Low-cost Plastic Sleeves for Photo Storage

plastic sleevesDear Donia,
What low-cost plastic sleeves can be used to store photos?

Q. Dear Donia,

A large amount of our photographs are stored in paper envelopes, but we are in the process of transferring them to plastic sleeves. I was thinking of using ZipLoc freezer bags for sleeves for some of the smaller photos. Our budget is tight, and ordering proper sleeves for smaller photos may not be something that we can do. What do you think? I understand that ZipLoc bags are made of polyethylene. Thanks, Kellie

A. Dear Kellie,

What a great question and one that does not have an easy answer from what I can find. ZipLoc bags are indeed low-density polyethylene. The drawback is that they have an inner coating of Butylated Hydroxy Toluene which will damage the photographs if they are stored in there long term.

There are a couple of options that are low-cost and will depend on how many bags you need. If you only need a few, Gaylord has 2 mil polyethylene postcard sleeves (4x6) that are reasonably priced and are stable enough for the long-term storage of photographs. One hundred sleeves cost $16.80, but it is the best option for your photographs.

If this is beyond your budget, you can try these ZipLoc style bags from Uline

Of the bags that you can find in bulk (4x6 bags cost $21/1000), these appear to be the best option as they are:

  • LDPE (Low-Density Polyethylene);
  • Sulfur free;
  • Amine and Silicone-free;
  • Latex-free;
  • BHT free (Butylated Hydroxy Toluene);
  • Chlorine-free, and;
  •  PVC free

I hope one of these two options is acceptable to your budget. Over time, the grocery store ZipLoc bags themselves will turn yellow and get sticky so they are not the best option for the  long-term.