Reviving Tarot Decks – Fanning Powder

Today on Kraft Time with Kalagni: How to save a tarot deck from sticky clingy doom.


Sometimes after a lot of usage tarot cards get harder to shuffle and deal, the cards start clinging to each other, they pick up oils from skin and the finish wears down, and they don’t glide smoothly over each other. This can happen right out of the box too, some cards are printed on a lower quality card stock, and that causes the cards to stick together and be unshufflable. This isn’t just an annoyance, this can impact your ability to do readings. When cards cling together you tend to get break cards, cards that don’t cling the same so when you shuffle or cut the cards you’re more likely to deposit that card on the top or bottom of the deck. Sometimes when a card shows up three times in three days it means something, sometimes it just means your deck isn’t shuffling well.


This isn’t the end for your deck, and it isn’t even that hard of a fix, but it seems like not a lot of folks know how to save the deck.


Here are two before pictures. This is me attempting to fan out my tarot decks. This is the best I could manage after a few attempts, and for those who don’t know, I used to be a performance magician and practiced in flourishes, this is not a lack of skill, it’s the cards, honestly. But you can see the cards clump together, even trying to fan them apart they stick in large sections. If you were to shuffle these decks those block sections of the deck would tend to stay together.




The secret to refreshing cards like this is a product called Fanning Powder. Fanning Powder is a powder created for just this purpose, it’s applied to cards to allow them to fan better and work better for flourishes in close-up card magic. I’m not going to recommend a specific brand, my favourite brand went out of business, the one I used here was literally just the first one that came up when I googled. There shouldn’t be much difference between brands. (Note: Sometimes people recommend alternatives like corn starch, but that usually doesn’t end well.)


Applying Fanning Powder to a deck, and cleaning them off is very simple, and in 10-15 minutes you’ll have an old deck as good as new, or a new clingy deck shuffling better than ever.


To start you need a large storage zipper bag, you can also use small garbage bags. I prefer zipper bags because the zipper is useful for sealing it, and I like to see the cards while I do this. Put your cards in the bag. Really in this case I should have done this in at least two batches, these cards were too big for all 78 in the bag which made it difficult to manage. I recommend tossing, dealing, or dropping the cards into the bag one-by-one, just to spread them out a bit and reveal more of their surface, it makes the next few steps easier. Most decks should be divided into half or thirds for this, you can do an entire deck at once, but that makes more work.



Now sprinkle a generous helping of Fanning Powder. It’s cheap, don’t worry about wasting it. I find it’s an odd material, it needs a lot to work, but a little goes a long way. What I mean is it doesn’t actually take much to be effective when it’s on the cards, but you need to put a lot in the bags to ensure it covers everything. You can save what is leftover if you want, but personally for how cheap it is, and how rarely I need to use it, I find it’s not worth the hassle of saving.




Once there is a generous dusting of the powder, seal the bag, almost the entire way. When there is just a little bit of open space in the zipper, blow into the bag. Don’t blow too hard, you can pop it, but blow it up enough that there is plenty of room inside for the cards to shake around. Close the zipper, or tie the end if using a garbage bag. Now shake the bag around. Keep shaking it until you have a dusting of powder over all the cards. If there is too much on some cards, don’t worry, if there isn’t enough on other cards, don’t worry. This generally balances out in the end. Just keep shaking it around to try to get something on every card. Sometimes I like to pinch a few cards through the bag, and hold them out of place while I shake the rest of the cards, just to make sure they’re really mixing around in the bag.


Once that is done put the bag aside for a minute or three, the powder is fairly fine and if you open the bag right away it will float out, so give it a minute or few to settle down if you don’t want a cloud of fanning powder everywhere. All that is left is to wipe the cards down. Just put them down on a towel or something, and just wipe them off gently with a cloth. A little powder can go a long way, when you wipe the cards off you won’t even be able to see the powder. You’re not trying to wipe them clean, just gently wiping off the dust. (When you do it the first time, and you’re not sure if you’re wiping too hard, just wipe off three or four cards, and then stack them and move them around, if they glide easily you’re good, if not just toss those cards back in the back and be less thorough next time you wipe them down, but honestly it’s hard to wipe off so much powder that it doesn’t work.)


And you’re done. You can put the cards together, give them a shuffle or spread a fan and see how smoothly the cards move now. The powder can last a long time too, so you probably won’t need to refresh a deck for several years.


You can see how smoothly the cards fan. An old tired deck, and a nearly impossible to shuffle new deck, now gliding smoothly and perfectly. Hopefully this helps save a deck or two out there.

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