Hard water

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The water here in Jerusalem is very hard. The bottom of our kettle is caked with white mineral deposits. Should I use distilled water to develop films, or maybe bottled water? Thanks Yaakov Asher Sinclair

-- Yaakov Asher Sinclair (sinclair@actcom.co.il), May 21, 2000


The water here in London is also very hard Yaakov.I don't think you need to go to the added expense and trouble of using distilled/bottled water to dev.your films if you are using proprietary developers.The only precaution you realy need to take is to use some form of water filter to remove any foreign matter in the water that may stick to the film,a good cheap one is made by Paterson or something more upmarket is the Ametek range of water filters. If you are mixing your own developers from formulae then it is best to make-up stock solutions with distilled water to prevent precipitation. Regards,Trevor.

-- Trevor Crone (trevor.crone@uk.dreamcast.com), May 21, 2000.

Use distilled water at least for developer and final rinse in Photo- Flo. It doesn't cost all that much in amateur quantities. Put a good filter on your faucet head for washing the film.

-- Bill Mitchell (bmitch@home.com), May 21, 2000.

Definatly use distilled/filtered water for atleast the developer, but I'd use it for the fixer too. Ah, one of the benefits of living in Scotland - nice soft water.

-- David Kirk (David_J_Kirk@hotmail.com), May 21, 2000.

Tell me now? What are the true benefits of using "distilled" water as opposed to "non-distilled" water for processing film? What happens if you don't use "distilled" water? This is a test in logic. James

-- james (james_mickelson@hotmail.com), May 21, 2000.

The difference in using distilled over tap water that may be mineral laden, other than particulate matter, is that some developers change character in hard water. Xtol is especially prone to problems at higher dilutions,(1:2, 1:3 or higher) with tap water that varies in chlorine, iron and other minerals that contribute to hard water. Why take a chance when either purified water or distilled water can keep you from finding out that your local water isn't up to snuff, especially since it will happen on one of your more important rolls of film. For the sake of continuity I also mix fixer and use the two final rinse cycles with purified water. It does give me cleaner negatives.

On to print chemistry mixtures, with some chemistry the cleaner and more pure water makes a difference as well.

-- Dan Smithq (shooter@brigham.net), May 21, 2000.

I don't know Dan. I kibitz with quite a few veteran darkroom workers and they all have their own methods when it comes to mixing up chemistry and processing film and paper. But I just don't see the difference in any of their finished images. None. I'm not saying that anyone should change their working methods. Not at all. What I'm saying is that, on these newsgroups/photo forums I keep hearing "you have to do this or that or your stuff will look like shit". I don't buy it. You are a very good photographer and I like your images. But Joe Amateur doesn't need to go out and buy distilled water or get a filter system in order to get the same results as you. As long as there aren't any gross impurities like leaves and dead fish, most water will give excellent results. Except for the big commercial labs it wasn't until the 60's that people even thought about filtering their water. I just think it is a waste of good processed water which only adds to the expense of photograpy to keep telling the amateur they have to use distilled water to get decent results. I don't use processed water and my results are great. Smooth tonalities, crystal clear blacks and clean high values. And unless you have extreme pH differences from the rest of us, the ppm impurities in your water are zilch compared to the amount of chemical you are introducing anyway. Too many purists sing the same song when it comes to mixing chemistry and processing materials. Photographers in the rest of the world don't have the luxury of filtered water and they produce consistently great, clean images. James

-- james (james_mickelson@hotmail.com), May 21, 2000.

Use distilled water for the final wetting-agent rinse, but I wouldn't worry about the tap water (as long as results on film are ok) unless you're getting precipitates in the solutions or other oddities.

-- John Hicks (jbh@magicnet.net), May 21, 2000.

Dissolved minerals can affect developer activity, among other things, but the real problem is that in most areas with hard water the mineral content varies with the seasons, the temperature, and with how the local water authority routes the water through it's domain.

Photographic chemistry is not about being accurate, but it is about being consistent. If your water supply has a constant mineral content you can adjust your processing and exposure to compensate for any effects it may have. With a varying mineral content results can become unpredictable, and unless you like re-shooting negatives it makes sense to eliminate unpredictability, particularly if the cost is low as in this case.

Bottled water often has a high mineral content (it's part of the sales pitch). Expensive brands like Evian work hard to keep it constant, but cheap ones vary just like your tap water so distilled or deionised water makes more sense. I don't know about Isreal, but in most of Europe it can be bought from pharmacies in multi-gallon sizes for not much money.

-- Struan Gray (struan.gray@sljus.lu.se), May 22, 2000.

I lived and worked in San Antonio, Texas for a few years, which has some of the hardest water in the States. The entire city is supplied by wells drilled in limestone formations so the calcium-carbonate levels were really high. I found that I could use the tap water for mixing developer, but that the added alkalinity did increase the developer activity somewhat which had to be compensated for. The important thing is to be able to get consistant results. If you have a water supply with consistant mineral content and don't do much developing anywhere else then you should have no problems. Of course, using distilled water certainly won't hurt, and you can duplicate the results world-wide. Do, however, use distilled (not "bottled" or "purified") water for your final rinse before drying the film (I mix my photo-flo with distilled water and soak the films with constant agitation for at least 2 minutes). Softened water is good for washing, being even more efficient because of the salt content, but will leave nasty crystals when it dries if you don't rinse with distilled water. Hard water usually takes a little longer to wash with, depending on the exact content. If you still get water spots on your film, increase the time in the distilled water solution. Remember, if you develop large batches of film at a time, to change this solution regularly, as it can become saturated with minerals and start leaving water spots as well. Hope this helps, ;^D)

-- Doremus Scudder (ScudderLandreth@compuserve.com), May 22, 2000.

I'd rather do just about anything instead of spotting dirty negatives, especially it if could have been provented. That's why I recommend always using distilled water in the developer and final wash. It has nothing to do with chemical reactions. Mitch

-- Bill Mitchell (bmitch@home.com), May 22, 2000.

If your water has particles large enough that you have to spot your prints after processing, even given enlarging 35mm to 16x20, I would contact your local Water Quality Control Board. All minerals such as calcium, Cabonates, sulfates, and iron are in the molecular state so if you are seeing spots it isn't because you are using tap water and the mineral content is high. When you use a photo flow type viscosity lowering wash aid you should come out with pretty clean negs just using tap water. I live at the very end of a 700 mile water delivery system and have some of the highest loads of minerals in the country outside of Texas and I don't use anything but tap water. And I never see any hint of particles. I think it is a wives tale that has been passed along through the years and will continue to be a part of the photographic folklore forever. If you use distilled that's fine but I question the need for it. You have to add a hell of a lot of sulfite to developer to get the increase in activity people talk about. So why is the difference between water in New York City and Texas so problematic that people have to use distilled water to keep consistent processing characteristics? And have most of you calibrated your processes so well that a 1/10th f-stop speed difference is so great as to be noticed? I question that assumtion. James

-- james (james_mickelson@hotmail.com), May 25, 2000.

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