Washing Film - Best Environmentally Friendly Way to Do It?
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??
How do you wash your prints and films to use the least amount of water possible?
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.
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Just use the Ilford wash method for film. It's archival and uses a minimal amount of water.
They give us those nice bright colors
They give us the greens of summers
Makes you think all the world's a sunny day, oh yeah.
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.
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.
Everytime I find a film or paper that I like, they discontinue it. - Paul Strand - Aperture monograph on Strand
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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...
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..)
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.
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.
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.
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.