Removing postal stamp in a steam bath

All right. So you have an envelope with a stamp.

How come? Well, there still are people who are mailing ordinary letters, especially for Christmas.

But then it sometimes happens, that you, for example, spoil an envelope with a stamp already glued to it (that’s why it should be the last operation you ever do, putting on the stamp).

You want that stamp back, because it costs money. But how to tear it off the envelope without destroying it in the process?

Let’s use steam!

The described procedure results  in a recovered stamp and a destroyed envelope. Follow it at your own risk:

  • Switch on your electric kettle (or put a kettle of water on your oven, or fire up some other household source of steady supply of steam)
  • While your kettle is heating up, cut the sides of the envelope and spread it flat.
  • When water in the kettle starts to boil generating massive plume of steam, flip open the lid to prevent automatic switch-off.
  • Place the envelope over the kettle in the steam with its BACK side (former inner side) to the kettle, observe some distance so as not to let droplets of boiling water touch it.
  • Hold the envelope in the position until paper of the envelope beneath the stamp becomes not just visibly moist, but saturated with water (turns grey).
  • Place the envelope on a flat surface (kitchen table covered with paper towel, for example), and very, very carefully lift the stamp by its corner, helping with the tip of a knife if necessary.

If everything goes as expected, the stamp will not just peel off, but sooner glide off the envelope on its thin layer of liquefied glue without any effort.

Notes:

  • Danger! The steam is VERY hot! Even very short exposure to it may result in painful scolding. If you come in contact with either hot steam or boiling water, always place the affected area immediately(!) under a stream of cold water and let it cool for up to several minutes (not just few seconds). If you don’t do it, the thermal energy accumulated in your tissues will slowly cook your cells. Despite “common knowledge” don’t apply cream or similar substance, as it prevents cooling and healing. If affected area is extensive, see a doctor without delay!
  • Some electric kettles disable their thermal switch when you flip the lid open as described above. This lets the kettle generate steady flow of hot steam even after water has reached its boiling point. If your kettle behaves differently, find another appropriate source of stream.
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