Heavy Residue on 4x5 Negatives after Processing

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We're talking more than simple water spots problem here. Heavy residue on 4x5 Negatives after processing in trays and using Gravity Works type sheet film washer. I am using unfiltered tap water from pre-soak through wash chemistries. Am getting noticeable residue "deep in the emulsion" seemingly, which I cannot remove with re-washing in distilled H2O with Edwal LFN solution or even with gentle squeegee with thumb after the negative has soaked in water for quite a while. What's this unremovable residue due to? Is it the tap water? All chemstries otherwise freshly mixed. Anyone else had this problem before?

I have a feeling it's the quality or lack thereof of the tap water, which is seemingly ultra-mineralized, but I may be wrong. If correct though, if I were to try to "filter" my wash system, how fine of a filter would I need to use to filter out mineral deposits in the wash water, for instance?

on the other hand, if you suspect it may be due to something else, I appreciate that input as well.

This is one problem I want to find a SOLUTION to sooner rather than later. :>) Andre

-- Andre Noble (andrenoble@usa.net), June 29, 2001


Hmm...I don't have an exact answer for you...but in our building we have incredibly bad water. We run 5 micron spun filters on both the hot & cold water lines. We change them every other month, and the way the filters look...yech. We used to run 25 micron pleated filters on both the hot & cold on our sink line for print processing...BUT...our Ilford processor kept getting clogged washer lines because of all this junk in the water...basically calcium deposits and rust or sludge...so now it's 5 micron there as well. We have a Wing Lynch processor running E6 as well with an Intellifaucet that is literally clogged by the caclcium deposits....it's just the water...nothing to do with stuff in it....

Okay, that's work...at my own darkroom i use hot & cold filters prior to the water panel & any sinks with 25 micron pleated filters. Works great for me, and I change them twice a year. Wherever you decide to place your filters, do it in a spot where you can easily access them....so you don't have to get in some contorted position to change them, and do it so if any water leaks out (it will) it won't destroy anything. In my old darkroom, I used a canabilized water filter housing and just hooked this up to the faucet. I ran the water straight from the tap through it. Worked great too. I used those quick connect garden hose things so I could just hook it up for film washing or chemical mixing. I still use those for film washers or print washers....

As for your problem, I'm not sure what you're talking about (sorry..) It could be the water or who knows? If it's drying as a pattern, it could be differential drying....this will look like an agitation mark, but it's often uneven drying. I have seen hypo deposits dry on film because the flow has been to low in the washer....I've seen this in a tank line where the deposits "cling" to the hangers around the film clips. If you didn't agitate the film in the wash basket, or have the faucet really cranked up....this residue of old fix would dry on the film.....not good.....

-- DK Thompson (kthompson@moh.dcr.state.nc.us), June 29, 2001.

Mr. Thompson: That you mention it, I think it very well may be caused by heavy calcium deposits in the tap water I'm using (which is causing said residue on negatives). Afterall, there's evidence of heavy calcium build up on leaky fixtures in my shower, which is telling me this water has calcium in droves. Negatives I described earlier seem be another symptom of this, now that you have differentiated calcium deposits in water from other contaminants. Is this possible?

If that's the case, I think I'll need to completly re-examine the way I mix chemistries and wash film. My negatives look that bad to me.

For example, I could try a fully distilled water sytem for mixing my black and white processing chemicals.

What technique can anyone suggest to effectively final-wash the film in the distilled water? (presumably we're talking serial rinses in it, say 5 to 7 rinses).

Finally, any suggestions for other uses of a clever Gravity Works sheet film washer other than running tap ater through it to "clean negatives" - This is not a knock on the product, which works great, just that my tap H2O doesn't. :>) Andre

-- Andre Noble (andrenoble@usa.net), June 29, 2001.

Hi Andre, I had this problem too,it's really annoying especially when you get a good neg thats ruined by gunk. My remedy was/is to mix all my b+w chemicals with distilled water,I bought an undersink water filter unit for about 20 bucks and fitted it with a 5 micron water filter(I tried a 20 and still stuff got through).when i was ready to hang up my film I made a bath of distilled water with a small amount of wetting agent and isopropyl alcohol(I usually add about20% of the total volume of rinse water. I now have nice clean negatives:) hope this helps

-- Andy Tymon (Tyefigh2@aol.com), June 30, 2001.

How do the negatives feel once dry? If you run a finger over them do they have a surface 'tooth' to them? Maybe like very fine sandpaper?

We have very hard water where I live and this is a big darkroom problem. At times, usually winter into spring, if I wash negatives in tap water I get an emulsion surface that feels like fine sandpaper. I have to rinse in purified or distilled, NOT tap water in order to get clean negatives. Really a mess. Even using a 5 micron filter doesn't help as it is the dissolved mineral content, not the grit & dirt in the lines.

Seems the organic content also varies with the seasons. I mix chemistry with distilled water & think I will have to go with a totally distilled line in the future. It is a pain but the only way to assure clean negatives.

Once you let them dry with the minerals in them they do't come out. You can look & see the surface irregularity when wet. If you see it start giving distilled water baths or soaks for 2-5 cycles & watch as the surface gradually clears out the gunk.

-- Dan Smith (shooter@brigham.net), June 30, 2001.

Well...it could be the water...The filters we're using are to filter out the crap suspended in the water...not really change it's hardness. Kodak has some literature on water quality, and I think they recommend the hardness (as calcium carbonate) to be 40-150 ppm. You could check with your water supply utility to see if they have a website or whatever that shows the breakdown of municipal water (if that's what you're on). Because there could be all sorts of other stuff in there as well. There could be other things in there like manganese, iron, copper etc....chlorine...

Personally, we just mix our chemistry with the filtered water. The calcium has only physically clogged up the water panels. Which I understand happens quite alot. Unless the water is really bad, like the pH is way off, or it's just loaded with chlorine (which will dissipate on standing overnight...), then you can usually mix chemistry alright with it. We always use a final rinse of distilled water with LFN. If the water is too hard, it can be a problem with mixing chemistry...if it's too soft, then the emulsion can swell.

As for the washer....they work great. Another use might be to use the sheet film basket to wash small fiber base prints....I used to do this with Kodak's postcard paper....

So what's your process like, i.e. what are the chemicals you're using? It is possible to do static washes with non-flowing water....but that seems a little extreme to me in a way. I would say to try to filter the water before going to that step. Patterson used to make a cheap water filter that slid onto a faucet and had a hose running off it. Jobo may have something similar. It could be that the water's too soft....

-- DK Thompson (kthompson@moh.dcr.state.nc.us), June 30, 2001.

Mr. Thompson, Andy, and Dan; Thank you all for your helpful input. I think we've troubleshooted this one in short time. My water IS ultra hard. When I first got into developing at home 5 years ago, I used bottled water for pre-soak, developer, and serial washes. When I hads less time to concentrate on technique, I switched to tap completely, I seemed to do o.k. as well. Perhaps now, I'm just mixing in a particularly hard water seasonal period (summer). I do process only small volume of negatives, personal work, so switching to distilled water is not a problem. As you all can understand, it's a pity to have this gorgeous 4x5 negative, which takes so much skill in other araes to make properly, be ruined by inattentiveness to final technique.

Mr. Thompson, FYI, I use ID11 1+1 in trays at 68F. kodak indicator stop and kodak fix, all mixed in tap. I wash in Gravity Works sheet film washer with running tap for quite a while (over 30 minutes - perhaps too long) If I go ahead and mix solutions in TAP water, do you recommend that I first try placing a 5 micron filter in my Graviyty Works line and running tap through it before resulting to serial rinses with distilled H2O? I admit, I tend to go to extremes, and perhaps using distilled water for all chemistries excluding the main wash will suffice. that way, I still get to use the neat sheet film washer I spent $100 on? :>) Andre

-- Andre Noble (andrenoble@usa.net), June 30, 2001.

CORRECTION: Last paragraph should read, mix solutions in DISTILLED water (not "tap water").

-- Andre Noble (andrenoble@usa.net), June 30, 2001.

Andre....it could be that your problems are exactly like what Dan is talking about...at this point I'd have to add a little disclaimer that says that all of our water supplies are going to be different so....

Yeah, one thing you could do would be to prefilter ALL of your tap water before it gets into the darkroom. I put my filters outside of the room altogether, this way they filter out any solids & gunk before they hit my water panel. Some places will actually put the filters before & after the panels as well. At work, we have 3 panels, and filtered the water before them. Of course, this didn't save us from mineral deposits....

You could just rig up one filter for the mixed water out of the tap, but if your water really is super-hard....then it could be that you need to follow Dan's advice here. I've never looked into this, but you could try to do some water softening as well...but I suspect that there would be some complications for chemical mixing if this weren't done right. At any rate, if you filter the water, then you can maybe eliminate that possibility. Development problems can be some of the toughest/weirdest things to solve...so...good luck.

-- DK Thompson (kthompson@moh.dcr.state.nc.us), June 30, 2001.

Andre: What kind of film are you using, or does it occur with all kinds? I use ID-11 and HC-110 without problems and our water is kind of hard with lots of minerals. Also, what is the average temperature of wash water?


-- Doug Paramore (dougmary@alaweb.com), June 30, 2001.

Doug, it occurs with both HP5 and FP4 films I am using. Since it's summer, the wash water temperature from the tap only gets as cold as about 75-76F. I know, not a good thing to jump from 68F fixer to 75F wash. Good question. In the last 24 hours I have, with considered advice, really given up on this tap water, and in the future will treat my negatives with distilled water only. I'm just getting the wrinkles out of the system because at end of August, I'll be shooting England and Ireland during a 7 week trek. Andre

-- Andre Noble (andrenoble@usa.net), June 30, 2001.

Is this a spotty residue, or kind of blanket-all? What color is it?

-- Matt O. (mojo@moscow.com), July 01, 2001.

Matt, in a word, they look "salty", and all over too - literally like the Massachusetts Turnpike in January. But it's ok now, because with help from you all, I've decided I will no longer let my negatives come in contact with my hard tap water. Simple as that. Thanks. Andre

-- Andre Noble (andrenoble@yahoo.com), July 01, 2001.

Andre: How about you staying home to work on the negative problem and I will shoot the England and Ireland stuff for you? What a neat trip. Enjoy.


-- Doug Paramore (dougmary@alaweb.com), July 01, 2001.

From what I have read and researched, the use of a water-softener device at the building main will solve a lot of problems, including this sediment-on-negative situation. I get the same thing on my film and it can be wiped away, but with great difficulty. Every region is different, and I have not installed anything yet so I can't say.

Our toilets, shower heads, taps, etc. calcify and have to be replaced more frequently than "normal". I've done three toilets in the 7 years I've been here. I went to Home Depot to buy a filter system and was just about to purchase a whole mess of them when a particularly helpful and knowledgeable guy asked what it was for and showed me the system for softening. I'm still looking into it but a single $500 shot seems to be the answer for my processing and house infrastructure problems.

-- Rob Tucher (rtphotodoc@hotmail.com), July 02, 2001.

We've got pretty hard water in western KS but I've never had consistent problems as you describe. I usually develop in d-76 and fix in Kodak rapid fix mixed in tap water. I only mix in distilled water when I use PMK pyro chemistry. However I did note a similar problem to yours when I mixed Photoflo in tapwater OR failed to use FRESH Photoflo each time I processed.

-- Greg Nelson (gnelson@starrtech.net), July 03, 2001.

Thank you all for your knowledgeable input on the potential irreversible adverse effects of high levels of "water hardness" on film emulsion during the wet process. I learned alot from this post, which will advance my developing techniques a fair bit. Thanks again. Andre

-- Andre Noble (andrenoble@yahoo.com), July 04, 2001.

Andre...let us know how it works out...

-- DK Thompson (kthompson@moh.dcr.state.nc.us), July 04, 2001.

I have switched over to using distilled (rather than hard tap) water in all chemistries and processed a small initial batch of sheet film today in it.

I want to report that the problem I was having previously of heavy, unremoveable water calcium carbonate spotting inside the emulsion after negative drying has disappeared. The improved surface quality was visible even as negs lie in the fixer and wash trays.

There remained a very slight amount of water spotting after drying, to be sure, but this could be due to some residual calcium carbonate which solubilized from the walls of the old storage containers in which I mixed the fresh chemistries (despite a brief rinsing with distilled water to avoid such). Andre

-- Andre Noble (andrenoble@yahoo.com), July 26, 2001.

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