Scrapbooking - What does ACID FREE mean?

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The terms Scrapbooking and Acid Free are synonymous these days but what does the term Acid Free actually mean?

Acid Free is a term given to paper (and other Scrapbooking products) and tells us that they are PH Neutral.  Remember back in Science class and items were PH tested with litmus paper or dye. Some items were acids (think vinegar), some items were bases (think ammonia) and things like water were neutral.  This is a measure of PH.

Why is Acid Free important? The acid in paper or glue can migrate over time to other objects that they touch, such as photos, and can damage them permanently.  Keeping the acid away will help your photos last longer (as will keeping fingers away!).

What should be Acid Free?  Really anything that touches your photos like the paper and glue under them or the plastic protectors that are used over them.   But if you want your Scrapbook creations themselves to last for generations (not just the photos) then all of the paper, glue, stickers etc should be acid free too.  The acid in paper (along with lignin and sunlight) will help cause it to discolour over time.

Is it important? Yes and no.  It really depends on your perspective.  If I had some photos of my parents or grandparents that were old and faded I would definitely ensure everything was acid free to try and preserve them as long as possible.  But photos from my child's latest birthday party that are digital and I can make another copy any time (or are copies themselves) I wouldn’t consider as important.

Are other things important?  Yes.  Fingerprints are the biggest problem!  The best thing to do is keep your photos where they will be touched the least.  But this also applies to Scrapbooking paper!  Where people have touched the paper is where it will age first.  The environment is also important.  Sunlight will fade things over time and extremes of heat or humidity will also cause long-term problems.  Next time you are at the Museum, take note of how they preserve old photos!

But it's all about perspective.  Decide what is important to you and your family and use that as a guide.  Most importantly of all enjoy your Scrapbooking!
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