- To fix a deck of playing cards that stick together, you can try and use fanning powder, or put the deck in the fridge for a few hours.
- If you have 100 percent plastic playing cards, you can wash them individually with cold water.
- Always clean your hands before using the cards, and try to leave the deck in a cool, dry place. Avoid excessive heat.
Eventually, even the best playing cards will wear out.
In terms of appearance, you may notice a slight discoloration. The cards may become slightly thicker, and there may be dirt on the cards.
In terms of handling, then you may notice that some or even all the cards tend to stick together.
Ruined decks can actually look like a bunch of packets glued together.
Ugly. And it makes it harder to shuffle and use the cards. So here are my six tips to fix that, when possible…
Playing cards sticking together: what to do
1. Use fanning powder
Proper fanning powder — a white powder which is basically zinc stearate plus a few other ingredients — will actually make the cards stick together, but in a good way.
Some magicians like to use fanning powder as it makes it easier to fan or spread new decks, which are usually too slippery.
And that’s the main purpose of the powder. But it can also make playing cards last longer.
So if your playing cards are sticking together, give fanning powder a go because it’ll probably help. You can learn how to apply the powder here.
Don’t expect any miracles though — the powder will only work if you use it on quality playing cards, and it won’t work on decks that are completely ruined.
2. Put playing cards in the fridge
Yep. Sounds crazy, but it usually works.
Besides grease and dirt, heat and humidity are the main reason playing cards will tend to stick together over time.
You can experiment by leaving the deck of playing cards in the fridge for an hour or even a day, and see what happens.
I’ve actually done this a few times and it’s always worked for me.
Most importantly, don’t leave the cards in a room that’s too hot or with direct sunlight — that would usually have the opposite effect.
3. Use water (plastic cards only)
Never, ever use water on regular paper playing cards. If you’re not sure about the difference between plastic and paper playing cards, have a look at this article.
Now, if you do have a deck of 100 percent plastic cards, such as the Copag 1546, you can actually use a cloth and wash the cards with cold water.
Do not use hot water, and try to wash each card one by one, or at least only a few at a time.
And once washed, make sure they dry completely before using them.
Again, don’t just throw the deck in the sink — apply only a little bit of water with a cloth otherwise you may ruin the cards.
4. Wash your hands
This should have been the first tip, but I do realize that it won’t be very useful if your playing cards are already sticking together.
However, the easiest and most effective way to prolong the life of all playing cards (plastic and paper) is to simply wash your hands before using the cards.
This is especially important if you perform magic tricks or card manipulation, and bend or shuffle the cards a lot.
As mentioned, grease and dirt can make the cards stick together (and basically ruin the cards over time), so make sure your hands are clean before you take the cards out of the box.
And when you’re done playing, then you should…
5. Always put the cards back in the box
This is another simple tip that helps you prevent the cards from sticking together.
Think of the box as a protective layer that covers the playing cards from dust and dirt, and even sunlight.
If you’ve thrown away the box, or don’t have the box for whatever reason, then at least try to put the cards away.
Remember — a cool, dry place is ideal. Too much heat and humidity can ruin the cards.
Important: remove a few cards from the deck if the box is too tight. When the box is too tight and the cards are pressed together, that actually makes things worse.
6. Buy cards that don’t stick together
Although all playing cards will age, some decks are simply better than others.
Superior quality doesn’t just apply to the design, but also and most importantly how the cards handle.
For example, Tally Ho decks are slightly thinner and have a better finish compared to Bicycles, and that’s why they are easier to manipulate and usually last longer as well.
In terms of longevity, plastic playing cards are by far the best, but as long as you get quality cards and wash your hands before each use, you’ll be fine.
Then just buy a new deck of playing cards…
It’s physically impossible to turn an old, ruined deck into a brand new one.
Playing cards, even quality ones, are relatively cheap. So at the end of the day, just buy a new deck if your old one can’t be used anymore.
I’ve heard of professional magicians who used to use a new deck of playing cards every day, or every few days.
There is absolutely no need to do that — it’s just to give you an idea of the potential lifespan of a deck of playing cards that’s being used for hours.
If you play card games every day, or if you’re into card magic, then my advice would be to buy in bulk so you won’t have to worry about wear and tear too much.
And always clean your hands and put the cards back in the box when you’re done. It does help.