develop with tab water or distilled difference

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by Willie Jan, May 29, 2009.

  1. Willie Jan

    Willie Jan Member

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    I was just wondering if someone has done a test in the past with

    development of film in tap water versus distilled water.

    Tap water can contain calcium or some chloride. How can this effect the negative???
    Would it be visible on the print in some way.
     
  2. jgjbowen

    jgjbowen Member

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    Tap water can contain all kinds of little particles. Is your tap water from a well or municipal water system? Richard Ritter tells me he get's different developing times in Vermont vs Pennsylvania. Why? The tap water. Tap water can be inconsistent from month to month from the same municipal water system. There could be any number of little contaminates that could react with either the film emulsion or the developers. The one thing I remember from high school chemistry is USE DISTILLED WATER when mixing chemicals.

    When I consider how much I spend on film, chemicals, paper, food, gas, lodging, cameras, lenses, meters etc to get my images on film, I'm sure as hell not going to skimp on the $0.95/gal it costs me to use distilled water for my presoak, developer, fix, toner and final, photo-flo wash. It takes me little over a gallon to process 8 8x10 films. Money very well spent in my book. My washers run on good old Chesterfield, VA tap water.
     
  3. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    In most cases you won't get any differences, the only developer I make up with de-ionised water is Pyrocat HD, that's making the stock solution not the final working strength developer.

    Commercial developers are designed to work with tap water and usually contain Calgon or similar to help in hard water area. If your tap water is heavily chlorinated boil it first.

    Ian
     
  4. RobertV

    RobertV Member

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    Indeed Calgon or Photoplex (sometimes with EDTA) is in a commercial developer to get rid of the (Calcium) salts.
    On high diluted developers it can have some shift of the pH.

    Small particles in the tap water can be filtered out. In a regular tap there is already a fine filter.

    By boiling tap water you have less oxygen in the water, there will be less chlorine and less calcium salts so this is not a bad idea at all. High concentrate calcium salts can be a problem in the wetting agent step. The cause of drips and stripes on the film.

    So depending on the water quality and type of application you can use demi-water.
     
  5. Bruce Watson

    Bruce Watson Member

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    Tap water can contain all kinds of things -- it's not just calcium and chlorides, but also everything in the pipeline, from iron, copper, lead, scale and particulates of a huge range of sizes, and much else, including various biologicals.

    The tap water where I live is excellent. Clean, soft, even tastes reasonably good. In the process of trying to clean up my film (had lots of tiny crud, and I really hate spotting) I systematically went through my process eliminating one potential cause at a time. Once I got down to using all my chemicals one-shot about the only thing left was water quality. So I made a run where I mixed everything from steam distilled water. The improvement was dramatic which was quite surprising.

    I continued on in the fight against crud. At this stage nothing touches my film, or the film side of any processing equipment, but distilled water or chemistry mixed / diluted with distilled water. All washing of film, all washing of equipment is done in distilled water. All chemistry is used one-shot. My film is pretty darn clean now. It doesn't take that much water either -- less than 6 liters of distilled water in addition to the stock chemistry for me to process 10 5x4 sheets in a run.

    I should also mention that certain developers are sensitive to certain things in the water. XTOL for instance is rumored to be sensitive to dissolved iron. The rumor says this is one of the main causes for "early XTOL failure." Since switching to distilled water, I've used XTOL that's 12 months old (six months beyond Kodak's recommended keeping time) with fine results.

    Unless steam distilled water is truly expensive where you live, it seems a no-brainer to me to mix your chemistry in distilled water.
     
  6. Christopher Walrath

    Christopher Walrath Member

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    Hey there, Willie. I have never compared the two and I probably should use distilled for processing film and prints. However, all have used is tap water from my municipal supply. The only test I run on the water is to taste it before I use it. If it doesn't cause me to lurch from chlorination (and it seldom does) I do not hesitate to use it.
     
  7. PHOTOTONE

    PHOTOTONE Member

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    I think if you are making up your own developers from component chemicals it would probably be best to use distilled water (the cheap stuff you can get in gallon bottles at the supermarket). If you are using pre-packaged commercial developers, using tap water is just fine, as they have "buffers" in them to compensate for variations in local water quality. I have been using tap water for over 40 years with fine results.
     
  8. ic-racer

    ic-racer Member

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    35 years, never a problem with tap water to mix chemistry (US Great Lakes region). I do use distilled for the photoflo, but mostly out of superstition.
     
  9. Anscojohn

    Anscojohn Subscriber

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    At one time, it was stated that if the water is o.k. to drink, it is o.k to mix chemistry. Our views of what is safe drinking water have changed, I suppose; especially by the advertisers for bottled drinking water.

    For decades I have used air conditioner water, collected during our humid summers, filtered, then used for mixing my developer and my wetting agent bath.

    A true photo chemistry expert advised that there can be molds and spores in AC water; thus my practice is not a good one. I have now taken to boiling said collected AC water for five minutes, in a stainless steel container before filtering and using it.

    Moreover, since I (as a general rule) use D23 developer and DK25R replenisher, the vagaries of the water supply are not much of a problem for me. I find my results quite consistent, despite the caveats of those who insist that only fresh, one-shot developer mixed in distilled or some such water is the to royal road to developer consistency.
     
  10. clayne

    clayne Member

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    While I don't disagree that it's a good idea to use distilled water for anything involving a solution (dev, stop, fix, etc.) - exactly what advantage would distilled water have for interim phases? For instance, stopping with a water bath or rinsing/washing? I'd figure that as long as the water is in transition it's not really going to affect the film. At the last stage, then one could use PF+DW on the final rinse.
     
  11. voceumana

    voceumana Member

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    I never did a comparison, but when I set up my last darkroom, I got info from Kodak on what level of various materials were OK to have in the water and got a water report from my water district. There were so many things that went beyond Kodak's recommendations (including pH and dissolved solids) that I just decided distilled water was better for mixing all my chemicals. Distilled water is cheap.

    Contact your local water district--they have a technician who would be happy to talk to you about your water quality. They do regular testing of the water for government requirements, and are probably lonely and be happy to chat! Anyhow, you pay for their services, so why not use them?

    Charlie Strack
     
  12. Aurum

    Aurum Member

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    I must admit, I've never given it much thought, but then I live in an area with the softest water in the country
     
  13. Bruce Watson

    Bruce Watson Member

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    You know, I'll probably never be able to answer that question with any real certainty. It would take a fully staffed and equipped research lab to get to the truth; who has the time or resources?

    For the record, I thought that the interim steps didn't matter either. But I was being methodical (old engineers are like that) and testing everything trying to get rid of the grunge. And this is after I'd done all the "normal" things like washing down the ceiling and walls, cabinets, etc (you wouldn't believe how much dust you'll find on the underside of a shelf, or on the ceiling, until you clean them). I had everything spotless, the darkroom was completely sealed, an air cleaner running, etc. but I was still getting grunge on my film.

    So I went to work on my process. First I started with mixing stock solutions with steam distilled water. More improvement. So I knew that there were process problems. I went to one-shot developer use. More improvement. One of the big improvements was to use my fixer as a one-stop. Turns out that tiny bits of silver can precipitate out of used fixer, and the next time you use that fixer they can stick to the film. This was news to me.

    Eventually I ended up with tap water in just two places. Dilution of the developer, and washing. Ninety percent of my problem gone, but 10% still hanging in. So I replaced all the water with distilled. Now I've got about 98% gone.

    What I think was happening is that I have a fair amount of scale in the pipes just because they are old (this subdivision is 50 years old and the city is starting to tear up the streets replacing both water and sewer pipes). The scale is small, but solid. And it appears to stick to the wet glue that we call an emulsion. Once stuck, no amount of washing gets it off.

    So... All I know for sure is that the less tap water I used, the cleaner my film became. What I don't know is why -- I can only speculate. But really, I don't care that much because of the results.

    I thought about putting filters on the hot and cold lines, but I had trouble finding filters for small stuff, say down to 5 microns. Before you scoff, I like to enlarge, sometimes over 12x. So those tiny spots become visible - think tiny black dots randomly placed in a nice smooth sky. Painful to my eyes anyway.

    What stopped me from going the filter route was a) distilled water is cheap, b) filter systems are expensive and require periodic maintenance and consumables, and c) they don't do anything about the scale in the lines *after* the filters and up to the tap. Any plumber will tell you that the inside of copper pipe, especially if it's got a bunch of solder joints, ain't pretty.

    So... it might just be the placebo effect (I did run an extensive series of tests because I couldn't believe it myself, but still...). Yet it's costing me less than $0.10 USD per sheet of 5x4 film in distilled water charges (IOW, it's raised my film/processing costs just 7% while reducing my spotting time to almost nil and raising my photographic happiness immeasurably), which is considerably less than the cost of a filter system would be.

    In all, it's a risk I'm willing to take. Especially since it seems to be working.
     
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  15. Colin Corneau

    Colin Corneau Subscriber

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    Geez louise...boiling, filtering, blah de blah blah blah.

    Seems like a lot of work, compared to spending a buck or two and just getting a big 10 gallon jug of distilled water and being done with it. I've been developing quite a lot of film lately and I still have a container last me over a month.

    'Simple' works. So go with 'simple'.
     
  16. Bruce Watson

    Bruce Watson Member

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    Exactly. Well said.
     
  17. Willie Jan

    Willie Jan Member

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    the most interesting past is for instance how pyrocat-hd reacts to water with chloride or calcium compaired to distilled water.
     
  18. wogster

    wogster Member

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    Most water districts would also like to see what comes out of the tap. especially in older areas of cities. The reason is, lead.
    The water techs do want to know where there is lead in water, so that they can trace back along the lines to find where lead pipe was used, to dig it up and replace it with either copper or plastic. I wonder though, if in 50 years we will find the chemicals in the plastic pipes are worse then the lead ever was, and we will be chasing after it.
     
  19. Bob-D659

    Bob-D659 Member

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    Lead service pipes are only a real problem in areas with acidic or soft water. If the water is hard, and usually alkaline, the minerals do an excellent job of coating the inside of the pipe with scale, to the point of eventually plugging the pipe. I had a 4' length of lead service pipe that was in the ground for about 40 years, it had more than one eighth of an inch of scale build up in it. No worries about the water contacting the lead. :smile: After being hammered to descale, flattening and folding, it also made a nice 12lb counterweight for the enlarger. :smile:
     
  20. Alessandro Serrao

    Alessandro Serrao Member

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    Maybe treating tap water with edta and then filtering it should do the trick...
     
  21. nworth

    nworth Subscriber

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    Usually, it makes no difference. If your water is unusually hard, distilled or deionized water may help with some developers. Also, if your water pH is high (or low), distilled or deionized water may be needed for good results with poorly buffered or low pH developers like D-23. Most other things you find in safe drinking water, including chlorine, do not affect most photographic chemistry (although I do use distilled water to dissolve silver nitrate because of the chlorine - a special case). In general, use tap water unless it gives you problems. If it does give you problems, it will probably only be with one or two products or formulas.
     
  22. Marco B

    Marco B Member

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    Chlorination has been completely abolished here in the Netherlands where Willie-Jan and I live, in favour of treatment with ozone and active coal as additional treatments besides the regular filtration by (dune) sand. Most of the water in the Netherlands is either a clean groundwater source, or river water that has been filtered for several months in natural dune areas, both with extra after-treatment per description above.

    In fact, the water quality and treatments for municipal water here in the Netherlands, is almost an exact copy of what is used to clean up and make drinkable bottled mineral waters.

    Yes, we flush our toilets with high quality mineral water here in the Netherlands :wink:

    There are differences in pH and hardness of the water in the Netherlands, although pH regulation is part of the process of making drinking water. River sources tend to have slightly higher pH, than groundwater sources here in Netherlands. My water is pretty hard, and I tended to get soft negatives. Switching to demineralized water (only for mixing up developer) improved this.

    Marco
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 31, 2009
  23. dancqu

    dancqu Member

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    The sodium and ammonium salts of the silver thiosulfate
    complex are soluble. Contaminated water may contain
    elements which may form insoluble silver thiosulfate
    complexes. That is why I always recommend the
    use of demineralized water as a FIRST wash.

    BTW, my long soak way of washing prints uses so little
    water as to allow the use of distilled. Dan
     
  24. Monophoto

    Monophoto Member

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    I've always used tap water for the vast majority of my processing. The only exceptions are that I've used either distilled or RO-filtered water to dilute photoflo, and I keep a jug of distilled water to dilute Na2 solution for Pt/Pd printing.

    I will say, however, that many years ago I did a lot of Cibachrome printing. I noticed a distinct color shift around the time we got a water softener in our home. In fact, I wasn't able to recalibrate the filter pack required to achieve a neutral color balance after that change, and eventually just gave up on Cibachrome. We know that a water softener reduces the calcium and magnesium content in the water, and slightly increases the sodium content, and I suspect (but can't prove) that the change in water chemistry may have been the cause of the color shift.
     
  25. 77seriesiii

    77seriesiii Member

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    I live in Germany and I started out using tap water exclusively and soon after changed my ways. All of my film ended up with large amounts of hard water spots and I tried numerous ways to make go away and the only thing that worked was buying distilled water. I use rodinal and pyrocat hd as developers and they seem to work well with distilled water.

    ./e
     
  26. Willie Jan

    Willie Jan Member

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    I think the best way is to do a test to see if there is any difference than....

    thanks.