Film Washing Test
A few weeks ago there was a discussion about whether to use an acid stop with film or plain water. During that discussion the topic of washing methods came up and I said I would test the published washing methods of both Kodak and Ilford by following them to the letter and then use the standard Residual Hypo test and compare the results to the Hypo Estimator card. After finally getting through the university red tape I have received my silver nitrate to mix the test solution and have conducted the tests. In order to be thorough, I retested everything to verify my results.
All film used was Kodak T-Max 400 TMY-II in 120 format and all rolls were processed using the exact same steps and temperatures with the exceptions noted in the fixing and washing cycles. The images are titled according to whether a hardening or non-hardening fixer was used (Kodak Rapid Fixer with or without part B), if Kodak HCA was used, and the washing method used.
I used running water for some tests, and used the specified flow rate as determined by a flowmeter and the test for efficient flowrate explained in Conservation of Photographs Kodak Publication F-40, 1985.
The washing methods published are:
A 5 minute running water wash at a rate that changes the water once in 5 minutes when using a hardening fixer and HCA or 10 Fill and Dumps. If a hardening fixer is used without HCA, then a 20-30 minute running water wash (at the same rate) should be used. I include the results from only 10 minutes to be thorough.
Fill the tank with water and agitate for 5 inversions, then empty. Fill and agitate 10 inversions, then empty. Fill and agitate 20 inversions, then empty. This assumes a nonhardening fixer and no HCA.
The washing methods tested were as follows:
Kodak- 5 minutes of running water, with hardening fixer and HCA
Kodak- 5 minutes of running water, with nonhardening fixer and HCA
Kodak- 10 minutes of running water, with hardening fixer without HCA
Kodak- 20 minutes of running water, with hardening fixer without HCA
Kodak- 30 minutes of running water, with hardening fixer without HCA
Kodak- 10 minutes of running water, with nonhardening fixer without HCA
Kodak- 20 minutes of running water, with nonhardening fixer without HCA
Kodak- 30 minutes of running water, with nonhardening fixer without HCA
Kodak- 10 Fill and Dump, with hardening fixer and HCA
Kodak- 10 Fill and Dump, with hardening fixer without HCA
Kodak- 10 Fill and Dump, with nonhardening fixer and HCA
Kodak- 10 Fill and Dump, with nonhardening fixer without HCA
Ilford- 3 Fill and Dump with Agitation, with nonhardening fixer without HCA
Ilford- 3 Fill and Dump with Agitation, with hardening fixer and HCA
I added a couple of variations that aren't published, such as Ilford's method with hardening fixer and HCA, but I figure some people may do this.
The film is compared to a Hypo Estimator card. The darker the test solution, the more residual hypo in the emulsion. A well washed negative should have little or no staining matching the patch labelled 1 or less.
I offer no conclusions here, I am only presenting results. You can argue which method is best all you want, but the results here are what they are.
The images were mixed up in the upload process, so do not appear in order of the list, however, the image title indicates the washing method applied.
If I missed a combination or method you like, then test it your own damn self.
Last edited by Greg Davis; 11-22-2010 at 08:40 PM. Click to view previous post history.
Thanks Greg for doing all this work.
I think that I'll go check my stocks of HCA.
“Photography is a complex and fluid medium, and its many factors are not applied in simple sequence. Rather, the process may be likened to the art of the juggler in keeping many balls in the air at one time!”
Ansel Adams, from the introduction to The Negative - The New Ansel Adams Photography Series / Book 2
Both Ilford and Kodak changes of water works perfectly with non-hardening fixer, I use rapidfixer which is non-hardening, so this confirms my experience 6 changes is more than enough, and usually I make 8 for good measure.
Thanx for your effort, this must have been quite a job!
The conclusions seem to be that, at least under these test conditions, hardener retards washing but HCA helps.
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Thanks for the test.
It appears to me that time and HCA are more important than anything else.
I have some paper tests here that I might post for you all.
Ilford's fill-agitate-dump method seems to work perfectly with or without HCA.
It appears that HCA allows one to get away with a less than proper wash, but it's unnecessary if one washes the film correctly ("correctly" meaning either the right number of fill-agitation-dump cycles, or the right number of minutes in running water).
Thanks for posting this. I've been using the Ilford method for some time, but never tested its efficiency. I'm happy to find out it works fine.
Last edited by Vlad Soare; 11-23-2010 at 07:10 AM. Click to view previous post history.
Oh my word. Just fantastic, thank you for sharing!
I never liked the Kodak method because it feels like I am wasting water because I am sure when I do it I am changing the water several times in 5 minuets. Thank you for proving that i can switch to the Ilford method that allows me to close the tap between cycles.
I also thank you on behalf of all the fish, or the person that will get to shower a few minuets longer with the water this saves. *L*
"Would you like it if someone that painted in oils told you that you were not making portraits because you were using a camera?"
"Shouldn't it be more about the joy of producing and viewing the photo than what you paid for the camera?"
There are two "kodak methods", read the entire test!
1. is running water for up to 30 minutes, which really ain't Kodaks method at all, but the traditional method.
2. is 10 changes of water, compared to the Ilfords 3 changes of water.
Ilfords method is sufficient with non-hardening fixer, which is more or less standard issue these days.
10 changes of water is enough for anything.... usually more than enough.
The interesting bit in the test was a glimpse into how efficient running water really is, in theory its not efficient at all.....
But as said before, I prefer my "adapted ilford method" at least 6 changes of water and usually one or two more with a drop of detergent added to get rid of water droplets. My negatives will outlive me by a good margin.