stinky fixer. is odorless "better"?

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by dede95064, Jul 29, 2008.

  1. dede95064

    dede95064 Member

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    i just started developing my own b&w film and i use ilford's rapid fixer. man, does that stuff stink! i am now looking to buying some odorless rapid fixer like arista's but i was wondering if the change in fixer would affect the quality of the film in any way? are (nonhardening) fixers pretty much generic and therefore there aren't really any noticeable differences between them? i am shooting hp4 plus 120 film.

    thanks!
     
  2. lcooper

    lcooper Member

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    I have the same problem, with the odor making me a little light headed. The Arista requires a 2 minute fix verses a 4-5 fix with Ilford. I assume this is okay, but would also like some clarification.
     
  3. Nick Zentena

    Nick Zentena Member

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    Odorless fixer is often [always??] neutral or akaline. Plenty of us avoid acid fixer. Works just fine.

    C-41 and other colour film all use non-acid fix.
     
  4. Ian Grant

    Ian Grant Subscriber

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    Strange I've used Ilford Hypam for over 30 years and never had a problem. I did try May & Baker (Champion) Amfix and that did have a distinct smell.

    Ian
     
  5. Trevor Crone

    Trevor Crone Member

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    I use Fotospeed's FX30 odourless fixer for both film and paper and I find its a very good product. Does what it 'says on the tin'.
     
  6. Slixtiesix

    Slixtiesix Subscriber

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    Odourless fixers are a nice invention. I used them mainly for paper, but now for film development as well. No problem.
    As Ilford films don´t need hardening, every quality fixer would do it I think. I use Amaloco because it´s cheap,
    but chemically all modern fixers are nearly the same, brand name doesn´t matter that much.
    You should always make an clearance test! When loading the film in the spiral, cut a strip of a few millimeters off
    and put it in your fixer solution. Then measure the time until the strip becomes clear and multiply it by the factor 2, that´s your fixing time.
    (for classic films, Deltas would need factor 3 if I remember well)
    Once I made the mistake of fixing not enough, so my films turned out pink. After doubling the time they were clear.
    I´ve never used the rapid fixer, but it seems uncommon that fixer stinks "out of the box". I used non-odourless fixers
    in the past and made the experience that they became more and more stinky the older the solution was.
    I´ve got old fixer solution that turned black and it stinks really horrible:sad:
     
  7. john_s

    john_s Subscriber

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    Kodak Flexicolor Fixer is just on the acid side of neutral (pH is 6-point-something). Smell is minimal, price is low.
     
  8. cmo

    cmo Member

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    I use Amaloco's X89 fixer: fast (2 min. for Tmax), efficient (for lots of films) and it does not stink so badly. And it's cheap.
     
  9. Dan Henderson

    Dan Henderson Member

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    I have used TF4 fixer from Photographer's Formulary with excellent results.
     
  10. Bob F.

    Bob F. Member

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    Any rapid fixer mixed at film strength will work fine. Modern films do not need hardeners added. I have used the Fotospeed odourless mentioned above in the past and now use Agfa FX Universal (intended for minilabs I believe) which is much cheaper and similarly as low in odour.

    I do not find any of them totally odourless: "low-odour" would be a more accurate description I think, but perhaps I am more sensitive than most people to it. I do get a sore throat if I use "normal" fixer in trays but with the low-odour ones - and using a citric acid stop-bath too - I find I only switch my fans on when I remember to do so.

    Cheers, Bob.
     
  11. Tom Hoskinson

    Tom Hoskinson Member

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    If the offensive odor is ammonia, the first step is to mix your fixer with distilled water and without the hardener (BTW, for fixing most films and paper the hardener is not needed).

    If you still get odor, add a few grams of Borax (Sodium Tetraborate) or a few grams of Sodium Metaborate.
     
  12. reellis67

    reellis67 Subscriber

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    Same here. I work in a bathroom that gets converted to a darkroom as needed, so it's quite intimate in there, and I never have problems with odors (from the chemicals anyway...:surprised:)

    - Randy
     
  13. Slixtiesix

    Slixtiesix Subscriber

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    Little bit off topic, but in a darkroom book dated from the 60s I´ve read that they had fixer with lavender fragrance back then.
     
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  15. cmo

    cmo Member

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    That sounds like chicken-flavored coke or garlic icecream... :D

    What about Napalm flavored stop bath?

    "Napalm, son. Nothing in the world smells like that."
     
  16. srs5694

    srs5694 Member

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    I think dede95064 needs to clarify just what odor is involved. To my nose, there are three distinct types of odors I've detected (although the third isn't really an odor per se):

    • Ammonia odor. This comes only from fixers made with ammonium thiosulfate (or presumably other ammonia compounds). TF-3 is the biggest offender on this score.
    • Hardener odor. This one is hard to describe, but it's a distinctive odor from the hardener used in hardening fixers.
    • Nasal irritation. I've found that some fixers cause nasal irritation for a day or so after use, similar to the onset of a cold. IIRC, when I asked about this I was told that acid fixers release a gas when used that causes this problem, and that neutral and alkaline fixers are much better on this score.

    Overall, for a fixer that minimizes all three problems, a neutral or alkaline fixer without hardener and based on sodium thiosulfate would probably do best. TF-2 springs to mind as a possibility, although I've never tried it. The trouble with sodium thiosulfate fixers is that they're slower than ammonium thiosulfate ("rapid") fixers -- typically ~5 minutes to fix film, vs. ~2 minutes with rapid fixers. Personally I don't mind that so much for film, but for paper I do, since I typically run prints through the fixer several times in each darkroom session, so an extra couple of minutes can turn into an extra half hour sitting there at the tray.

    I've tried several fixers over the past four years or so:

    • Kodak fixer. (I think that's the link to the right product.) This is a hardening acid sodium thiosulfate fixer. It caused me the worst nasal irritation and set me to try other fixers. Thinking back, the nasal irritation may have been worse because it's a non-rapid fixer, so I spent a lot of time with my nose near the tray!
    • Kodafix fixer. This is a hardening acid ammonium thiosulfate fixer. It's not as nasally irritating as the powdered Kodak fixer, but it does have the hardener smell. It's got very little ammonia odor.
    • Arista Premium Odorless Powder Fixer. This is a non-hardening sodium thiosulfate fixer. It's pretty good on the odor front. Unfortunately, it's also slower and more expensive than most rapid fixers, so I abandoned it.
    • Silvergrain Clearfix Neutral. (The link is to the gallon size, but other sizes are available.) This is a non-hardening rapid fixer. It's got a very mild ammonia odor, no hardener odor, and didn't cause me nasal irritation. Overall it's pretty good on the stink-o-meter. Unfortunately it's pretty expensive.
    • TF-3 fixer. This is a mix-it-yourself non-hardening alkaline rapid fixer. As such, it's got a very strong ammonia odor but no hardener odor, and it hasn't caused me nasal irritation. Despite the ammonia odor, I've used a lot of it because of its other two nasal plusses, because it's very fast, and because it's inexpensive.
    • TF-4 fixer. This is a commercial rapid non-hardening fixer. It's got a mild ammonia odor (not nearly as bad as TF-3) and it didn't irritate my nasal passages the first time I used it (last night). It's also quite inexpensive. Most major mail-order photo retailers carry it in multiple sizes.
    • Kodak Flexicolor (C-41) fixer. (Link to Adorama's page since I can't seem to find Kodak's page for this product.) This is a color film fixer, but it can reportedly be used with B&W film and paper. I've not yet tried it that way, but judging by its odor "raw," it seems pretty mild. It's based on ammonium thiosulfate but has very little ammonia odor. It has no hardeners and I've never gotten nasal irritation when processing C-41 film. It's also very inexpensive.

    I've tried at least two other mix-it-yourself formulas, but I don't remember much about them, so I can't comment on them.
     
  17. dede95064

    dede95064 Member

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    thanks for the responses everybody!

    the odor that i mean is that it smells nasty, not like rotten eggs nasty but i guess kinda like ammonia nasty. since i'm new at this, i'm not sure of the exact culprit in the ilford rapid fixer. after i'm done developing, the smell latches onto my nasal cavity and i can almost taste it. it leaves a foul residual odor that i can still smell while i'm doing something somewhere else. this sticks with me for about 20 minutes or so. it goes away eventually. i'm thinking if i stick with this fixer i'm going to need a face mask filter to develop. :surprised:
    out of all the fixers srs5694 stated, i still am leaning towards the arista liquid fixer one. on the link description, it says that it fixes film in "30 seconds". that seems pretty fast as it also states it is a "rapid" fixer. i wonder what the real time is if it isn't a rapid fixer. is it more than 5 minutes? it seems to be one of the cheaper ones too since you dilute it 1:9.

    my purpose again would be only for film and not paper developing.

    the tf-4 fixer sounds interesting and i'm thinking i will try it once i give pyro hd a try.
     
  18. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    There are basically three odors from fixers:

    1. Ammonia - the fixer is alkaline or has been made alkaline via use. Use a good rinse after development or a stop bath.

    2. Sulfite - All fixers contain sulfite to prevent decomposition. Acid fixers create sulfur dioxide gas. This is unavoidable. Solution is to not use acid fixers. It is worse with hardener fixers because they must be more acidic.

    3. Hydrogen sulfide - this has the odor of rotten eggs. If you smell it, the fix of whatever type you have is going bad. You can still use it as long as there is no precipitate. After the ppt forms, you can probably use it for paper fixing but not for film. It leaves particles in the emulsion that can be seen in film.

    There are other odors from alkaline fixers with organic chemicals in them. These are quite nasty. We called them "The Breath of Death". They are not toxic but sure smell awful. Some sources are sodium hypo alkaline fixes with hardener (rare nowdays) or fixers with formalin (also rare).

    PE
     
  19. srs5694

    srs5694 Member

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    Just to be clear: The Arista fixer to which I referred is not the Arista Premium Odorless Liquid fixer to which you refer, dede95064. The former is a powdered sodium thiosulfate fixer, whereas the latter is a liquid fixer, presumably based on ammonium thiosulfate. (Most powdered fixers are based on sodium thiosulfate, whereas most liquid ones use ammonium thiosulfate.) If the odor to which you object is an ammonia odor, then anything based on ammonium thiosulfate will be iffy. These fixers vary substantially in the strength of their ammonia odor, depending on pH and other ingredients, but every one I've encountered has at least a hint of an ammonia odor. Thus, if you don't mind an extra ~3 minutes of fixing time and perhaps a little extra cost, you might want to look at sodium thiosulfate fixers.

    Concerning cost, that can be tricky; you've got to figure the cost once diluted to working volume and the capacity. The capacity can vary from one fixer to another and is seldom advertised, but most fixers have similar capacities -- about 20-30 36-exposure rolls per liter. I calculate the total cost per roll of Arista Premium Powder fixer at $0.07, Arista Premium Odorless Rapid fixer at $0.05, TF-4 at $0.12 (I discovered an error in my earlier calculations; TF-4 actually isn't as inexpensive as I'd thought earlier!), Kodak's standard hardening fixer at $0.07, and Kodak Flexicolor (C-41) fixer at $0.05. These costs will go up or down depending on the package size, shipping costs, etc., so take them as rough guides only. I've based these costs on the 1-gallon size packages or whatever's closest to that (2.5 gallons for the Arista Premium Odorless Rapid product).
     
  20. Martin Aislabie

    Martin Aislabie Subscriber

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    I deliberately choose non-odourless stop & fixer

    I do this to check if the fume level in the darkroom is getting too high

    It’s not obvious while I am in there but I view my wet prints outside the darkroom at a north facing window and when I go back in I always have a good sniff

    If it is a bit too smelly I take a break & leave the door open for a few minutes.

    I have always assumed that no/low odour stop & fixer doesn’t mean there are no fumes - it’s just our noses are unable to detect the fume level

    I try to agitate the stop & fixer trays at arms length – leaving the print inspection until it is in a tray of water – there is nothing going on too see and its way to late to change it anyway

    Also I like the smell of the chemicals – to me its one of the subtle pleasures of the darkroom

    Surely it’s not just me who likes the smell ?

    Martin
     
  21. Trevor Crone

    Trevor Crone Member

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    FWIW, although I develop prints in open trays I stop and fix in slot processors (Nova), low surface to air ratio.
     
  22. Paul Verizzo

    Paul Verizzo Member

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    I think that's backwards, Nick. To reduce the ammonia odor of a rapid fixer, add some acid to bring it to neutral or thereabouts. Acetic acid, sodium bisulfate, sodium metabisulfite, whatever.

    OTOH, maybe my brain isn't up to full speed yet, so if I'm wrong, someone let us know.
     
  23. Kirk Keyes

    Kirk Keyes Member

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    Perhaps it's time to think about better darkroom ventilation...
     
  24. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    BTW, re-reading some of these posts, the most common hardener is alum (aluminum sulfate) which has no odor. It is the increase in acidity in these fixers that make sulfite odor more apparent by releasing more sulfur dioxide gas into the air.

    PE
     
  25. Ken Nadvornick

    Ken Nadvornick Subscriber

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    There must be something wrong with me...

    I intentionally mix the Kodak F-5 general purpose hardening fixer formula from scratch for film use, even though it's hardening is not actually required. Why? I like the smell. Why? Because it reminds me of younger days in earlier, simpler darkrooms developing films from earlier, simpler cameras. That distinctive smell was my most-anticipated moment when I finished my first new darkroom in 25+ years a while back. And that moment did not disappoint.

    (Since I do like to tone in selenium, I mix the F-24 non-hardening version for my fiber prints.)

    Ken
     
  26. john_s

    john_s Subscriber

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    I know what you mean, Ken. I have lived with fixer smell for over 75% of my life. Nowadays I use Kodak Flexicolor fixer (see above) which smells much less, but I'm pleased to report that my darkroom still smells like a real darkroom. It's just not as overpowering.

    Among ammonium thiosulphate fixers, the odour varies from ammonia if the fixer is quite alkaline to SO2 if it's acidic. There is a point in between where it smells only faintly of both, and that is where I prefer it. Any spills end up smelling of SO2 but not too strong, so the darkroom still smells correct.