Those Darn Sticky Cards!

–or–

How To Unstick a Stuck Tarot or Oracle Deck

Our Giveaway has ended and the winner will be chosen tomorrow, but the expansion doesn’t end at Red Feather. Today’s blog post focuses on an important question that is often posed by those who use cards and decks for divination and entertainment: What to do with a deck of cards that are stuck together?

As a tarot reader of more years than I’d care to enter into the public record, I’ve run into just about every divinatory deck malfunction or inconvenience imaginable. But the most annoying (and constant) inconvenience is a sticky deck.

Now, there are many reasons that our tarot and oracle decks stick together. Decks can stick together most often because of:

  • Environmental humidity or extreme temperature in the region where you live
  • Care of the deck as it was delivered to you
  • Foil or another specialized edging
  • Gummy or glossy coating on cards from the manufacturing process
  • Oil on your hands as you’ve handled them (I’ve especially noticed this to be a problem when I or a client are using hand creams liberally or regularly running our hands through our hair)
  • Spilling something on the deck

Each of these requires a different method to unstick! A general rule of thumb is:

  • Stuck with gum or specialized edging?—treat with cold
  • Stuck due to gloss or cold temperature?—treat with heat
  • Stuck with bodily oils or from spilling something on the deck?—treat with corn starch or a magician’s fanning powder (this is also a great thing to just generally do for any deck you are going to be using regularly in order to extend its life and ease of use)
  • Traumatic Deck Event? —treat with a paper towel and goo gone. A particularly sticky spill (my son once dropped one of my decks in a pool of honey!) can require you to delicately wipe the stuck portions individually with a paper towel and goo gone.

**If you’re dealing with a new deck that sticks together fresh from the box, always try this first:

Turn the cards over (put your hand flat and push your fingers together) and slap the back of the outermost card—HARD. This might sound silly, but it often works. The impact separates your new deck without any damage. I call this the “old deck slap.”

If the “old deck slap” method doesn’t work (and it only works about 40% of the time with a sticky new deck), you have a few methods to try. In order to know which is the optimal method for your situation, you must first figure out WHY your deck is stuck.

If the problem is humidity in the region of the world you live in, take your deck of cards and stick them in the refrigerator with a new box of baking soda sitting directly next to the deck. (Make sure the deck isn’t sitting on or near anything moist in the fridge.) Leave it there for half a day and the baking soda will pull all excess moisture out of the deck. Remove the deck, gently slap and fan, and voilà—your deck is ready to use!

If the fridge just doesn’t dry out the deck enough, or if you determine that your deck is sticking together because of a gummy coating or specialized edging (like foil): try the freezer. Place your deck in a zip lock bag to protect the cards (but don’t seal the zip log bag) and leave them in your freezer for 3-4 hours. Remove the deck, gently slap and fan, and the odds are your deck will be ready to read with!

If the problem is a colder temperature in your house, then simply keep handling the deck until it warms up. You can even place the cards in your pocket and carry them around next to your torso until they heat up. I’ve heard of some people needing to steam-treat a cold deck, but I’ve never lived in sub-zero temperatures, so I’ve never had to resort to this extreme. A cold deck of cards will not spread or shuffle easily the way a warm deck will, so once you’ve warmed up the deck you should find that it’s ready to use!

If the problem is oil from your hands, wash your hands. Then, shuffle the heck out of the cards to spread the existing oils over the entire deck (not just in the areas you have touched, but everywhere). Sometimes, just spreading the existing oil evenly by deliberately handling all the cards does the trick. But often, you have to resort to the steps detailed in the next paragraph.

If the problem was care by the shipping service who delivered the package to you and the “old deck slap” method fails you, you need to shuffle, perhaps **slightly** bend the deck—anything you can think of to break in those cards. If this doesn’t work, try the freezer method. If this, too, fails you (or if you determine that your deck is stuck because of oils or a spill), it’s time to break out the corn starch or fanning powder.

To use corn starch, drop the deck into a paper bag with a half-cup of corn starch, shake vigorously for a solid minute, remove cards and lightly wipe off each card with a soft cloth. They should fan and work nicely after the fact—it’s an old secret used by magicians for making decks last as well as function.

If you purchase magician’s fanning powder, spread the cards as best you can and sprinkle the fanning powder across them. Using a soft cloth or dry paper towel, wipe each card on both sides with the fanning powder (being careful not to spill on the ground as some animals can find this slightly toxic to ingest). Once you’ve wiped the fanning powder off of every card, your deck will shuffle and spread at a capacity you’ve probably never experienced before—thus, why this stuff is beloved by magicians everywhere!

To close this blog post, I’d like to mention one particularly problematic (if incredible) deck and how to solve the sticky situation. Do you use The Transparent Tarot? It’s a ground-breaking deck that is one of my favorites to experiment with. However, half the time the entire thing clumps together straight out of the box. After much trial and error, I’ve found the fool-proof method to unstick this deck permanently:

Windex and dry paper towels!

Because the Transparent Tarot has such an unusual manufacturing process, you need to set about twenty minutes aside before the first time you wish to use it. Separate each card by hand, spray both sides of each card with a spritz of Windex, and wipe clean with a dry paper towel like you’re cleaning a mirror.

Tada! Unstuck and easy to shuffle Transparent Tarot!

I knew the Transparent Tarot acts like a window to the soul, but I had no idea prior to discovering this method just how much the deck is actually like a literal window!

Thanks for “sticking” with me to the end of this article. I hope I’ve answered all your questions about the problems of sticky decks!

**Decks featured in this blog post**