Chemicals? how to dispose and other questions....

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by hanaa, Sep 9, 2005.

  1. hanaa

    hanaa Member

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    Hi! I had a couple questions regarding the darkroom. I'm planning on turning my bathroom into a part-time darkroom. I've been taking black and white photos for the past 5 years. I would like to have access to a darkroom so i can complete the other 50% of photography. I live in a rural area and there arn't any public/rental darkrooms. So, my first question would be (for those who know what the basics are needed for a darkroom) is a bathroom and reasonable place to have a part-time darkroom?? And secondly-- how do i dispose of the chemicals? I have no clue--- so any information will be a great deal of help. I appreciate this site because i can learn so much from you guys!! Thank you.

    Hanaa
     
  2. Paul Howell

    Paul Howell Member

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    Many people use bathrooms as part time darkroom, a small 35mm or 6X6 enlarger, trays and small print washer can easly be broken down and set up for printing. Do you have public services or do you use a septic tank?
     
  3. bobbysandstrom

    bobbysandstrom Member

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    hanaa, I have a darkroom in my bathroom. I have it set up with a pvc sink on a saw horse with a hose that drains into the shower drain. I get the water from a hose off the shower head. It works like a charm. I have a ventilation fan installed in the bathroom window above the sink. You can do work in your bathroom as good as anyone with an elaborate darkroom, all you need is a little ingenuity. You can use the bathroom counter for your enlarger. You need to check with your local waste management people to find out what the regs are for dumping the chemicals. I believe most people just dump them down the drain. I'm not sure what people do that have septic tanks. So, to be sure, check with the department of public works or the bureau of sanitation etc...

    Go for it!
     
  4. Monophoto

    Monophoto Member

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    The chemicals used in convention black and white processing are not especially unpleasant. So as a practical matter, disposing of a SMALL quantity of depleted chemicals in either a public sanitary system or a residential septic system should not be a problem. If there is a concern, it probably would be associated with release of heavy metals (eg, silver). In high volume situations (eg, a gang teaching darkroom), you might want to consider making an attempt to capture some of the silver in fixer. That's relatively easy to do using either steel wool or an electrolytic silver recovery unit.

    As to using a bathroom - that's possible. There are challenges with making the room light tight, dealing with ventillation, providing adequate working space, etc, but those problems can all be addressed with a little creativity. The important considerations, however, are whether there are other members of the household, and is there another bathroom? It's not cool to have to quickly switch from darkroom mode to bathroom mode when someone's gotta go - - -
     
  5. Craig

    Craig Subscriber

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  6. Donald Qualls

    Donald Qualls Member

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    Generally, the only chemicals that are of concern are fixer and selenium toner. Developers break down rapidly once diluted to the point their preservatives are ineffective. Stop bath is vinegar with a pH sensitive dye added (some don't have the dye, some are citric acid instead of acetic -- all more harmless than pickle juice).

    The silver in fixer is the rub. If you use fixer one-shot and don't exhaust it, and are on public sewer, it's probably not a problem to dump it. If you use it to exhaustion and/or are on a septic tank, you should collect it and either periodically take it to a mini-lab (who are generally happy to add yours to what they dispose of, via silver recovery) or put it in a bucket with steel wool for a few days, then filter off the liquid and pour it on the ground (where the thiosulfate will act as a fertilizer). The silver sludge that remains can be collected and might be salable as scrap silver, or recyclable by dissolving with nitric acid to make a feedstock for alternate process printing.

    Whatever you do, don't put exhausted fixer into a septic system -- the silver can kill the bacteria that make those systems work, and you *don't* want to go there...
     
  7. Wayne

    Wayne Subscriber

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    I get 5 gallon pails with lids from the local restaurant and use them to collect used chemicals. I dont worry about dumping a pint or two down the drain occasionally, but I prefer to avoid it. I take my used chems (except fix) to the nearest small town's sewage facility, they let me dump them right into their tanks. Fix goes to a photolab that will desilver it, or to hazardous waste disposal. Some people just dump everything but Over 50% of septics in my area fail eventually, and I'd rather play it safe than be sorry. If you were my neighbor I'd hope that you do likewise.
     
  8. jnanian

    jnanian Advertiser Advertiser

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    i have a 30 gallon drum taken away by a waste hauler when it gets filled up. he mails me a check 2 weeks after the pick-up. it runs about 30-40$ / pick-up and the check is for about the same amount.

    if you live anywhere near the west coast or nevada you might want to contact a company called itronics ( http://www.itronics.com/index.shtml )
    they will take your photochemicals, and convert it into gold'n grow fertalizer.

    good luck!
    john
     
  9. Calamity Jane

    Calamity Jane Member

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    In my 35 years dabbling in photography I have lived mostly in rural areas and a bathroom darkroom is usually the easiest and most versitile.

    Being on a septic field and, considering the costs of replacing a septic field, I have always avoided putting darkroom waste down the septic drain. Almost all rural homes in this part of the world have a "grey water" system and/or a sump to dispose of ground water that is not connected to the septic system. To keep the bacteria healthy in the septic system (which in turn keeps the field healthy), I don't put photo chems in the septic system - I use the grey water or sump.

    I have owned my present home since 1997 and been using the sump for darkroom waste. The sump pumps into a roadside ditch. In 8 years, I see no problems with the flora and fauna in the ditch.
     
  10. Loopy

    Loopy Member

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    I work in a lab that does color only, can I use their silver recovery??
     
  11. jimgalli

    jimgalli Subscriber

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    I used to routinely pour my cyanide E6 bleach, the most noxious of my chems on a huge nasty weed in the lot next to my garage hoping the poison would kill it. It has continued to thrive more than it's near brethren.
     
  12. Wayne

    Wayne Subscriber

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    I'm afraid I have to draw the line at dumping chemicals on the ground, and that is all a gray water system does. I'm sure this is illegal (and rightfully so, IMO) in all but the most remote rural districts, if not everywhere in the US and Canada.
     
  13. MattKing

    MattKing Subscriber

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    Hanaa:

    A bathroom can be a good part-time darkroom, but other areas work well as well. The most important attributes of a darkroom are that you have:
    1) a place that can be made dark;
    2) a room that has space and surface(s) to work on/put equipment on;
    3) electricity available;
    4) means to install/use a safelight (for B & W printing);
    5) healthy ventilation;
    6) reasonable working temperatures; and
    7) access to a reasonably convenient, nearby source of water for washing and cleanup.

    It is very convenient to have running water in a darkroom, but with a very few exceptions (e.g. water baths for fine temperature control of tray chemistry), it is not necessary to have the running water in the area that must be kept dark.

    In many cases, the most important advantage of using a bathroom is not the fact that it has water available, but rather that it often can easily be made dark. The biggest disadvantages of using bathrooms are:
    1) limited source of electricity;
    2) in some cases, limited counter or work surfaces;
    3) difficulty of installing safelights; and
    4) most important, if you only have one bathroom where you live ......

    If you can make it dark, in many cases a kitchen is a better choice (better electricity, more counter space, and it can be less urgent that it be available to others when you are in there).

    For many years, I worked out of a darkroom which was essentually a 6 foot x 8 foot cupboard. It consisted of a walkway and a bench, which was big enough to hold an enlarger and three trays big enough to hold 11x14 paper (developer, stop, fixer) and a shelf below the bench with a fourth tray (water - prior to transfer to HCA and then wash outside). The source for running water was a few feet away - a laundry basin outside the dark room, which was convenient for washing film or prints, as well as mixing or disposal of chemistry. I would mix my chemistry in batches and store it in large glass bottles.

    I would load the film onto reels and into the light tight tanks in the dark, and then the rest of the film developing process would take place out in the light - usually using the top of the washing machine as my work surface.

    For printing, the enlarger was at one end of the work surface, and the trays were on the rest. During setup, I would just pour the stock chemistry from the bottles into a large graduated measure, and then from the measure into the trays. If dilution was required, it was not particularly difficult to fill another large graduated measure with water at the sink outside, adjust the temperature appropriately (using hot and cold water) and pour it into the appropriate trays.

    The only disadvantage of working this way was that it was slightly more awkward to dump out the trays when I was finished with the session. Generally, I would just carry the full trays out to the wash basin and discard the chemistry down the drain. Given the size and weight of a full tray, I generally avoided printing anything larger than 11x14, although if I dispensed with stop bath, I could squeeze 16x20 trays on to my work surface.

    The laundry basin was then available for cleanup. A bucket of water and fresh cleanup rags on the work surface, and everything could be put away, ready for the next session.

    If you are willing to work with tube processing, you can succeed with much less space in the "dark" portion of your darkroom. I haven't gone that way, because the experience of watching the image emerge in the developer is a thrill that just never gets old for me :D

    If your darkroom is temporary, it is a realy good idea to keep all your "stuff" in one or more plastic bins. That way, everything can be stored together, and setup and tear down goes much quicker.

    In any event, have fun!
     
  14. Flotsam

    Flotsam Member

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    Take a look at David A. Goldfarb's darkroom (On page 6 of the Darkroom Portraits thread) and then look at his personal gallery.

    That says it all about what can be done in a tiny bathroom/darkroom :wink:

    Picture's worth a thousand words.
     
  15. Donald Qualls

    Donald Qualls Member

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    If the fixer is treated before disposal, there's no reason you couldn't. Unfortunately, many/most color labs use silver recovery to allow recycling and replenishing fixer, rather than sending it to an outside disposal (or so I'm told), and adding B&W fixer to the mix might make for a very, very upset boss if it changes the fixing characteristics.

    At a minimum, you'd want to ask the folks in charge of keeping the chemistry healthy. If the recovery unit isn't directly connected to the lab's fixer tanks, you might also ask about using it when it's not in use with the lab's own chemicals -- as long as it's washed out afterward, there shouldn't be any significant transfer of your waste into their system (though you'd almost certainly be giving them the silver in that case, instead of recovering it for you own reuse).
     
  16. OldBikerPete

    OldBikerPete Member

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    I have used a bathroom for low volume color printing (20 10x8/month) with good results. As your volume goes up the need for a dedicated facility increases.

    I tip my used chemicals into a pvc tray out of doors and let them completely evaporate, collecting the dry residue from time to time and taking it to a public waste disposal point.