Wednesday, 12 October 2016

How To Open A Sealed Envelope

Opening a sealed envelope without tearing it can be a challenge, and due to differences in the type of glue, no one method will work for every letter. Work slowly and calmly, or you'll only end up with scraps of paper and regret.

Method 1. Using Leverage And Water

Try this first to reduce chance of damage. This method works best on envelopes of thick paper, or envelopes with poorly attached glue, but it's tough to predict whether it will work on a given envelope until you try it out.[1] Although it is not as effective as steaming the envelope open, it has a lower risk of damaging the envelope or its contents, which makes it a good place to start.


Find a tongue depressor or similar tool. Some envelopes — but not all of them — can be gently opened using nothing but a flat, curved wooden tool, such as a tongue depressor.
According to an old CIA manual, the tool should have a smooth edge, preferably with a curved, blunt tip.[2] These tools can be made by filing down a piece of wood or an ivory piano key blank, but any flat tool with the shape described should work.
Poke the tool under the corner flap. Look at the corner of the envelope flap for a small opening that hasn't been glued down. Carefully insert the tip of the tongue depressor or other tool into this opening. If the flap is completely sealed, carefully work a wire or other thin object into the corner to create an opening for the tongue depressor.

Be prepared to stop if the flap doesn't give way. Follow the steps below methodically, use slow, small movements. If the paper doesn't respond, or if you hear, feel, or see any tear in the paper, stop and move on to the next step.


Hold the envelope down and rock the tool up and down. Use your non-dominant hand to hold the envelope flat against the table so it doesn't move. Gently rock the tool in your other hand up and down, applying light pressure to the edge of the envelope flap. If the envelope responds, repeat this technique to unseal the rest of the flap. If it resists, try the next step.

Dampen a cotton swab slightly. Pour out a small amount of clean water, preferably distilled, into a bowl or cup. Dip a cotton swab into it, then press the cotton swab against blotting paper or a paper towel to remove excess water. Water can only be used in small amounts to weaken the paper and glue of the envelope flap; too much water can cause the ink to bleed and the paper to tear.
If you have opened the envelope partway, you can fold a piece of blotting paper and stick it under the flap to absorb any excess water.

Press the wet swab over the stuck flap. Focus only on the area that you're stuck on. Press down and wait a few seconds for the glue to soften before trying the same lifting technique with the tongue depressor. Repeat until the flap comes loose, or move on to the steam method if it remains stuck.
Never apply water to an area with ink or a stamp over it.
Some types of envelope adhesive are not water-soluble. If you notice no results at all, try the cutting method instead. If you notice minor results but not enough to get the envelope open, try steaming
Try other flaps if present. Some envelopes have multiple "built in" folds that have been sealed during manufacture. If these respond to this technique, you can sometimes open the envelope at the side instead of the top.
Whichever method you choose, the flap can be sealed again using tiny dabs of glue, spread over the flap with a toothpick. Some envelopes will become sticky again when the glue is slightly dampened

Method 2. Freezing An Envelope

Put the envelope in a plastic bag. This will protect it from moisture while it is in the freezer.

Put the envelope in the freezer for a couple hours. Some envelope glues, but not all of them, may become loose and tacky again when frozen.


Pry the envelope open. Use a blunt, smooth tool such as a tongue depressor or butter knife, or carefully use a penknife. The flap will not come free on its own, but if you're lucky, it will become loose enough to lift without tearing.

Seal the envelope again when finished. Some envelopes can be sealed again by dampening the glue on the flap with a damp cotton swab. Others may need to be sealed using inconspicuous dabs of glue.


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