processing film with well water?

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by winger, Nov 19, 2007.

  1. winger

    winger Subscriber

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    I'm stuck with well water (and a softener). I used distilled water to make the developer and to do the last rinse. But I can see a film on the film as it dries. Could it be from the photo flo (added to the final rinse at the end)? Or do I need to use distilled water for more of the process? Will re-washing soon help? I only did these tonight and they aren't totally dry. If it matters at all, it was HIE.
     
  2. gainer

    gainer Subscriber

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    I would say use a piece of well-worn cotton toweling between the fingers as a squeegee to get most of the water off. I use hard well water myself, but no water softener. The minerals in my water are too good for my body, and many if not most softeners use salt and often leave some in the water. I do not use photo flo either.

    I'm lucky that my water has calcium and magnesium instead of iron and sulfur as most of my neighbors have. If yours is like mine, what it is on your film is limestone. A little white vinegar followed by a short rinse in demineralized water will do the trick.
     
  3. gainer

    gainer Subscriber

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    P.S. Even after it has dried.
     
  4. winger

    winger Subscriber

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    Thank you very much! I'm pretty sure it's limestone, so thanks!
     
  5. bdial

    bdial Subscriber

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    Are you sure you are not adding too much photo flo in the final rinse? It's easy to do at 1:200 if you're only mixing enough for a few rolls. I mix up a gallon at a time from distilled.
    Other than that I folllow the same procedure you've outlined and so far, haven't had that problem from our well water.
     
  6. jgcull

    jgcull Subscriber

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    I use well water. I used to always have spots. Now, at the very end of the processes, after my final rinse I pour enough distilled water to cover the film and swish in & pour off. They're better. I use my well water for mixing the chemicals and have no problems with that.
     
  7. greybeard

    greybeard Member

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    My well water (used un-softened in the darkroom) is hard enough to pave roads with, but the final step in film washing is five minutes with a tiny amount of Photo-flo (a squeeze bottle has the "recommended" dilution, but a one-quart tank gets only a 2-3 cc squirt before filling). Sheet film just hangs by one corner and the last drops at the bottom get wicked of with towel; roll film gets the two-fingers squeegee treatment and the accumulation of dried salts at the bottom eventually get trimmed off. No problem with spots, streaks, or anything else; I suspect that the long soak has something to do with this.
     
  8. winger

    winger Subscriber

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    It is possible I used too much Photo-flo. In other locations, I've usually put a drop or two in the tank with the last rinse and been fine. This was the first time I've used well water, too.
    If I re-wash with distilled water and a little white vinegar, then a longer sit in distilled water, then squeegee off with a worn towel, should I be okay? That's likely what I'll try later today.
     
  9. Dave Miller

    Dave Miller Member

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    I agree with your plan for the use of a weak acid on this occasion, but I would forget the towel, worn or otherwise. As a general rule if you use distilled water for the last rinse, and then hang the film in a dust free environment to dry it will be free of marks.
     
  10. winger

    winger Subscriber

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    Dave, that's what I thought, but I have a film on my film. I did use distilled for the last rinse. Is it that I didn't rinse for long enough with the distilled? Or that there was too much Photo-flo? When I re-rinse it, I won't use Photo-flo, I guess.
     
  11. Dave Miller

    Dave Miller Member

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    IMO there is no need to use any rinse aid in distilled water, or to risk mechanical damage by wiping the film. The film should be well washed in plain water, and then in distilled for the last wash/rinse.
     
  12. Valerie

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    I, too, have well water. I use distilled water with the developer, and with the photo-flo (very diluted). I also had a problem with spotting until changing to the distilled H20/dilute photo-flo combination.
     
  13. Lee L

    Lee L Member

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    I have heavy mineral content in my city water. I use inexpensive spring water from nearby for most steps, including an Ilford style wash cycle, then distilled for developer and final rinse.

    I have to let stand for about 1 hour in a distilled final rinse if I use town water for the wash. About 30-40 minutes suffices with the spring water. Otherwise I get mineral spotting.

    Lee
     
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  15. greybeard

    greybeard Member

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    The key issues here may have to do with the actual chemistry of the water, in combination with the form that it is left in on the film. If my film drains cleanly (as the sheet film normally does) there is no detectable deposit other than a small amount of residue at the lowest corner. Roll film, on the other hand, seems to hold droplets, and if I don't squeegee them off, spots develop. (The water here is hard enough that a single drop will make a solid white spot when it evaporates. Mostly carbonates, but enough salt to create visible cubic crystals in the deposit as well. Interestingly, it doesn't seem to have any noticeable adverse effects on the chemistry, FP4+ in PMK).

    Spritzing the film with Photoflo solution worked when I lived elsewhere, but the film and chemistry were different then, too. What works now is the five-minute final wash in very dilute Photoflo; I'd be interested to know why this should work!

    It is hard to argue with the distilled water/Photoflo final wash approach; why fight a problem when you can avoid it in the first place?
     
  16. winger

    winger Subscriber

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    Well, I tried re-washing tonight. I used diluted vinegar for a soak, then 2 distilled water soaks that were about 20 minutes each. I squeegeed off with my fingers (I had washed them and did not put lotion on). I still have a deposit. I don't know if I washed off the old one and made a new one or if what's there is still the original. The last rinse the first time was distilled and all of today's had distilled, not well water. I know the well water is very hard - even after the softener, it's still hard.
    Since the film is HIE, I'm sure there's a frame I can use for experimenting. That's next.
    What concentration of white vinegar would be useful and still safe with HIE?
     
  17. mikeb380

    mikeb380 Member

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    Bethe;
    I think part of your problem is letting the film sit in the water so long. Also, I don't understand the reasoning behind using vinegar as a rinse? vinegar is much the same as acetic acid and I would think you used the acetic after the developer? In over 50 years of darkroom work and part of that in a custom lab in NYC, I never found a reason to use anything other than tap water as a bath. Film needs being washed in MOVING water and if you can get one, use a film washer for it. I use dish detergent instead of photoflo to wet the surface of the film and then I squeegie it off with two damp fingers. In fifty years I have never needed anything else. The only way I would use spring water or distilled water is if I had enough to wash film in a moving stream of it. Just sitting in the water causes the chemicals to leech out into the water but they stay there and then transfer back to the film. I used NYC water as well as NJ water and that stuff was like rocks but I never had problems as long as I kept the water running in a constant stream. You may not be able to remove the residue from your film as it may well be the chemicals leeched back into the film and became part of the film. If you have trouble printing the film, coat the film with a very thin coat of Vaseline; get it as thin as you can, that should help in printing but be very sure to remove the Vaseline before storing it. Vaseline also helps hide scratches in the film. Carry a jar in your camera bag to make your own vignetting and soft filters.

    I hope this helps.
    Michael :smile:
     
  18. Lee L

    Lee L Member

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    Michael,

    Over the last couple of decades people have tested washes for both paper and film using changes of standing water, and this has been found to be a very effective method of washing prints and film. It also saves water. A constant exchange of water is not necessary. The main mechanism for removal of fixer is diffusion (leeching) and a sequence of baths quickly drops the levels of fixer in the film to archival standards and below. Once the concentration of fixer in the water and film reach equilibrium, the fixer does not preferentially attach back to the film. The Ilford wash method changes the water rapidly at first, then more slowly to allow the concentration of fixer in the water and film to come closer to equilibrium, making more efficient use of water. Many people have adopted the Ilford wash method, which is discussed here http://www.largeformatphotography.info/unicolor/ilfwash.pdf as well as other places.

    With non-hardening fixers, wash times can be shorter, and wash aids can also shorten times. Hardening fixers bond more tightly to the film/paper/emulsion and take longer to diffuse out.

    Lee
     
  19. gainer

    gainer Subscriber

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    Acetic acid between developer and fixer is not the same as vinegar to dissolve calcium and magnesium deposits from hard water.
    The vinegar should be distilled white vinegar, obtainable at the grocery store. Don't be afraid to wrap a soft towel, either cloth or paper, around your fingers when you squeegee the excess water off. Anything the water had in it will surely remain on the film concentrated by evaporation.

    If that doesn't work, the deposit was not limestone. Maybe you should have it analyzed to see if it's safe to drink.
     
  20. wfe

    wfe Member

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    I use distilled water in the developer and then well water for the balance of the process. Final rinse is in well water with some Sprint Wash stuff (soap suds), a bit of alcohol and well water. No residue on the film but well water will vary greatly.

    Cheers,
    Bill
     
  21. winger

    winger Subscriber

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    The use of the vinegar at this stage is to dissolve and remove the deposits left by the well water. The part that bothers me is that I used distilled water for the final rinse and to rinse after the vinegar, yet I still have the limescale/calcium. I wonder if there is just so much stuff in the well water that rinsing just isn't going to get rid of it?
    Last night, I later took a Q-tip and rubbed lightly with vinegar on one frame, then with water on it. A fair amount of the deposit was removed. So I think I'll have to go with wiping the residue off. Just think of how tough it is to clean a shower that's got hard water deposits on it - it isn't easy to get this stuff off.
    And I'm going to put some type of filter on the faucet, too.
     
  22. greybeard

    greybeard Member

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    Bethe,

    Your description of the deposits being unaffected by acetic acid brought something to mind, although I haven't been able to track down any supporting evidence: the material you are seeing could be an insoluble sulfur compound, possibly calcium sulfite. Elemental sulfur can also be precipitated by acid (as in stop bath) reacting with thiosulfate (fixer) in the absence of a high sulfite concentration.

    It might be worth checking to see if your water does in fact deposit only salts that can be removed by dilute acid: put a few drops of water on a piece of blank film, let it dry, and then try washing it off with both plain water and with vinegar (do the same thing with distilled water, as a control, in case your distilled water is not really clean). I have a hunch that you will discover that the problem is not due solely to the hardness of the water.

    It would be nice if someone with a better command of photographic chemistry could weigh in on the possible origins of insoluble sulfur complexes; I'm pretty sure that I've seen it before (in connection with EDTA additions to photographic formulas) but this really isn't my field and I don't have easy access to the literature.
     
  23. winger

    winger Subscriber

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    Thanks - I've started trying a variation of this and I'll try this as well. I think you're right that there's more to this than just hard water. I may also send a sample to a testing facility in case I need to do anything to it for the whole house as well. The RC prints I did last week (with distilled only to make the developer) are fine. Maybe there's even something wrong with the softener.

    Thanks all! I'll keep experimenting and let you know what works.
     
  24. Jim Jones

    Jim Jones Subscriber

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    My well delivers much limestone in the water, especially after a good rain. A 5 micron filter helps, although it doesn't block limestone disolved in the water. I let the filtered water stand for perhaps weeks, and then siphon off all but the bottom inch or two of the storage jugs for use. The water is finally run through a coffee filter. Despite this, I still use distilled water for diluting chemicals and for the final rinse with Photo-Flo. This use of distilled water adds very little to the cost of processing of film. Prints are washed in the filtered well water, and surface moisture toweled off before hanging to dry.
     
  25. gainer

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    What soluble compound of calcium or magnesium might be in water? The hydroxide is somewhat soluble. The carbonate is formed in caves when water containing some of the hydroxide comes in contact with CO2 in the atmosphere. Over years, stalactites and stalagmites are formed out of limestone. When you mix carbonate developers with hard water, you get cloudy developer from the calcium and magnesium hydroxides. You will see it very soon after mixing. Many commercial developers incorporate a chelating agent to keep the limestone from precipitating. If you mix a little sodium carbonate with your water, you will see the cloudiness form. It is true that the sulfites are also insoluble, so you should also get a precipitate by adding a little sodium sulfite to the well water.

    I have mixed developers in my hard water with no problems except the cloudiness, and I have not seen that to cause any processing problems. If I must use carbonate, I prefer to use a chelating agent with it, but most of my developers work with borax, Kodalk, TEA or even sodium hydroxide, none of which cause the calcium to precipitate.

    I do not use photo flo. I have done, but no longer do. It does just as well to wipe the excess water from the negatives with a paper towel or a well-used and soft cotton towel. Baby's diapers would be good if I could still get them. If you tell me I will ruin my negatives, I will tell you I have never ruined any by this treatment. It has been years since I ran into an emulsion that was soft enough to be scratched by a soft towel. It has also been years since I ran into any kind of water marks on my negatives. I also dry them with a small electric hair dryer. Does this confession mean I will be excommunicated?
     
  26. johnnywalker

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    Oh I sincerely hope not! I put the negatives still in the holders in a pvc tube with a hair dryer on fan (no heat) to dry the negatives. Works like a charm, but I also rinse them in photoflo first. I just shake the excess water out first. I'm on a well with hard water, but we have a filter that takes most of the hardness out.