clean them without causing any damage. In this article, we will guide you through the process of effectively removing tape adhesive off tintypes, preserving their original charm and ensuring their longevity.

Safely Removing Tape Adhesive Off Tintypes:

Tape adhesive residue on tintypes can be unsightly and may even degrade the image if left unattended. Here are step-by-step instructions on how to clean tape adhesive off tintypes without causing any harm to the photograph.

Gather All Required Materials:

Before you start the cleaning process, collect the necessary materials. You will need cotton swabs, a soft brush, distilled water, a clean microfiber cloth, a plastic spatula or dental pick, and a mild detergent. It is crucial to ensure that your hands are clean and free from any oils or lotions that may transfer onto the tintype.

Remove Loose Dirt and Dust:

To remove loose dirt and dust, gently brush the surface of the tintype using a soft-bristled brush or an air bulb blower. Start from one corner and work your way across the entire surface, being careful not to apply too much pressure that may damage the emulsion layer.

Testing on a Small Inconspicuous Area:

Before proceeding to clean the entire tintype, perform a patch test on a small, inconspicuous area to ensure that the cleaning method does not cause any adverse effects. Apply a small amount of distilled water to a cotton swab and gently rub it on the test area. If there are no negative reactions, you may proceed to the next step.

Removing Tape Adhesive Residue:

To start the process of removing tape adhesive residue, moisten a cotton swab or a soft cloth with a small amount of distilled water. Gently rub the affected area in a circular motion, applying light pressure to lift the adhesive off the surface. Avoid rubbing too vigorously, as it may damage the tintype.

Using Mild Detergent for Stubborn Residue:

In some cases, tape adhesive residue may be particularly stubborn and require additional cleaning. If mild rubbing with distilled water does not yield satisfactory results, mix a small amount of mild detergent with distilled water to create a gentle cleaning solution. Dip a cotton swab or soft cloth into the mixture and carefully apply it to the affected area, working in small sections. Remember, the key is to be patient and gentle.

Using a Plastic Spatula or Dental Pick:

For more persistent adhesive residue, you may need to employ a plastic spatula or dental pick. However, extreme caution should be exercised to avoid scratching or damaging the surface of the tintype. Gently scrape away the residue, applying minimal pressure and ensuring that you do not dig into the image layer.

Rinsing with Distilled Water:

After successfully removing the adhesive residue, it is crucial to rinse the tintype to remove any remaining cleaning solution. Dampen a clean cloth or cotton swab with distilled water and gently wipe the surface of the tintype, removing any excess detergent or residue.

Drying Process and Preservation:

To dry the tintype, place it on a clean, lint-free surface and allow it to air dry naturally. It is important to avoid using heat sources such as hairdryers, as they can cause damage to the emulsion. Once completely dry, store your tintype in a protective archival sleeve or mount to prevent any further damage or exposure to environmental factors.


In conclusion, removing tape adhesive off tintypes requires careful and gentle handling to ensure the preservation of these unique photographs. Begin by gathering the necessary materials and removing loose dirt and dust from the surface. Perform a patch test and then proceed to remove the adhesive residue using distilled water or a mild detergent. Stubborn residue may necessitate the use of a plastic spatula or dental pick, but caution must be exercised to avoid any damage. Rinse the tintype with distilled water and allow it to air dry before storing it in a protective sleeve or mount. By following these steps, you can effectively clean tape adhesive off tintypes while safeguarding their historical integrity and visual appeal.

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