For consumers, keeping receipts for small purchases may not make a lot of sense. For business owners, on the other hand, filing sales receipts can save tons of money and time down the road.
Whether you’re an entrepreneur or a consumer, holding onto receipts is vital for reasons other than taxes: claim rebates, protection against unauthorized charges, extended warranty, or item returns. But as you know, texts on thermal paper receipts fade. And when they do, it could mean a problem, particularly if it involves the tax man.
Why Receipts Fade
Receipts are typically printed on thermal paper, a chemically coated paper that produces text and image when heat is applied to its surface. Since this kind of paper is susceptible to heat and UV light, extended exposure to these elements will ultimately cause gradual fading. If you are in the mood for experimenting, place a receipt that you don’t need under a hot iron for about 10 seconds. The heat from the iron will change the color of paper to black. Oil and humidity are also factors to blame.
Now if you’re wondering why the use of thermal paper is so widespread despite this massive disadvantage, it’s because they are very low cost and the equipment used to print it is low maintenance, since it doesn’t need ink or ribbon cartridges.
But, don’t worry. Even if your thermal receipts fade, there are ways you can restore them.
How to Restore Faded Receipts
Restoring a faded thermal paper is quite simple. Here are two ways to do so.
1 – Scan and digitally restore it.
Assuming that the paper’s surface is still white (not yellowish, brownish or blackish), scan the receipt just as you would a colored photo. Open the image in a photo editing software, like Adobe Photoshop, and make a negative of it by adjusting certain image settings. You should find these options in the tools provided in the software.
2 – Apply heat to it.
If you’re no Photoshop genius, you can try restoring it the old-fashioned way: by gently applying heat to the thermal paper.
Set your hair dryer on medium and then blow hot air directly towards the receipt until the text becomes visible. You can also heat the receipt using a light bulb if you don’t own a hair dryer.
Regardless of the heat source, never try to apply heat on the front as this will cause the whole thing to turn black. Keep the source of heat a few inches away from the BACK of the receipt and make sure to pay close attention to whether the heat is reaching the faded paper or not.
Also, you may want to wash your hands or wear protective gloves before handling the receipts. As mentioned, water and oil (the natural oil produced by the skin included) can contribute to fading. With oily or sweaty hands, you might get distorted text and images, rendering your efforts to restore the faded receipts useless.
3 – A great mobile APP to recover the faded receipt paper
The easiest way is to capture a photo of the receipt using the Paperistic app. Choose ‘Readable’ or ‘Monochrome’ filter to adjust the color levels and darken the text to make it legible. Paperistic always stores the original photo as-is, so that the image isn’t tied to one filter (That is, filters can be changed on the fly). The app is free for Android and iPhone users. Alternatively, you can scan or photograph the receipt and adjust contrast and other settings with an image editing software such as Adobe Photoshop to make the text readable. Here’s a video tutorial.
Have you tried restoring old thermal paper with these methods? What other methods do you know? Share them in the comments.