Photo of a hand holding a burning photo
Photo of a hand holding a burning photo
Home /DIY / How to Destroy Old Family Photos No One Wants

How to Destroy Old Family Photos No One Wants

By Kellie Hillis

If you’re a shutterbug or you just love photographs, it’s easy to “over-collect.” Over the years you may collect a few photos here and there, then one day you turn around and it seems your collection has grown overnight. Now you have a ton of photos and the clutter is just too much.


Maybe it's time to get rid of some pictures.


There are lots of reasons why a person may want to get rid of photos. You could be downsizing and not have enough space. Someone may be trying to get organized and having a bunch of pictures doesn’t really fit into the plan. You may have photos that have been damaged or haven’t aged well. And then there’s the “breakup picture purge.” A relationship ends and while you’re deleting their number from your phone, you’re tossing their pictures as well.


The truth is, there are times when you simply have to get rid of photos for whatever reason. Here’s how you can do it.

Digitize Before You Destroy

The first step is the gather all of your old photographs and digitize them. It can be really tough to just throw away pictures of family members or good times. But when you are faced with the clutter of printed photos everywhere, digital photos can be easily managed and shared while helping you to declutter your space.


At Legacybox we offer photo scanning services and can convert your printed photos to digital quickly and easily. You just order one of our kits and when it arrives, fill it with your photo prints and send it back to us. We will scan your photos and convert them to digital files that can be shared via email, social media, and more. They can also be printed or used to create gifts, family heirlooms, and keepsakes.


Best of all, you can store your digital photos on the cloud, a thumb drive, your computer, or a CD. They are all contained in the storage format of your choosing with no print photos scattered about. We make it easy to keep your most treasured moments in a format that won’t fade, rip, or get damaged. They will always be as perfect as they were the day they were scanned.


Consider Getting Creative

Now before you just toss all of your old photos and send them to the landfill, you might want to consider tapping into your creativity and finding a fun and imaginative way to use your old photos.

We have a few fun suggestions, but the possibilities are endless! Go ahead, have some fun!

  • Make a scrapbook with your photos. Add mementos and write your own narrative as well. It makes a great gift.
  • Create a family tree. Pictures can bring your family tree to life, plus it’s fun to see where you came from.
  • Photo albums help keep all your photos organized. You can find pretty new ones or use old photo albums for a vintage feel.
  • Make greeting cards from old photos. Need a birthday card? No problem! Use one of your photos on some card stock, add some decoration and a lovely sentiment and you’re in business.
  • Photo Books. Make photo books, shadow boxes or attractive photo boxes.
  • Art projects can be a fun way to use old photos. Create beautiful art with the photos themselves or put them on items like trays or plaques.
  • Upcycle. Recycle your photos into a fun craft project for yourself or the kids.
  • Sell Them. If your photo collection has some pieces that would be of interest to the public, you might try selling them. You might be able to make a little money while decluttering your space.
  • Donate Them. If you have photos that have historical importance or you have famous relatives, you may want to donate them to a historical society or your town’s history collection.


4 Ways to Destroy Old Photos You Don’t Want

Sometimes it is necessary to destroy your old photos. They may be badly damaged or have been exposed to toxic chemicals. You may need to destroy them to protect the privacy of someone or you don’t need the print copies anymore. Whatever the case, there are several ways that you can dispose of the pics you no longer want.


One word of warning though, make absolutely sure that you will never want those pictures again because once they are gone, they are gone. In some cases, a better option may be to digitize the photos and keep them on an external hard drive or a CD that you can put away, then destroy the print copies.


Put them in the Trash Can

Photos can go to the landfill so putting them in your regular trash can is not a problem. However, older family photos should not go into the recycling bin because they are not recyclable. Some newer photos might be, but the older ones aren’t.


Before you throw your photos in the trash though, make sure that there isn’t anything sensitive in them. Photos can be recovered, even after they have been thrown away and you don’t want sensitive or embarrassing subject matter to get into the wrong hands. It is so easy for someone to get ahold of your discarded photos and put them on the internet or circulate them on social media which is something you probably don’t want.


Also, some people feel that it is disrespectful to throw photos away, especially those of family and friends. If that’s you, that’s OK too. But if you have a lot you may want to consider digitizing them.


Burn Them

Burning your old photos may seem extreme, but if you want to make absolutely certain that no one will ever get their hands on them, this is the way to do it. Most photographs can be burned, but you should not inhale the smoke from them. Glossy photos can be especially harmful when burned because they contain toxic chemicals that are released when burned so you should wear a mask to protect your airway from any dangerous fumes.


If you are going to burn your photos, don’t do it in your oven or home fireplace. It can release harmful fumes into your home and hurt you, your children, your family, and your pets. Burning them outdoors is a better option, in a fire pit or something similar. Make sure you are in a well-ventilated space and wear the appropriate protective equipment to prevent breathing in toxic fumes and avoid burns.


Shred or Blend Them

Using a shredder to get rid of photos is another effective way to ensure they cannot be recovered. A thrift store blender will also do the trick. Both methods will destroy the images, ripping the picture into tiny pieces.


Once you have effectively shredded your photos just throw out the remains. There are no toxic fumes or stinky smoke to contend with and clean-up is super easy. The best part though is that it keeps your sensitive information private and if you have photos of people who might not want their image getting out, you protect their privacy too.


Deface them With Paint

If burning, shredding, or throwing them in the trash just won’t work for you, you can deface the pictures before you toss them. Use black paint to cover people’s faces and information then let it dry before you discard it. You don’t need any fancy paint, leftover paint in your garage will work, or you can pick up some cheap craft paint from a craft store, the dollar store, or even Amazon. Really, just about anything will work.


The only thing you need to make sure of is that it is dark enough and thick enough to effectively cover what you need to be covered. But if you have that, then you’re in business. The photograph does go into your regular waste disposal so it will still go into the landfill, but the information or image on it will be obscured.

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Whether you are destroying old photos because you have too much clutter in your space or you are blotting out an ex, there are ways you can handle the task with minimal waste and little effort. Just remember to scan your photos first so you will have digital copies because once they’re gone, they’re gone.

Getting rid of photos? Check out Legacy Box’s options for digitizing your old photos.

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