Metal isn't for everyone. Writing your bitcoin recovery seed phrase on paper can be just as safe, secure, and effective. But keep this in mind: The biggest threat to writing your recovery seed on paper is not necessarily from a fire.
The biggest threat may come from:
- What kind of paper your seed was written on
- What writing utensil you used to write it with, and
- How you stored your paper seed
What possibly can happen to a paper recovery seed?
Two types of deterioration can occur:
- Fading and discoloration can occur caused by exposure to light or ultraviolet (UV) radiation making your seed words illegible
- Mold can develop if stored in humid conditions and can consume and/or discolor the paper
- Acid present either in the paper or other items the paper is in contact with (such as a storage container or other paper) can result in brittleness and staining of the paper.
- Acid present in ink if used to write your seed can also cause deterioration
- Damage caused by handling such as tears, dents, punctures, abrasions, folds, creases, rubbing, etc. can damage the paper or smear the writing to be illegible
- Pests (such as insects or rodents) where paper is a food source can consume your seed
- Temperature and humidity fluctuations can cause deterioration of the paper's structural integrity and result in higher susceptibility to damage.
Okay, what can I do to avoid this deterioration and keep my recovery seed safe and long-lasting?
That begins before you even write your recovery seed. Take the following tips into consideration:
- Have clean hands when writing your seed or handling the paper your seed is on
- Use acid-free, lignin free paper (and avoid colored paper)
- Use a graphite pencil, not ink, to write your seed. (Inks may contain acid that deteriorate the paper)
- Record your seed on paper that is on a clean, hard surface, to avoid embossing the characters into the paper.
- Create multiple copies of your seed.
- This increases the risk of of being found by a third party but redundancy prevents having a single point of failure and promotes longevity of your wallet seed.
- Refresh your seed by making a new copy every few years. This will give new life to your seed’s structural integrity and readability.
- Contrary to popular belief, do not laminate your recovery seed (unless you plan on making a new copy of your seed every few years):
- The high heat and pressure during the lamination process damages the structural integrity of the paper.
- The plastic used in lamination has historically been cellulose acetate, which is inherently unstable becoming acidic over time causing deterioration. Modern lamination materials utilize adhesives, which can be themselves acidic, creating a compromising environment for the paper. (That is why archival documents seen in museums and libraries are never laminated.)
- Instead, place your paper seed between two sheets of acid-free plastic.
- This process is called encapsulation: documents that are sandwiched between stable, archival plastic sheets and sealed around the document by static electricity. Nothing is directly attached to the document or melted to the document during this process.
- Store in a clean, dark, dry cool area (room temperature or below)
- Avoid unstable environments where temperature fluctuations, humidity, and risk of leaks are present (such as an attic, garage, or basement)
- Store away from radiators and vents
- Do not store it in a basement or attic
- Use supportive protective enclosures that can create a micro environment to avoid the full effects of fluctuating humidity and temperature.
- Store in a sealable, waterproof container free of acidic materials.
- Utilize a fire-proof safe.
- Store above waist height to minimize damage from floods.
- Do not store your seed with other items or materials.
- Preserving paper documents and artworks, http://www.naa.gov.au/information-management/managing-information-and-records/preserving/physical-records-pres/artworks.aspx
- Care, Handling, and Storage of Works on Paper, https://www.loc.gov/preservation/care/paper.html
- CoPAR Bulletin 14, http://copar.org/bulletin14.htm
- How do I maintain a paper notebook that can remain for years?, https://www.quora.com/How-do-I-maintain-a-paper-notebook-that-can-remain-for-years
- The Archive Lady: Why Genealogists Should NEVER Laminate Genealogical Documents, https://abundantgenealogy.com/archive-lady-genealogists-never-laminate-genealogical-documents/