Wednesday, 12 October 2016

How To Steam Open An Envelope

Steaming open an envelope is one of the oldest tricks in the book. It's really easy, and, if done carefully, an envelope can be opened and re-sealed with a minimum of fuss. But don't use this trick to break into somebody else's post, that is a felony. There are less dubious reasons you may need to steam open an envelope, however. Perhaps you have envelopes which have become stuck tight, or you just realised you were had gotten letters or card mixed up. There are a number of ways to open an envelope so that it can be re-sealed and you can keep your mistakes hidden.

Method 1. Steaming It Open Over A Stove

1. Put a pot of water on to boil. You don't really need much water, but try to put an inch-and-a-half in the bottom of the pot, and put it on the heat. If you use too much water, it will take forever to boil, but don't use too little, or it'll evaporate before you can open the envelope. As you wait for the water to boil get ready with your envelope.

2. Hold the envelope over the boiling water. With the side of the envelope with the opening flap facing down towards the water, find a spot where you can gently ease your thumb under the flap. A good spot is at the very end of either side of the flap, because some envelopes don't have any glue there.

3. Apply constant light pressure on the flap. Be gentle, you don't want to tear the paper. Once the steam saturates the envelope (it will feel hot, damp and limp), the glue will melt, and the envelope will open.
Don't hold the paper in the steam for too long. You'll get it all soggy and give the game away. Hold the envelope over the steam for about 15 seconds, then start trying to open it, returning to the steam if it is still stuck.
Consider using a skewer instead of your thumb or finger to peel the flap up. It allows for more precise control and is especially effective if you place the skewer vertically underneath the flap at one end and twirl it along the length of the flap.
Method 2. Steaming It open With A Kettle

1. Put the kettle on to boil with plenty of water. Instead of using a stove, you can use a kettle. This technique tends to create a greater quantity of steam that is hotter. It also avoids the possibility of scorching the edges of your envelope if you have a gas stove.

2. Hold the envelope a little away from the spout. Don’t hold it too close and try to get an even distribution of steam across the seal. You can place a spoon into the spout of the kettle to try to have control over the direction of the exiting steam.  If it looks like it is getting too wet, move it away and be patient, you don’t want to have wrinkles give the game away.
As the steam from a kettle is more intense, it might be a good idea to wear an oven glove or something similar to protect the hand holding the envelope.
3. Ease open the envelope. Wait for a few seconds after removing it from the steam and then, in much the same way as with the stove method, gently slide a flat blade under the seal to open and release it. Be very careful not to tear it, and if it doesn’t come easily give it a little more time in the steam and try again.

Method 3. Using An Iron

1. Put some water in your iron and plug it in. An alternative way to steam open an envelope, with less steam, is to use your clothes iron. It works in a similar way, but can be less messy and easier than using a kettle or a stove. Simply heat up your iron as if you were ironing some shirts and get your sealed envelope ready.

2. Put the envelope on a suitable surface. Check the surface is clean with nothing that might mark the envelope. Place your envelope on a surface that will not burn or scorch under a heated iron, an ironing board is ideal. Be sure that you have the side of the envelope with the opening flap and seal facing up towards the iron.

3. Iron your letter. With the iron on a medium-low temperature, pass it over the envelope backwards and forwards gently pressing down. The heat from the iron will melt the adhesive that holds the envelope's sealing flap down. If the iron temperature is high the glue will melt quicker, but you risk burning or scorching the envelope, so don’t rush it.

4. Using a flat blade, break the seal. As with the other steaming techniques, once the glue has been melted you can carefully slide a dull knife under the flap and ease the envelope open. It’s best not to use a sharper knife as there is a greater risk of you tearing or damaging the envelope. As always, don’t force it open if it is still sticking, instead give it some more time in the heat.

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