Washing Film - Best Environmentally Friendly Way to Do It?

Discussion in 'B&W: Film, Paper, Chemistry' started by ozphoto, Nov 2, 2008.

  1. ozphoto

    ozphoto Subscriber

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    Have just processed 5 rolls of 120 film this morning and as I was washing them I started to think about the amount of water I use when printing and processing my B&W work.

    Water restrictions are coming into effect yet again in South Australia this summer (and also over this past winter!!) and I want to reduce the amount of H2O I use as much as possible. I do use a print washer, but even then it seems to use copious amounts or am I imagining things?? :wink:

    How do you wash your prints and films to use the least amount of water possible?
     
  2. JBrunner

    JBrunner Moderator Staff Member Moderator

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    There are many arguments concerning washing, so opinions vary.

    My 2c. Diffusion, as opposed to agitation, plays the largest part in clearing negatives and prints, so time spent in water is valuable, even if the water isn't being turned over constantly, in fact the water need not be run constantly. I have a print washer, but these days I don't run it constantly. Once it is loaded I turn the water over for a few minutes and then let it soak for ten. I repeat this periodic turn over five times (with fiber prints) and then turn over for about the last ten minutes. The prints come out clear, and I use the same amount of water as if I had run the washer for only about twenty minutes, as opposed to an hour.
     
  3. kodachrome64

    kodachrome64 Member

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    Just use the Ilford wash method for film. It's archival and uses a minimal amount of water.

    Nick
     
  4. Andrey

    Andrey Member

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    If this was a big concern for me, I'd change water 3-4 times allowing the film to sit in there for 3-5 minutes. If you can add agitation that would help as well, or at reduce the waiting periods.
     
  5. Curt

    Curt Subscriber

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    For me too the sound of water constantly running in the darkroom, I admit I've run my share of water down the drain. Where I live we have a mix of water meters and no water meters, anyone applying for a building or remodeling permit is first sent to the water department to get metered. I don't have a meter but wasting a lot of water isn't right. I contacted Hass manufacturing and got nice reply from Bill Hass. I asked if the water could be turned off when not needed as opposed to my Kodak unit which has to run to be tempered. He said the unit stabilizes in 3 to 5 seconds. It would be close to tempered water on demand.

    Another thing I keep hearing is the need for shorter wash times with new films and the use of TF-4 fixer. I don't wash 120 film like I used to but give it multiple changes of water and not water constantly flowing over it.
     
  6. gandolfi

    gandolfi Member

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    I once read in a german magazine of washing techniques of film..

    and the one I use, and teach my students is simple and quick:

    use 20-21 degrees C water.
    fill the tank with this water and agitate "violently" (kipping) 5 times - change the water and agitate 10 times - change and agitate 20 times...
    that's it.

    apparently the chemistry/water interchanging is best at 20-21 degrees, so it won't help to raise the temperature..
    (or lower it)

    this is the "washing maschine" principle. it is rather quick - it saves a LOT of water and it works (for me..)
     
  7. Slixtiesix

    Slixtiesix Subscriber

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    I also use the Ilford method. For FB paper using a washaid
    is often recommend to short down the washing time.
    There are more or less expensive
    solutions available from Ilford and others, but simple soda
    should work fine. I tried it some time ago, was more of a little
    experiment, but I had no possibility to do a scientific research whether
    it helped or not.
    greetz, Benjamin
     
  8. bdial

    bdial Subscriber

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    For roll and 35 film, I give it 20 - 25 minutes in water, dumping and refilling every 5 minutes. For sheet film, I hang it in the print washer and more or less use Jason's method in running it.
     
  9. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    Just FYI, Bill Troop and I are working on a new type of fixer which should allow a shorter wash cycle for film and paper than any other fixer now on the market for B&W products.

    PE
     
  10. CBG

    CBG Member

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    Forgive me but I need to digress to answer your query.

    Since washing photographic materials works by diffusion of the "bad" stuff outward from and area of high concentration, the film or print, to an area of low concentration, the wash water, and since the speed of the migration of the fixation products is determined by the relative concentrations of byproducts in the emulsion and the wash water, I've been convinced that the strongest washing is accomplished by total changes of water. In other words, the most effective wash method is by fill and dump since you reduce the concentration of fixation byproducts in the washing environment radically every time you dump and refill.

    The key for me was reading, long ago, that Kodak rated wash effectiveness by the number of complete changes of water. That got me thinking.

    I can't remember where I first read that Kodak specified for washing by continuous flow, a certain number of complete changes of water, but I took that to heart and applied the concept to do a fill and dump wash sequence.

    The short description of my sequence was that I filled a small plastic tub and agitated prints in it for something like a minute, dumped it completely and refilled. Then, repeat, repeat , repeat ... I believe I repeated a total of ten times.

    To elaborate, the first couple of changes were quite quick, since my initial objective was mainly to rid the wash environment of the majority of fixer clinging to the surface of the print. If, by some rough guesstimate, one can reduce the surface "cling" of fix by a factor of a hundred or a thousand at each of the first two fill-and-dumps, the fix clinging to the surface has become a non-issue by then. The "cling" would have been reduced by some ten thousand fold to a million fold. What remained of fix and by-products largely remained within the emulsion. After that, I then slowed down the sequence to allow diffusion to do the heavy lifting. The rest of my cycles were at least a minute or two long. The overall idea is to have the print live in the cleanest possible environment as much of the time as possible. That gives diffusion the greatest opportunity to do it's happy work.

    If I recall, Kodak specified something like ten(?) complete changes of water in one or another pamphlet. They mentioned - I think - a test using dye to see how completely the water got changed.

    The fill and dump system works exceedingly well. My oldest prints, some thirty plus years old, are in very good shape despite deplorable storage. Would that my old composition and printing skills have been anywhere near as competent as my washing...

    I have never since really trusted any washer that doesn't do complete dumps, so this system felt like a safe and reliable way to wash prints. Any method that just swashes contaminated wash water back and forth around one's print seems, to me, little better than washing one's photos in a toilet.

    Now, to get back to your question of good management of water usage ... if one doesn't use endless gallons at each fill and dump cycle, you should get the most washing bang for your buck via fill and dump.

    I used to just maintain a largish tub with tempered water in it, and I used a beaker to ladle fresh wash water from the tub into the wash tray after I had dumped it. Much faster than refilling from a faucet. And as a bonus, it is easier to temper a large volume of water just once, than to fiddle endlessly. Of course, a thermostatic valve might be a worthy alternative, but my sequence is simple, fast and solidly effective. I like simple, fast and effective.

    Of course, with fiber prints, wash aids are mandatory for good washing, speed and water usage efficiency since fiber prints are the most challenging washing job.

    C
     
  11. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    I have posted this before, but Mason, one of the early proponents of the sequential dump and fill showed mathematically and in practice that this method was not as effective as a stream of continuously running water for washing film or paper. He therefore repudiated the dump and fill method. I posted the equations in another thread on this same subject which keeps coming up over and over.

    The best wash is a stream of constantly flowing water which is kept up until the photomaterial tests free of hypo residue and silver halide using the appropriate tests. The only way to change this is to change dC/dT or the change in concentration in the photoproduct with respect to time and this can only be changed by changing dD/dT or the change in diffusion rate of the unwanted materials with respect to time.

    I've been working on this problem for over 3 years.

    PE
     
  12. dancqu

    dancqu Member

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    And Mason's measure of effectiveness? Successive changes
    and soaks though DO work to make more efficient use of
    the little water used. A method which uses little water
    yet is a practical, easy, quick, way to wash.

    I don't believe Ilford in recommending their three changes
    of water with agitation have thrown us a bum steer. Dan
     
  13. Nicholas Lindan

    Nicholas Lindan Advertiser Advertiser

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    I am of the fill and dump school, but with plenty of agitation.

    For film I do all the washing in the closed developing tank. The procedure is

    1) Water: 30 seconds continuous agitation
    2) KHCA: 5 minutes, ten seconds agitation on the minute, I use KHCA to get the purple dye out of the film
    3) Water: 30 seconds continuous agitation
    4) 3x water: 5 minutes, tens seconds agitation on the minute, this part gets done when cleaning up the darkroom etc. so timing is variable
    5) PhotoFlow 1:10 w/ alcohol for stock, then 1:20 w/ distilled water: 30 seconds continuous

    Tests in residual fixer test show no color. I don't test as a matter of course after confirming
    the procedure works.

    Six changes of water in total.

    Procedure is the same with sheet film in a Jobo drum/motor base but the agitation is continuous.

    I use a similar procedure for prints if I am only washing a few: Large trays, shuffle agitation, longer times.
    I use warmish water, 75F or so.

    For washing a lot of prints I use a tray siphon and a huge deep tray.

    I always check each batch of prints with residual hypo test. I keep a test print or two and run them through the wash with the others just for destructive testing.
     
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  15. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    Mason worked for Ilford Dan and repudiated this method in his book because it built up a constant amount of hypo and silver salts in each wash, whereas the running water method had effectively zero hypo and silver at the surface of the film as long as the wash continued. He then went on to show it with the math which, as I say, I posted before along with his thoughts.

    The rinse and dump method was to be used only in cases where water was limited, and actually Ilford had him design it during a drought in England / Europe, some 30 years ago. It can easly be proven wrong just by thought experiments, then the math and then the acutual analysis which he has done.

    Please read the book I referenced in previous posts.

    PE
     
  16. dancqu

    dancqu Member

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    Well the "rinse and dump" method has certainly passed the test
    of time; at last look still an Ilford recommended way to wash.
    Good job Mr. Mason.

    BTW, the OP is from Australia. Dan
     
  17. Nicholas Lindan

    Nicholas Lindan Advertiser Advertiser

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    The endpoint of all washing is the same: elimination of all put a trace amount of hypo.

    No method produces a better result than another because all methods are run until the goal is achieved.

    One can minimize either the expenditure of time or the expenditure of water. As a practical matter, as most people don't have laminar flow equipment:
    • If time is of the essence then the better method is a continuous vigorous flow of water with some mechanical flexing of the material;
    • If water conservation is more important then the better method is a series of agitated soakings.
     
  18. Photo Engineer

    Photo Engineer Subscriber

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    Yes Dan, I know what conditions are like in OZ.

    That is why I am trying my best to design a fixer that uses less water!

    More on that sometime soon, but it has taken several years of work.

    BTW, if Mason repudiates his work, what does that say about it? It works, just not well enough in some cases for archival work perhaps? I suggest that people "trust but verify". Do you? I check all prints for retained hypo and retained silver.

    PE
     
  19. ozphoto

    ozphoto Subscriber

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    Thanks for all the suggestions. The Ilford washing sequence is quite what I'm looking for - efficient and environmentally friendly! I'll look into the other methods suggested too as well.

    Nanette
     
  20. Martin Aislabie

    Martin Aislabie Subscriber

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    PE, is there any published work on wash time v water temperature

    Most of the wash times I have seen refer to a 20C water stream.

    Living in England my mean water temperature over the year is closer to 10C than 20C.

    Therefore I "over wash" by a considerable margin, x2 at 15C water temp and x4 at 10C (BTW these are just my guesses at reasonable safety factors)

    Thanks

    Martin
     
  21. dancqu

    dancqu Member

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    I don't know what film it is you are washing. If though
    you can use something akin to the Ilford sequence then
    room temperature washing is no problem. Keep a jug or
    two of room temperature wash water at hand. Dan
     
  22. srs5694

    srs5694 Member

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    A related question: Any thoughts on using non-tap water for washing? I'm thinking specifically of rain water collected in a barrel or the water collected from a dehumidifier? I know PE has advised against the latter for use in developers because of the presence of microorganisms and other contaminants, so I'm guessing the same water would be a poor choice for washing, but I'm not sure of that. Would using such water be OK if it were followed by a shortened wash using tap water? That would at least help reduce tap water consumption.
     
  23. Simon R Galley

    Simon R Galley Subscriber

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    Dear All,

    We must do everything possible to reduce the waste of water in our processes.....I am always amazed at the 'over washing' of RC prints, 60 to 90 seconds is all it needs, 2 mins if you are being ultra cautious.....

    Simon ILFORD Photo / HARMAN technology Limited :
     
  24. Tim Gray

    Tim Gray Member

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    I've heard that dehumidifier water is bad bad bad. Because of the amount of bacteria and other little buggies that grow in it.

    I use the Ilford wash method, modified on three counts. First, after the first wash, I give the film two minutes in a hypo clearing agent. I know you don't need to do this for film, but it can't hurt. Then I do agitation cycle, except I usually agitate more (20, 25, 30 instead of 5, 10, 15), and I let it sit for a 30 seconds or a minute after each agitation cycle. During this period I start cleaning up the bathroom a bit (wash funnels, etc.)

    Seems to work so far (knock on wood).
     
  25. Reinhold

    Reinhold Subscriber

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    "We must do everything possible to reduce the waste of water in our processes.....I am always amazed at the 'over washing' of RC prints, 60 to 90 seconds is all it needs, 2 mins if you are being ultra cautious....."

    Since RC prints are a siver emulsion on a watrproof base and can be effectivly washed in a very short time, doesn't the same apply to film which is also a silver emulsion on a waterproof base???

    I've been using 5 standing washes with frequent agitation over 15 minutes (while I'm doing clean-up) for the past 25+ years.

    Now thaaaaaat oughta do it....

    Reinhold

    www.classicBWphoto.com
     
  26. Barry S

    Barry S Member

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    Does someone have a reference for the Ilford water change method? I can't find it on the Ilford site. Thanks!