Mitigating high iron content of tap water in washing film

Discussion in 'Black and White' started by steve_fay, Jun 15, 2013.

  1. After a long lapse, I'm going to try film developing again, but where I live now I have a private well with High mineral content water, not merely hard water. The 450' deep well goes down into the Burlington Limestone which has so much iron that gravel from it rusts to a golden brown. There is a lot of lime, obviously, and I can taste some sulfur, which might alternately come from the several seams of Illinois coal the well shaft goes through on the way down to the limestone.
    I don't plan to use my tap water to mix with any photo chemicals. Distilled water is pretty cheap at the supermarket. My main concern is with the final washing step. the bulk of which I would have to use tap water for. So far, my thinking is to use a distilled water rinse after the fixer, then run filtered tap water through the film tank for recommended minutes, then use a final rinse with distilled water with Photoflo.

    Obviously, filtering will get rid of sediment in the tap water, but my main concern is the dissolved chemicals. I want to keep them from reacting with remnants of the fixer (hence first rinse) and also keep them from causing water spots (hence the final rinse), but will the tens of minutes of washing with this water leave traces in the emulsion that will harm the negatives?
    I searched for past threads related to this. These two have some overlap:
    But I'm not sure they address water quite like mine or my main question.
    Folks experienced with coping with well water issues, do you have any clearer advice, cautions, comfort, horror stories, schemes, tricks, etc? Or does my plan, as described, seem like it will prevent most problems or serious problems?
  2. The best investment I have done is bought a distiller. I don't always have time or the transport to go and buy some and having a distiller means there is always some available.
    Note: I did originally buy a cheap chinese one off ebay that lasted 6 months before it started rusting out. I got what I paid for. My second one was and is going on 2.5 years and is as good as the day I bought it.
  3. Use the "Ilford" wash method?
    You just pour in water (use purchased, distilled water), with the reel in canister (assuming that's your processing method), do maybe 5 inversion, pour out, pour in fresh water, do 10 inversions, repeat say 3 more times, incrementing inversions by 5 each time.
    Then a final fill, take off the lid, add a drop or two of Photo-Flo or similar.
  4. I also live in an area where the water is both hard and with a significant iron content (limescale turns orange-brown on exposure to air after a few days) but I have never had any probelms. I filter the water through a 10 micron filter to remove particulates but that's all. And I too recommend the Ilford Method for washing - it's been my standard practice now for almost 20 years. Have you ever had an assay on the water?
  5. Hi Steve,
    If you are talking about a New Jersey location, I moved to Burlington county in 1978 and had to put in a filter for iron and sulfur within the first few months. Surprisingly my pH was not too bad.
    I have developed many rolls of 35mm b&w using distilled water in the developer and the photoflo rinse but using tap water for the stop bath, fixer and final wash. No obvious problems with the emulsion showed up either in enlarging to 16x20 or scanning and printing up to 12x18. So it looks like the final rinse took care of anything that might have been on the film.
    As far as the well is concerned, I have never had a sediment problem. I have it serviced once a year at which time the chemicals are renewed and I add salt as it is used up - approximately 4 - 50 lb bags every 5 to 6 weeks.
  6. Some film/dev combinations are affected more than others. I live in Montreal and the water was surprisingly good out of my tap, except ph. I first noticed a problem developing Foma 100 using any pyro developers. I got "black" spots on my film, that turned out to be iron spots. Using distilled water cured that one.
    I mentioned PH because it effects almost all your chemistry, especially your developers. Using ph neutral (7.0) water is important as this is what your chemistry is designed to use. If you are on city tap water, they typically raise the PH to reduce the corrosion of the pipes among other things. The disadvantage of de-mineralized water (as opposed to distilled) is that is is often not ph 7.0 . Is this a big deal? It may / may not be, depending on what you use.
  7. Why not run a few test rolls and see how it works out? I bet it will be fine, since you're using distilled water for all the other steps. By the time you are at the final wash stage your film has been developed and fixed, and your final wash is from constantly running water. It's not like the film is sitting in the can for an extended period of time in the same water. I would have a good filter on your home faucets to trap big stuff, as you indicate that your water is not the best to begin with. I'd do this more for my own health than for the film.
    As much as I like the Ilford method because it is friendlier to water resources, where I live it doesn't work (I shoot Tri-X). My film has a real purple cast to it if I do that. What I have to do is fill my tank and empty it 10 times, then run a tap water wash (make sure your hose from the faucet is extending to the very bottom of your tank) for at least 30 minutes. Maybe the purple is just an anti halation deal, maybe it isn't, but I don't like it on there.
  8. The issue I pointed out with the foma was not a wash water problem. It was the developer-film-water-iron+whatever reacting with each other. No amount of washing would have cured this problem.
  9. I have horribly hard water with significant iron in it (SW PA). We have a softener (have a well) and I have a filter on the darkroom sink. BUT I use the Ilford wash method with distilled water, though I do two at each step. For a roll of 120, I can mix the chems and do the rinses in just a little over one gallon of distilled. 4x5 takes more, but still under 2 gallons.
    I have not had a problem with color casts in my film (even with TMax).
  10. Peter, while it is a good suggestion, I can't really afford a distiller, and as mentioned in my first post, I will be using distilled water to mix developer (& other chemicals), so I should avoid the problem you had with iron spots on Foma.
    Mendell, and others, thanks for describing the "Ilford" method which, if used with distilled water would eliminate the need to use my well water, or, if used with any kind of water, would reduce the amount of water needed for the process.
    George, the Burlington limestone formation I am talking about outcrops in the Mississippi river bluffs at Burlington, Iowa, and underlies parts of several states that border that river, including my area of west-central Illinois. I do plan to filter my well water if I use if for the film wash step.
    George and Bethe, I would not be adding a water softener to the system, partly because of the expense, and partly because I have never liked the taste of softened water.
    George and Peter, I haven't checked the pH of the water. I would guess it would be more basic than neutral 7 on account of the limestone, but the top of the well's water column might bring in something more acidic, due to the layer cake of shale and coal above that. I have some pH paper somewhere....
    Chris and Steve, I think I will have to try both tap water and Ilford-style washing, testing both. A quick way might be to develop two rolls of 35mm together in my tank, separating the reels for the washing step: leaving one reel in the tank for the Ilfordizing, and placing the other in a separate container being continually flushed with my filtered well water. In both cases I would finish with a rinse in distilled water with Photoflo. Since both rolls will have had exactly the same treatment through the chemistry steps, any differences--whether spots, stains, discolorations, differences in hue, etc -- would have to be from the main part of the washing step. If I can't find any differences, then I don't have to worry about using the water for film washing.

    It might be a couple months or so before I do this, but the posts have been very, very helpful.

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