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Remove Acid Burns


Nov 14, 2002
Here is the issue, a good friend of ours collects older prints and as you can imagine they often have acid burns. Do you have any ideas that "might work" on acid burns or even some water damage? These are personal prints so trial and error is ok by me. We are just looking for some things to try at home on the smaller marks.

Thank you!
These discolorations are probably caused by
peroxides more than acids and their removal is
problematic, since it further changes the chemistry of the paper. The safest thing to do
is to mat over them. If the future has a better
idea, they can be treated then.

What happens if you use bleach or hydrogen peroxide on paper???

I did this on one of my own prints last year to remove some spot stains and it did a good job...what'll it look like next year??? I'm sure this was not a proper conservator's practice, but wanted to experiment.

Dave Makielski



"The day you stop learning is the day you sit up and hit your head on the coffin cover."

Hugh's idea of matting out the damage is a good one. Easy, safe, doesn't affect value.

Jo, the peroxides are emitted by non-cellulostic materials in the paper, or contact materials, as they degrade. As a funny story, an air quality specialist was testing the quality of the air in the UBC library. They had been having problems with peroxide and other damage to their microfilm collection. The results showed very high levels of all sorts of pollutants, and he said something to the effect that there must be a paper pulp mill nearby. Nooooooo, the outside air is pretty good at the University. The high pollution levels were caused by all the deteriorating books etc. within the library. Talk about the fifth column!

Conservation treatment for stains can involve bleaches, but lately I've been having good luck with chelating agents like EDTA, which is gentler than bleaching. This supposes the piece can take some water treatment of course.

Trying to treat your own prints might work, something like trying to treat your own physical ailments with out the help and direction of a "health professional". Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. Simple conservation procedures can certainly be done by non-conservators. More complicated things like stain reduction is (in my admittedly biased but nevertheless correct opinion ;) ) best left to those who are trained to deal with them. And conservators certainly don't know how to fix everything either. When in doubt, don't.

I have done some stain reduction testing on some prints I had that were well past the point of no return just so I could see what the process was like. I did have some very good sucsess. But I did have some very bad failures as well. I would have to side with Rebecca on this one. There's only so far a hobyist should go into any professional matter. And when you have the chance of ruining art I think that's the point to go to a professional.