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What It Means To Be Acid and Lignin Free

Majority of Scrapbookers have heard the term “acid and lignin free”, but what does this really mean, and why does it matter?

PH Scale

Acid free materials have a pH balance of 7.0 or higher. The pH scale measures how acidic or basic a substance is. The scale runs from 0 to 14, with 7 being neutral. Anything with a pH less than 7 is considered acidic, and anything over 7 is considered basic. Lignin is a natural occurring bonding element in plants that holds the wood fiber together. While lignin is not an acid, it does give off acids as it deteriorates. Therefore if you have a paper that is only acid free, but still contains lignin, it will become acidic over time.

Yellowed Newspapers

So why does all this matter? Simply put, acid and lignin cause paper to deteriorate. A good example of this is newspaper. You will notice that after only a couple of days, newspaper begins to turn yellow and brittle. The same will happen to your scrapbook and photographs over time if the proper materials are not used. These materials do not only include paper… adhesives, pens, markers, stickers, and anything else that comes into contact with your photographs must be acid and lignin free.

PH Tester Pen

Do not automatically assume that because an item it purchased in the “scrapbook” section that it is photo-safe. If it does not say “photo safe”, “acid-free” or “archival safe”, assume that it is not. A pH pen can be purchased to test the acidity of a product if you are not sure.

Archival Mist

So what do you do if you have a newspaper clipping, report card, or other unsafe memorabilia you want to include in your scrapbook? You can purchase a spray called “Archival Mist” that will neutralize the acids, and create an alkaline buffer that will protect the documents and other items on your page. If you do not want to take this route, you can photocopy the document onto acid/lignin free paper and use the copy on your page. Using a copy of the document has an additional benefit, in that you do not have to worry about cropping it wrong, gluing it in the wrong place, or regret adhering the original to your scrapbook. As long as you remember to use acid and lignin free materials when creating your scrapbook, you can’t go wrong. Use your imagination, have fun and get scrapbooking!