Paper That's Been Folded a Very Long Time

Let’s say that I have a paper document that has been in storage, folded up, for a really long time - like, years. Let’s say further that it has artistic or historic value, and so I’d like to display it in a frame.

Is there a way to get the fold out? Perhaps ironing it (assuming there’s no paint or anything else that might be damaged by the ironing)?

I am thinking steaming but I don’t know what I am talking about. I am mostly bumping this because I found it interesting and subscribing to it.

Ironing should work if there is no heat-sensitive inks on it. If you really wanted it flat, go to a picture framer and ask them to put it in the vacuum press without any adhesive.
Either way, you may still end up with a crease where the fold was.

I do not now the difficulty/cost of true paper restoration, but digital restoration people I know have recently been receiving requests to just do high-res scan-and-prints on this kind job. You end up with an uncreased, aged-looking copy for display, and delay fixing the actual document.

I briefly worked as a conservation assistant, and here is how we would remove creases from the documents (or at least the low level ones they entrusted me with):

You’ll need

  • An iron, ideally a hand held one like this, but a household one will work fine
  • A strip of uncoated cardboard
  • Distilled/deionized water
  • A spray bottle (optional)

Place your document on a clean, flat surface.

Spray the cardboard strip with distilled water until it is evenly coated and damp (but not soaking or dripping!)

Place the strip of cardboard over the fold, and gently and slowly run the iron over it, careful not to apply too much pressure

Remove and inspect, your fold is hopefully neatly flattened.


  • Start the iron on its lowest temperature, you can always turn it up if its not hot enough
  • Never place the iron directly on the document
  • Never spray the document directly

Hope this helps!

When I interned in a conservation lab we had a paper humidifier - you left it in there, weighted, for a while, and let the fibers chill out. It would remove a curl and some folds with almost no risk at all.

I remember a couple of older threads on this topic:
Getting creases out of paper
What causes a crease