LinkConnector Validation

A Genealogist In The Archives: Removing Metal Staples, Paper Clips and Rubber Bands from Genealogy Records

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Removing Metal Staples, Paper Clips and Rubber Bands from Genealogy Records

Working in an archive on a daily basis, there is a lot of time spent removing staples, metal paper clips and rubber bands from documents. Why do archivists remove these items from documents? Because they cause damage and sometimes so bad that it can not be repaired.

  • Staples: A stapler is a common office supply that every genealogist has and uses. Using staples to fasten multiple pages of documents together has been in use since 1877 when Henry R. Heyl filed the first patent for the stapler. The metal staples, however, can cause damage to genealogical records. The staples will rust and leave stains on documents and that rust can eat away at the paper. It is highly recommended that all genealogists remove all staples from their documents, ephemera and memorabilia. In place of staples, use plastic paper clips.

    Rusty Staple

    • Metal Paper Clips: Another hazard to genealogy records are metal paper clips. Many of our ancestor's records are held together with metal paper clips. The metal will rust over time and stain the documents in such a way that can not be repaired. If the metal paper clips have been attached to the documents for a long time, they may be even be stuck to the documents. Remove all metal paper clips very carefully and replace them with the recommended plastic paper clips. 

      Rusty Metal Paper Clip

      • Rubber Bands: These types of fasteners are not used near as much as staples or metal paper clips but they can be just as destructive, if not more. Rubber bands that are wrapped around stacks of documents, old letters or photographs is a disaster waiting to happen. Over time, rubber bands will deteriorate and actually rot. They will stick to whatever they are touching and cause damage. Also, if rubber bands are wound tightly around a stack of old letters the pressure can cause damage to the letters. Do not use rubber bands under any circumstances. If something is to be wrapped around a stack of documents, old letters or photographs, use soft string or yarn loosely around the stack. Better yet, put the items in an archival box, folder or envelope.

        Rubber Band Stuck to Document

        A lot of time is spent on researching and collecting records on our ancestors. Using items like staples, metal paper clips and rubber bands that can cause damage to these records needs to be avoided at all costs. Future generations will be grateful for the efforts made to preserve those family records.



        Legacy Family Tree QuickGuide

        "Preserving Old Family Letters: Tips from an Archivist"


        1. I have found straight pins holding documents together, also. Can you get rid of the rust without removing the area around it?

          1. Straight pins were very popular to use for holding documents together. We have found a lot of them in the documents we get in the archives. To remove the rust stains they leave behind, I would suggest that you get a Dry Chemical Sponge and run the sponge over the spot. It may not take it out completely but it will help. Here is a link to the sponge on Amazon:

        2. I have seen the damage which staples, paper clips and rubber bands do to historical documents, such as Land Deeds and Wills. It would be wise to educate employees in the legal field who prepare these important documents.

          1. I so wish we could get those in the legal profession to come around to our thinking in the archives/records preservation world and those in other fields to do the same. Maybe in time it can be accomplished. Thank You for reading my blog!