How to open an envelope without damaging the seal

Written by louise balle
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You have sealed the envelope, written the address information, and applied the stamp. It is all ready to go, only you then realise that you forgot to add something to your envelope (like a check). Within a matter of seconds an envelope's seal dries and cannot be detached without ripping the envelope apart. There is an easy way to open the envelope without damaging the seal if it has dried.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Teapot and water
  • Work gloves
  • Butter knife
  • Tongs

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  1. 1

    Have your additional details or pages ready to be inserted into the envelope so that opening and closing the seal can be done quickly.

  2. 2

    Boil a pot of hot water in a teapot. Put on a pair of thick work gloves to protect yourself from the steam---it can cause serious burns. You can also use a pair of tongs

  3. 3

    Turn the heat down to low and carefully remove the top from the teapot so that the steam can escape.

  4. 4

    Hold the back seal of the envelope up about eight inches from the teapot (preferably with your tongs) and allow the steam to loosen the adhesive.

  5. 5

    Move the envelope back and forth above the steam to assure that the entire length of the seal is loosened. If the envelope is becoming a little too moist, move it away from the steam momentarily, and then proceed once it dries. Do this for about three minutes or until you can lift the seal easily with a butter knife.

  6. 6

    Remove the letter and make your changes to the contents or add the additional pages that you forgot to the envelope.

  7. 7

    Lick the envelope seal lightly once again and reseal it. Use double-sided tape or glue to reseal it if it does not stick securely on its own.

Tips and warnings

  • Purchase a box of envelopes that have "peel away" adhesive seals rather than the type that you have to lick first. These are sometimes easier to reopen in the event of a mistake.
  • Purposely opening or tampering with mail that is not addressed to you without consent from the addressee is a federal offence according to the U.S. Postal Service, and could lead to fines or even imprisonment.

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