Why Acid-Free in Scrapbooking?

iStock_000009370375XSmallWhen scrapbooking your family history, most people know that they should use acid free materials, but why? What does that even mean?

Now, most papers are acid free, but it used to be different. In the early 1900s, it was realized that the chemicals in the papers used were going to eventually break down important documents and photos, and cause yellowing and deterioration over time. This became a concern, and changes were made. Now, most papers are acid free.

However, it is important when scrapbooking that any products you use that come in contact with your photos are acid-free. Luckily, most scrapbooking products are labeled as such. You need to take this into consideration when buying adhesive, like glue sticks, and photo corners. Pens, markers, and chalk should also be acid-free. Acid-Free means a pH level of 7 or higher. The label pH is just a scientific scale to measure the amount of acid in something. If you have a low pH, then that means a higher level of acid.

Acid-Free papers are made to last at least 100 years. This is important when thinking about scrapbooking. While this may seem like a ridiculously long time, if you are like me, you will be passing your scrapbooks on to future generations. You want your scrapbooks to last as long as possible.

You can buy 100% acid free paper at archival supply stores. The life expectancy of totally acid free papers is longer than the 100 years. If you are unsure about the papers you have and their pH value, you can purchase pens that detect acid. This might be a good investment when going through old photo albums, or scrapbooks that were passed down to you. If you detect that the pH level is too low in an album that was handed down through a previous generation, it might be time to think about moving those pictures/memorabilia to a new acid-free location.

Many people think that scrapbooking papers and supplies are overpriced. However, this is one of the reasons for the higher cost. Most scrapbooking papers are “archival safe” or “acid-free” and the cost of producing these papers is higher. That is why you will pay a little more for paper when you scrapbook.

But, it is worth the increased cost. The peace of mind to know that your pictures are safe for at least 100 years, if not more, far outweighs the extra cost you will pay to get acid free materials.

Meredith Ethington is the author of this blog. To learn more about Meredith and her history with Scrapbooking and Genealogy go here.

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