Standing water over rippled sand.

The Rippling of 1990s-Era Clear Film

I have encountered clear film impacting photos and negatives several times in recent months, working with client materials and with my own. If you have albums and negatives from the 1990s, make time to examine them. Take action now if clear film from that decade is beginning to ripple and adhere to your negatives and prints.

Clear film in albums

A client had a 1990s-era photo album with the clear film of the page sleeves stuck to her prints. I used a hair dryer to peel the film away from the photos in this album.

A turtle made from sand on a beach.

This sand turtle print is stuck to clear film from an album.

I have many of these same style albums, where I recorded trip details along with the prints.

A 1990s-era photo album, open to four prints. The album has two binder rings and a place between the photos for text to be added.

The clear film of these album sleeves isn’t sticking to the prints yet, but it will eventually. I am removing the prints before it becomes a problem.

I am working to remove everything from such albums, digitize the negatives, create photo books to capture the story, and retain the prints & negatives in archival-quality boxes. I’ll plan to peruse the memories with the books instead of the prints.

A spread featuring the back (L) and front (R) covers of an Alaska photo book.

The back (L) and front (R) covers of a photo book for a trip to Alaska and Vancouver.

Photo safe?

I discovered a panoramic album with half of my photos just beginning to stick to the clear film. Interestingly, the back of this album says, “Photo Safe – Acid and PVC Emission Free.” I removed all panoramic photos from this album once I discovered they were beginning to become compromised. I digitized the negatives and will store the prints and negatives in the archival-quality boxes.

Kodak Premium Processing

As I work to digitize negatives from 1990s-era trips, I am noticing that many negative strips have white “Kodak Premium Processing” tabs on them, as well as a clear protective film on both sides of the negatives. While the film on my negatives was not beginning to stick, I saw several comments in various forums where individuals had experienced the clear film ahering to the negatives, so I am removing and discarding the tabs and the clear film before I scan each negative strip. Peeling carefully, the white tab strip and the two pieces of clear film come off in three separate pieces. The negatives will be stored in archival negative file folders.

Matte versus glossy prints

I have observed that photos printed with a matte finish do not stick to the clear film the way glossy photos do. I always printed glossy, and although I don’t print images much anymore, I plan to print matte from this point forward.

Use gloves

Be sure to use gloves when handling film and prints so that you don’t transfer fingerprints and oils. Most sites recommend white cotton gloves, but I find it hard to work with those on; I prefer Nitrile disposable gloves.

Don’t delay

Check all of your albums from the 1990s; if clear film is beginning to adhere to your prints or negatives, remove them immediately. Consider removing items even if they are not yet sticking, especially if the clear film is the type shown in these images, as it will likely begin to adhere at some point. Even if you don’t have time to select a new, long-term storage solution, do make it a priority to:

  • remove the prints or negatives
  • preserve their order and any corresponding notes
  • dispose of any albums with page sleeves like those shown here

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