Why Magnetic Albums Are Bad

I’ve been spending a lot of time on the Album Rescue Project, in which I’m removing someone else’s old photos from a 1920s-era paper album and putting them into a new, acid-free album. This past weekend, I undertook a similar project using some of my own photos from a much more recent, but just as damaging environment.

About seven years ago, before I really got into scrapbooking and learned about photo-safe materials, I decided to compile photos from my younger years that were in various sources into one album. I simply went to Michael’s and purchased a standard photo album with magnetic pages.

Big mistake.

Exhibit A: Page 1. After only a few years, the adhesive on these pages is yellowing and that damage is creeping towards the photos.

These days I know better, of course, but I only recently had the chance to dismantle that album and rescue the photos. I was shocked to see how much the pages in the album had been altered in only a few years. Notice the yellowing around the edges? That yellowing doesn’t just stay on the page — it can affect your photos too. Imagine how bad magnetic albums are that have been sitting around for 20 or 30 years.

The damage is quite pervasive -- every page is affected.

Magnetic albums aren’t magnetic at all. The pages have adhesive on them. The adhesive is acidic (aka very bad for photos). It also makes the photos very difficult to remove in many cases, which can cause curling or tearing if you do succeed in removing them.

View of the yellowing adhesive after removal of the photos.

I really have no idea why these albums are still on the market. Do yourself a favor — if you have any photos that you care about in magnetic albums (and let’s face it, if you put them in an album to begin with, then you care about them), take a few minutes to remove the photos from those albums as carefully as you can. Find an acid-free, photo-safe container in which to store them until you can find a better permanent environment to house them. Creative Memories, for which I am a consultant, has several solutions for this purpose. Please contact me if you’d like to learn more about their available options.

9 thoughts on “Why Magnetic Albums Are Bad

  1. I feel your pain. I just finished disassembling yet another of my own “magnetic” albums last week. This one was from the 1970s and the photos had literally become one with the page. With the help of one of those mini spatulas, I was able to get through it and remove the pictures with almost no damage.

    Those albums should be outlawed!

  2. Judi says:

    I would like an option that does not involve printing a permanent book. I want the creative freedom to use photos of differing sizes and orientations and also be able to remove the photos to change the book. I have not found a product like this.

  3. Tara says:

    I am researching the long-term effects of magnetic photo albums but all I’m finding is how to remove the photos from them. I am removing all my old photos from this type of album and want to put them in a scrapbook… do you happen to know if I need to make new prints or if the originals will be okay once I remove them from the harmful pages? Thanks so much 🙂

    • Hi Tara. I think it should be okay to use the removed photos, but maybe try to avoid having them overlap/touch each other and other photos in the new album to be safe.

      • edisonkids says:

        Okay, thank you so much for your quick reply and your thoughts!! I am going to go work on that now 🙂

  4. Cristina says:

    Hi! I’m doing this reaserch about Preserving Family Photographies and Albums, but I can’t find any information about the composition of the glue of “magnetic” albums. I supose it may be plastic because it becames acid over time (PVC, mabye?), but this could happen also with other kind of adhesives… Do you happen to know that?

    Thank you so much and regards from Barcelona 🙂

    • baysideresearch says:

      Unfortunately I don’t know the composition, but I believe it to be acidic, resulting in brittle and damaged photos at an accelerated rate. Thanks for commenting!

  5. Alan Albro says:

    Doing a major project of my own with cherished photos of mine from the ’70s. I am scanning them and then putting them in new albums. Some of the old albums were magnetic. What a disaster. As another person stated these types of albums should be outlawed. My late wife used the magnetic albums on some of the photos and I am sure she had no idea what a hassle this style of album would cause in years to come.

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