It’s science y’all!

By Meghan Overdeep
January 15, 2019
wwing/Getty Images

There’s something magical about the way newspapers yellow with age. It’s like they’re living things—worn by time and use like the rest of us.

As it turns out, that’s actually not too far from the truth.

As Reader’s Digest recently explained, this color-changing phenomenon is the result of the chemical reaction known as oxidation, the same process that causes sliced apples to turn brown.

With paper, it all comes back to the fact that it’s made from wood, which contains the substance lignin. When the molecules responsible for color (chromophores) in lignin are exposed to air and sunlight, they become less stable, causing them to absorb more light, gradually darkening the paper from white to yellow.

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If you’ve noticed that newspaper tends to yellow faster than other kinds of paper, you’re right. That’s because the wood’s lignin isn’t typically filtered out in newspaper paper for cost-saving reasons.

Have newspaper clippings you’d like to preserve? Keep them out of sunlight and store them in acid-free and buffered boxes to keep them pretty and white for as long as possible.