How to Store Photos Without Them Turning Yellow

Written by Mark Rogers

If you’ve ever seen an old photo, you’ve likely noticed the distinct yellow tinge to the print. That’s not necessarily part of the old print making process; the discoloration could be a result of the way the photo was displayed or stored over time.

Photos and other artwork can become discolored overtime due to sun exposure, but also because of acid in the printing, framing and storage materials. This discoloration often takes on a yellow or brown look synonymous with “old” photos. In our previous blog post, What Kind of Picture Frame Prevents Yellowing, we discuss the reason discoloration happens and how to properly display your images to prevent yellowing. But what if you want to store, instead of display, your photos?

Storing Photos in a Photo Album

Photo albums are the perfect way to store photos while still keeping them accessible for viewing. To protect photos in a photo album from becoming discolored, it’s important to choose the right photo album and mounting materials.

Be sure you choose a photo album that has acid-free or preservation-quality pages. Regular paper or even cotton pages contain wood pulp (lignin) that can become acidic overtime. Opting for an album with treated pages ensure this won’t happen.

The pages alone are not enough to protect your photos, however. You also need to use archival quality mounting materials. Whether you prefer sticky photo tabs that mount behind the print or photo corners that hold the print in place, be sure you purchase a product that says “acid-free,” “archival,” “preservation,” or “museum-quality.” Lineco is a popular manufacturer of archival-quality art and photo mounting supplies.

To take protection to the next level, you can slide each photo into an acid-free clear bag before putting it into the photo album or place a piece of acid-free tissue paper between each page. If the tissue paper is disturbed when you view the album, take a moment to ensure all the sheets are in the proper place before putting the album away.

Photos stored in albums are exposed to less light (another trigger for discoloration), but that doesn’t mean they’re immune to the harmful effects of naturally occurring acid. That’s why it’s important to pay careful attention to the supplies you use. Choosing the right supplies will help preserve your memories for years to come.

Storing Photos in a Box

Many of us are guilty of storing old family photos in shoe boxes. Even “photo storage boxes” sold at craft stores are often simply decorative cardboard boxes. Just like all non-archival paper, this cardboard is prone to producing photo-farming acid over time.

To better protect your photos and prevent yellowing, store them in a museum-quality storage box. The archival storage boxes carried by Frame Destination are made of acid-free buffered board and have metal corners (rather than glued corners) to ensure adhesives don’t harm the photos or any other art or paper collectibles you’re storing. These boxes are available in a variety of sizes to help your properly store all your photos and prints.

Before packing away your prints, take photos out of any paper envelopes they’re in and place them between sheets of acid-free tissue paper or in acid-free plastic sleeves for further protection.

If you inherit or come across family photo collections or photo albums, take the time to move them to a new album or storage box to ensure they aren’t damaged further. Archival-quality photo mounting and storage supplies aren’t expensive, but can help preserve your precious memories and photo collections overtime – without the unsightly yellowing.

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