cleaning 35mm color slides

Discussion in 'Beginner Questions' started by marvin_katz, Jun 6, 2009.

  1. I have about 800 old 35mm color slides that were taken about 40 to 60 years ago. I went to transfer them into my computer and found the slides seem to have gotten dirty or have got mold on them. How can I clean them so I can have a clean photo to put into my computer?
    Thank you
  2. Contact a Photo Conservator and see what they can suggest. You could try an airbrush and/or very soft cloth and then clean up the scanned images on your PC.
  3. For a similar situation I wrapped a Zeiss (wet) lens wipe around the end of a cotton swab, then dunked the tip of the swab in rubbing alcohol. Find a rubbing alcohol with as low a percentage of water as you can. Gentle rubbing, sometimes repeated for stubborn stains, cleaned the slide well enough to scan well. The cardboard mounts would get wet in the process, but would dry in a few minutes. Mold and dirt would also stain the cardboard, but I don't see a way around that.
    I found generic swabs worked better than Q-Tip brand due to a stiffer stick and less cotton at the end. Use a scanner that has Digital Ice technology to automagically remove dirt spots and scratches - it will save an enormous amount of time. I found I could clean, scan, do a little color correction & cropping at the rate of about 9 slides per hour. It's slow going, so plan accordingly. Use a quality scanner, scan at the highest resolution the scanner allows and you probably won't ever have to do the job again.
  4. Digital ICE enabled scanner is likely the best bet. If some of the slides are actually moldy, then you may need to intervene physically, cleaning and/or segregating them. Otherwise, I would leave them alone and rely on ICE. Even with moldy slides, I would do a high resolution scan first, before attempting any cleaning.
    My one experience trying to clean an old slide, by immersion in distilled water with a drop of Kodak Photo-Flo, with a little gentle rubbing between fingers, resulted in much more debris on the slide, as evidenced in a subsequent scan, even with ICE enabled.
    I'd suggest: take one slide you don't really care about, scan it, clean it (by whatever method), rescan it, and compare. Definitely don't jump in and clean the lot without feedback from a scan as to what the cleaning is doing.
  5. This is probably way beyond ICE, which I usually find unsatisfactory, anyhow.
    At your local camera store, if you still have one, or on-line, you can get "Anti-Stat Film Cleaner" made by and often just called "Edwal". Follow the instructions on the bottle. Some older pictures will have a lacquer on them that will have to be removed entirely. Less invasive dirt and dust can be done with a very soft brush (which you don't touch with your fingers, ever) and a good "rocket"-style blower.
  6. That's a toughie. Some of my Kodachromes from the '60s and '70s were attacked by some kinda critters - mold, mildew, fungus, not sure what - and actually ate away at the emulsion. I tried gently cleaning a couple with various products but it only made the damage worse. Best thing I could do was scan them as-is and retouch them digitally.
  7. I recently had to scan about older 150 slides, some dating back to the 1950s (earliest was around 55, IIRC),about 1/4 had severe mold issues. It was about 3/4 Ektachrome and 1/4 Kodachrome, including home processed Ektachrome. I found that a product called PEC-12, along with a cotton cloth, worked brilliantly, plus PEC-12 is specifically supposed to kill mold. I never had a problem with the laquer on the earlier slides coming off. However, if you see any color come off on the cotton cloth, stop immediatly. I will disagree with JDM, however, I have had problems with Anti-stat leaving streaks on the film. I would suggest the following process: first, seperate the moldy slides from the clean ones, so that the mold doesn't spread. Then remove the film from the mounts, clean the film with the PEC-12, and remount them in plastic mounts, which shouldn't hold mold as much. If you leave the film in the cardboard mounts, there could be mold in the mount that will not come out. However, a couple had the problem Lex had, the fungus ate into the emulsion, and it was permenantly damaged. The best you can do at this point is just keep the fungus from damaging the emulsion more.
  8. I'm sure PEC-12, which I've heard of, but never used, is fine. I personally have had no problems with the Edwal cleaner in terms of streaks, etc.

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