View Full Version : Help Requested for Climate Control and Critters in Darkroom

12-27-2008, 01:10 PM
Hi Everybody - hope you are all having a great holiday and got lots of cool gadgets for xmas!

I have been fighting fungus and critters up to my ears and need recommendations for protecting equipment in Florida's humid climate. Trying to eliminate moisture in darkroom/studio with constant air flow and Damprid though it doesn't seem to be enough, especially with the daily summer rains.

And also recently finding that cockroaches have gotten in through the light fixtures and eaten the bellows on my C330 - ugh - (luckily it was the only bellows they got to, $350 to replace!) - had roach hotels already out but they got through the barriers nonetheless. It's the only place I could put lots of cupboards for storage as there is no room in the house.

It's a stand alone shed converted to a darkroom - I am at my wits end with these problems and being new to the humidity factor.

I would welcome any tips on what others have done to eliminate these issues and thanks so much.

eli griggs
12-27-2008, 02:30 PM
You might try Boric acid powder for the bugs, run it along the perimeters of baseboards, cabinet, shelves, etc. They'll eventually carry it into those places they hid and kill others with it, though the humidity might shorten it's effective life.

Less 'toxic is old fashioned fly paper or card and paper treated with "tangle-foot" http://www.tanglefoot.com/products/ttcoating.htm tacked to the baseboards, etc as well as corners of walls/celling 'V' fashioned where they might also snag their share, especially if you bait it with attractor from 'roach-motels'. Tack/ wrap bands of this sticky stuff to the legs of tables, sinks etc.

Or you could try keeping several small, insect eating pet lizards in the room when not in use.

The most important thing is getting rid of sources of standing water, including from print washers and blocking drains with tight screens at a minimum. As I understand it, Roaches must have a source of water to thrive and though you can't do anything about the rain, you can do things like filling in pot holes underneath the house, if in one, keeping potted-plant dishes free of standing water by using cloth 'wicks' in the basins, not allowing Damp-Rid collectors to stand with collected water exposed, etc.

Air conditioning or heating are the only ways I know to remove the moisture but be careful if you use boric acid, not to raise it up to be breath in, by-way-of excess air currents.

I hope this helps, good luck,

12-27-2008, 02:43 PM
When I was growing up in Florida many years ago, my dad believed that 'conventional wisdom' offered two ways to keep cockroaches out of the house:

1. pile up banana leaves around the foundation.

2. sprinkle a couple hundred pounds of the dust left over from the coffee roasting/grinding process in the crawl space under the house.

The former didn't work, and while the latter smelled fabulous, it really didn't work either.

My mom finally observed that the thing that you really had to be concerned about was the size of the cockroaches. If there were big, that meant that they were adults. Since there was no practical way to keep them out of the house, just step on them, wipe up the mess, and go on with life.

But if they were small, that meant they were breeding in the house and action was required. Unfortunately, there wasn't a very good way to prevent that either. So step on them, wipe up the mess, and go on with life.

So that's one of the reasons I don't live in Florida.

Peter Schrager
12-27-2008, 02:46 PM
put the boric acid in a water solution by boiling...the bugs will drink it and go back to die...so help me god I cleaned out an entire NYC apartment one summer by this method...alas the a/c is the only way to go here in Florida...it maintains all the right elements for preserving your work and the tools that you use
best of luck

12-27-2008, 03:04 PM
I'm down in Fort Lauderdale and am in the A/C business. Seeing as it is a converted shed seal up all cracks inside and out with Fomo fill expanding spray insulation. If you spray outside cracks cut the excess and paint the insulation after it cures or it will rot. A small window unit for $119 at any of the stores should solve your humidity issues for either a current session or if there is a problem with mold left on to cycle occasionally to maintain the environment all the time. A plug in wall timer can work for the a/c to cycle it as many times a day as you need. Hopefully you have finished walls inside and they are insulated. If not it will run and drive the electric bill up, but the mold is a problem and not good especially when it's black mold. For the roaches the best thing to do is get a spray and spray in and out. I use Hot Shot which has no odor per se' and last quite a long time. The lizards help alot but you'll still get roaches, it's the Florida way of life.

12-27-2008, 03:31 PM
Wow - thank you all for the excellent tips! Have used boric acid in the house but never outside around the shed - will give it a try.

Wayne - Most of the cracks are sealed with spray foam except the upper loft area so I will definitely be getting up there, then to seal more. Both rooms are insulated and dry-walled and there is one window plus the a/c unit which is permanently fitted and sealed. They also could be coming into the sink drain so will get stoppers.

Eli - There is a lot of standing water in leaves and potting dishes some I can eliminate - I wouldn't have thought about that - so good.

And I have noticed several lizards in the studio half of the shed - they house themselves behind the wall prints - Must Eat More!!!! Looks like I need more foam sealing - those giant roaches can slip through anything. and will try the Hot Shot.

The fungus now seems to be the biggest battle in protecting my lenses, leather parts and above all, negatives!

Thanks for all your tips.

12-27-2008, 03:42 PM
For several years I've had a "darkroom" in a curtained off space in a non-insulated garage. During the Summer, I usually print early in the morning to avoid excessive heat & humidity. As far as cockroaches, they seem to be less of a problem each year. Maybe its because of the alt process chemicals I have stored in the darkroom space (hopefully, cockroaches are not my canary in the coal mine). I do use some roach traps scattered around the garage, and have noticed Geckos on occasion.

12-27-2008, 03:49 PM
I live on the edge of the rain forest of Puerto Rico. Haven't had problems with roaches, but the only way to solve the humidity problem is with a dehumidifier. You should be able to get them at a local Sears; or they can order them for you. Depending on how large and how well sealed your room is, a 55 pint dehumidifer should probably do the job. My darkroom is about 10x10 feet with a 10-12 foot sloped ceiling, and a 55 works great for me.
That said, you will also need an air conditioner. To control fungus, you need to maintain a temperature below 80F and humidity below 50%. I run my window AC during the daytime in the summer, but don't need it as much in the winter or at night. The dehumidifier shold use about half as much electricity as the AC, but won't cool the space.
Trust me, you need the dehumidifier. Dessicants and other moisture absorbing products are no substitute. We also run a smaller one in our walk-in closet to keep our clothes fresh and dry. It's wonderful.

12-27-2008, 04:00 PM
A dehumidifier - of course - that would do it.

I have been able to keep a pretty constant temp of 68-72, so I will pick up a Hygrometer to measure the humidity - below 55% in Florida seems like a challenge indeed! Even during the dry season.

Paul Verizzo
12-28-2008, 10:21 AM
Hello, VaryaV! May I ask what city you are in, or near? Just wanting to know where kindred souls are here in FL. This AM suffering 80% RH. I spent 35 years in the west and came back to FL to take care of my old parents. My greatest nemesis is humidity. I hate it!

Yes, many, many good suggestions. A dehumidifier will cost less to run than A/C. Of course, you might want or need that A/C anyway. I have noticed by watching my hygrostat after I turn the A/C on, that the RH goes down first, then the temperature.

On my arrival here 15 months ago, there were roaches to be seen all of the time, everywhere. It's not that my parents are pigs, but Dad long ago stopped working on things around the house, including insect control. I appear to have been successful, with only the very occasional roach appearing, either dead or alive. As someone noted above, most of mine lately have been small-ish. No giant honkers. I hereby confess that no doubt I was assisted by my 35 year old bottle of Chlordane, best stuff ever, now illegal to make, sell, use in agriculture, but not to own.

If you go the boric acid route, you can find big plastic squeeze applicator as insect control inexpensively. Don't buy a little bottle at Walgreens!

There are white pellets you can buy "anywhere" in a yellow box with brown lettering. Harris Famous Roach Tablets, I think. I deployed them a year ago under and behind applicances, cabinets, closets, behind book cases, under the sinks, by the garbage, and so on. I really think that these are a major component of my success.

As to sprays, I have determined that some are really good at an immediate kill and others may or may not do that, but have a long term staying power. I've recently successfully used Ortho Home Defense Max for sugar ant control after sprays of the first kind did nothing. Supposed to work for roaches, too.

This is my hygrometer: http://search.harborfreight.com/cpisearch/web/search.do?keyword=hygrometer&Submit=Go I think it is fairly accurate; nothing will be as accurate as a sling psychrometer. Don't bother with the little equivalent from Wart-Mart for $7. As the humidity is either higher or lower than 50%, the error increasingly, uh, increases.

Just don't do what my mother did. She grew up in Brazil. One night she flips the light switch on and a giant flying roach was aiming right at her. She opened her mouth in reaction to scream, then too late realized that was a stupid thing to do. Bit the roach in two........... One of the great family stories. She would tell it to her kids when she was a teach way back. Recently met a woman who was one of those kids 30 years ago and her most vivid memory was the roach story.

12-28-2008, 10:43 AM
Doug - Hi again, what alt chemicals are you using to repel the little "nasties?" I'll get some! - it does look like I'm doing a decent good job keeping them out, since the attack!! - at least the darkroom part of the building is pretty tightly sealed. It's a lot of work, no doubt. The coating on the other bellows' seems to be more (for lack of a better term) "rubberized?" I was terrified that they would get my enlarger, my Crown Graphics or my auto-bellows too - I made sure everything is covered and/or wrapped in plastic now.

Greetings, Paul - I am in Jacksonville. I am not used to roaches either and these down here are the size of Texas and they do fly!!!! The studio part of the building has a loft type ceiling/roof with lots of light coming in and that is the area that really needs work to seal it up. I probably should enclose it with a low ceiling but as I am also a painter I would lose that incredible light - oh, for shame! Thank you so much for the tips and I was going to buy a cheapie hygrometer so I greatly appreciate the link.

Does anyone know how much a lens can endure before it gets fungus rot? I am not a highly technical person and I want to protect my camera lenses and microscopes too!

12-28-2008, 03:13 PM
The most accurate yet low price hygrometer I could find is at a Cigar Supply store (http://www.cigarextras.com/browseproducts/Caliber-III-Digital-Hygrometer-with-Temperature-LCD-Display.html)

As far as chemicals, I wouldn't recommend what I have unless you plan on getting into alt processes (everything from citric acid to potassium dichromate). I suspect dust & fumes from when I open/mix chemicals is creating an unhealthy environment for roaches. Straight alcohol in sprayer seems to knock out the bugs that I see.

12-28-2008, 03:48 PM
Does anyone know how much a lens can endure before it gets fungus rot? I am not a highly technical person and I want to protect my camera lenses and microscopes too!

Not much. Again, at temperatures over 80F and humidity over 50%, it doesn't take long for fungus to begin to attack the glass. If you catch it early, you may be able to have it cleaned fairly successfully. But once it etches the glass, there's nothing you can do. I lost some nice lenses to fungus before I got my dehumidifier.

Paul Verizzo
12-28-2008, 04:27 PM
Not much. Again, at temperatures over 80F and humidity over 50%, it doesn't take long for fungus to begin to attack the glass. If you catch it early, you may be able to have it cleaned fairly successfully. But once it etches the glass, there's nothing you can do. I lost some nice lenses to fungus before I got my dehumidifier.

Ummmmm.....don't tell that to all the lenses sitting in this coastal Florida house for 49 years. From a 1944 Leica to a 1950's Rollei to cheap cameras to mid-level SLR lenses. I've never seen it.

Fungus attacks, if it does at all, the glue between the elements. I think manufacturers have had that licked for years. I don't know how they do it, but I know that a wee bit of mercury will stop fungus cold. That's how they used to stop paint from mildewing back when.

Paul Verizzo
12-28-2008, 04:31 PM
The most accurate yet low price hygrometer I could find is at a Cigar Supply store (http://www.cigarextras.com/browseproducts/Caliber-III-Digital-Hygrometer-with-Temperature-LCD-Display.html)

No digital hygrometer will be spot on accurate according to what I've read. And they have a limited life.

The $9 one I listed will be effectively the same "good enough" accuracy. RH +/- 5% isn't a huge swing unless you are doing science. Humidors are best at 60-70%, it's not critical, so the company making such a thing doesn't need scientific accuracy.