Photo Flo and Hypoclear: Are they necessary?

Discussion in 'Black and White' started by amanda_n|1, Oct 14, 2010.

  1. I'm getting back into my darkroom photography supplies after a rather lengthy time away. I graduated in May and finally have a little time to dabble in my photography hobby.
    I took photo classes in HS and college, and in my college class we used hypo clear. Is it necessary for me to go out and buy this or is just using D-76, water stop, and prepared fixer acceptable? I read on one of these forums that using hypo clear will allow the negatives to last longer. Is this true? What are the benefits of using hypo clear and can I live without it?
    Secondly, I have some photo flo wetting agent that has been opened and has probably been sitting for about four years now. I'm sure it's not good anymore, but do I need a wetting agent? I have read that some people do not use them. Do they have persistent issues with water spots?
    I am just getting back into this and would like to work with supplies I already have and buy only a few basic chemicals. Also, there is the whole issue of disposal...hypo clear to me seems to be just another chemical to learn to dispose of properly. I would think that fewer chemicals would be better, so long as there are not major problems with not using them.
    Thanks in advance for your responses!
  2. Hypo clearing agent - using this reduces the running water/ final wash time. Pouring small quantities down the drain should not be a problem.
    Photo flow- using this causes water to drain off the film without leaving small droplets behind causing water spots. It also prevents mineral deposits if using tap water.
    Neither of these is required for processing but cut water usage and negative cleaning or retouching of the final print.
    Old photo flow should be good unless it is cloudy or clumpy.
  3. See for setting up and using darkrooms

    Photoflow is nothing more than a wetting agent or surfactant. A single drop is more than enough. You can use a tiny, tiny dab of dishwater detergent which has the same effect. It makes water more "runny" and less likely to stick to things. When used on film, it reduces the liklihood of water spots.
    HOWEVER instead of photoflo, a final dip of your film in some distilled water is better. And, you can put some distilled water in a spray bottle and spray it on your negs when you hang them up to dry, in case you're worried about dust etc. (Distilled water is not the same thing as "spring" water btw)

    Hypoclearing agent: it isn't required but it certainly a good idea to use -- far, far more important than photoflo -- especially for prints (film emulsions are much thinner and the plastic substrate is less likely to absorb hypo. THe paper in prints and the thicker emulsion make washing out the hypo more difficult than film.) Hypoclear can be sent down the drain without any worries. LEftover hypo in your prints and negs can indeed damage them.

    If you're interested in minimizing environmental issues, you may want to consider using plain white vinegar in your stop instead of commercial stop bath. Not that commercial stop bath solutions are particularly dangerous (they're not) but vinegar is certainly a lot cheaper and less scary. A 1 to 10 solution of white vinegar in water is all you need to act as a stop bath. That's all a stopbath really is -- a mild acid that stops the developer, and washes some of it off before the film/prints go into the fixer (thereby extending the life of the fixer by minimizing carry-over of developer) Technically, you don't really need a stop bath but then you'd be reducing the life of your fixer. And by reduring the life of your fixer, you're going to use more fixer ... and the fixer is actually a little bit harmful to the environment than the rest of the chemicals used in BW photography (but personally I'd be more worried about the proper disposal of the plastic containers these things come in.)
  4. There's lots of eco friendly chemicals out there. For film, you don't need the items you suggest but I would recommend photo flo. Hypo clear is more for prints I find as the wash times for film aren't that long. You don't need stop either by the way. You can get by with vinegar but for film, I don't use stop at all. After developing, just change the water in the tank a couple of times and it'll be fine. For prints, a stop is essential. Mine is just some dilute acetic acid. Plenty safe.
    Fixer is the biggest problem with regards to proper disposal but there are many threads describing how to reclaim the silver and dispose of it properly..
  5. Photoflow is a must for me. It doesn't let hard water dry in dropletts on my film causing spots/watermarks.
  6. I can get by without hypo clearing agents, but if you want to conserve water it's a good way to cut wash times. However, I would not want to be without Photo Flo or its equivalent. A little goes a long way. Kodak recommends diluting it 1:200, but you should perform your own tests (based on water hardness). You may be able to dilute it even more and still avoid drying marks.
  7. Your PhotoFlow will still be good. If you need a quick substitute, a drop or three of dishwashing liquid will work nicely.
    In the days of fiber prints, it was necessary to wash single weight papers 30 minutes and double weight papers 60 minutes in running water, film 20 minutes. With the introduction of RC (resin coated) papers only need 10 or 15 minutes wash and perhaps less. The resin waterproofs the paper preventing the chemicals from infusing into the paper fibers. With only the porous emulsion, we can purge residual chemicals in minutes.
    Anyway, hypo clear results from the discovery that clean seawater will somehow purge residual chemicals from film and paper allowing a 50% reduction in wash time. A seawater wash or bath followed by a fresh water rinse was recommended but likely not followed by anyone except the military aboard ship .
    Hypo clear is just a salt solution, this time a 2% solution of sodium sulfite. Soak the material for 2 or 3 minutes and then follow with a fresh water rinse. The bottled stuff contains a drop or two of hydrogen peroxide added for good measure.
  8. Contrary to others, dishwashing detergent is NOT a good substitute for Photflo or others from Ilford, etc. Most detergents contain surfacants, but also perfumes and oils and all the other gentle on your hands components, which are bad for the film.
    Your bottle should be good, unless it has been diluted with water. If your tap water is hard, use distilled water for the final rinse with one drop of Photoflo to a tankful of water.
    The hypo clear is handy, but if you have a look at Ilford Photo's website they have some good instructions on washing film which doesn't need a lot of water, see page 10 of
  9. This wetting agent is Water - ethylene glycol (anti freeze) and Triton X-100 a Rohm & Haas surfactant used in liquid soap and shampoo.
  10. You can use a tiny, tiny dab of dishwater detergent which has the same effect.
    Not so. Photoflo is a surfactant, but not in the same league as dish washing liquid. It contains no dyes, perfumes, or other ingredients used in dish washing liquid that can leave a deposit on the film. I tried using it once, and it made a mess of my film. Don't do it. PhotoFlo is cheap insurance against water spotted film. Do not save used PhotoFlo. You use so little (a drop or two in a 500 ml tank is usually sufficient) that there is no point in saving the stuff. It tends to accumulate a bunch of detritus and other nasties over time that will stick to your film. Once dried, this junk cannot be easily removed. Saving it is false economy.
    Hypo Clearing Agent (Kodak's name for their washing aid designed to more efficiently remove fixer from films and papers) is not really necessary for film or resin coated papers. Wash times for these products are short; and while there's no harm in using a wash aid, there is no real advantage either. The situation for fiber based papers is completely different. You can get away with not using a wash aid, but you must be prepared for very long wash times on the order of 45 minutes to an hour. Unless you have a specially built print washer, you'll need to keep an eye on your prints the whole time to make sure they don't stick together and that they do remain submerged. A hypo clearing agent will dramatically reduce the time needed to accomplish a thorough washing, but it will not diminish your need to attend to the process.
    Aside from the little bit of indicator dye added to commercial stop baths, there is absolutely no difference between it and plain distilled white vinegar once diluted. In fact, it is less concentrated at working strength than the distilled white vinegar you get at the supermarket. Using vinegar is not cheaper either. Work the numbers. You'll see. Personally, I would not use a simple water stop in lieu of a proper acid stop bath. It's fine for film, but you'll need two or three changes of water to completely wash the film free of developer before the fixer is introduced. There is a risk of the film developing dichroic fog if the developing agents are not completely removed, and the carry over of developer into the fixing bath will shorten its life span. An acid stop bath will completely neutralize any developing agents, eliminating the risk of dichroic fog, and the acidic environment it produces is compatible with most acidic fixers. Should you still prefer to use a water stop bath, make sure the water you use is tempered along with the developer and fixer. Avoid sudden drastic temperature variations as this may induce reticulation and/or grain clumping at any stage of processing.
    Disposal of any of these chemicals in the amounts that the home user is likely to generate is not a problem if you are on a municipal sewer system that feeds into a sewage treatment plant. The only chemical that even gives me pause is spent fixer, and not because it's fixer. The silver contained in spent fixer in high enough concentrations (that you'll never in your wildest dreams generate as a home user) acts as a biocide and can wreck a home septic tank system, but is easily handled by a municipal waste water treatment plant.
  11. There are plenty of times when I use D-76 (or homebrew), water stop and fixer only. I don't generally use photo-flo (really helps with slides) and you can make your own hypo clear with some sodium sulfite. If you need to soften water where you live for some reason, I would bet that a pinch of borax from the grocery store would be all you'd need most of the time.
  12. Some people let the film sit in distilled water for a few minutes after it has had its final rinse and do not bother to use Photo Flo.
  13. If one uses plain tap water without a wetting agent; one may or may not get spots; depending the waters crud and hardness.
    Since tap water varies; folks will vary in answers.
    At my summer house; the tap water is so soft that one only needs a tablespoon of All detergent for the front load washing machine; or one gets massive soap out of the door. In California; I have to use 5 times more soap; since the water is harder.
    If I develop film at my summer home; tap water works for a final rinse. In California I use both distilled water and photoflo; so I do not get massive water spots. Store bought distilled water leaves a few spots; thus photoflo is used.
    I have in emergencies used other household stuff as a wetting agent; All, Prel, Joy in minute amounts.
    Unless one mentions the water quality or hardness; one cannot use anothers comment of "use or do not use" photoflo or distilled water.
    In Southern Indiana our water was both hard and with sand; thus one got spots and embedded stuff.
  14. The amount of dyes and perfumes in a tiny (less than a drop) of dishwashing liquid -- which is washed out and diluted in the water -- will not affect anything, and in any case it is just a suggestion if you don't have any photoflo.
    How much do you use? If there are bubbles, too much.
    But like I said, the best option is to give the film a final rinse in some distilled water.
  15. Everyone is on about using dishwasher liquid but I use dishwasher rinse aid... not the stuff that cleans the dishes but the stuff you stick in the machine every few weeks that helps the water run off the dishes. It seems to work fine with film. I used to suffer terribly from water marks from our hard water but now I use distilled water with a drop of rinse aid and my negs dry without any marks.
  16. Aslan;
    Photoflo/wettingh agent is most of the time used as a final rinse before ones hangs up ones negatives to dry.
    Thus if one has a poor substitute for photoflo; the residual stuff gets left on ones negatives; thus can RUIN them. (sometimes)
    A final rinse before hanging up to dry with just distilled water only DOES cause spots were I live most of the time thus I DO use photoflo to make the problem go away. I have farted around with different brands of distilled water; but just go back to using 1 cent of photoflo and the problem is solved.
    My first 4oz bottle of photoflo as about something like 15 cents; about what a gallon of gas cost. That bottle lasted a few hundreds of rolls
    My total outlay in money spent on photoflo is maybe 1/100 to 1/1000 what I have spent on lens caps
  17. A former Navy seal told me that the Navy's film processing instructions said to use 3 drops of dish soap if no other wetting agent was available.
  18. A hypo clearing agent is not necessary, but it does reduce washing time after fixing by about half. The best I've tried is Heico's Permawash. As for wetting agents, not all are created equal: Kodak Photoflo does a good job, but does not have any anti-static properties. Agfa Sistan (no longer available) never left any spotting. SPRINT makes a product called End Run that is super concentrated and very effective in nullifying static. By all means do not use from dish soap.
  19. Paul - Rinse aid would indeed work better than detergent! It is specifically intended to prevent water spots.
    If your distilled water is leaving water spots then ... well, I don't know. Weird.
  20. I don't know if you will be using fiber or rc paper, but some RC paper instructions specifically state not to use a hypo clearing solution. You may want to check the data sheet for the paper you intend to use to find out what is said on the subject. Fiber on the other hand, would have a much shorter wash time and saving a lot of water by using hypo-clear.
    Photoflo is so cheap and last forever, so I say it is certainly something that should be used.
  21. Thank you for all of your responses! Much appreciated.
    Right now I am just working on processing a "collection" of unprocessed film that I have accumulated until I have the proper setup to make prints from my negatives. A few mixed reviews here and there, but it looks like I will just have to experiment and see what works for me.
    Judging by all of the advice, I'm thinking I will go ahead and order the Photo flo and experiment without it in the meantime. The worst thing that could happen is I could spot up or ruin a roll of film, and I have lots of exposed rolls (I don't even remember what's on most of them).
  22. Cost estimate: if you dilute Photo Flo 1:200 and pay about 8.50 USD plus shipping for it, your cost per 35mm roll (assuming 8 oz. to fill a one reel SS tank) should be somewhere around 5 cents per roll.
  23. Hi Amanda;
    Here I have used substitutes for Photoflo in an emergency several times over the years; but am NOT recommending folks use alternate stuff all the time. ( unless the alternate works for their application) . One trades spots all over ones negatives if one has no distilled water; versus about zero; but some extra sheen/stuff because it is not the best wetting agent.
    Todays stance seems folks are scared to experiment or do tradeoffs? I have been where somebody dropped the old glass bottle of photoflo; and thus we did use a drop of other soap and had zero issues.
    An analogy is you are out on a 4 week camping trip and forget/loose a dinky bottle of shampoo. Here I would jump in the lake/creek and some other soap ; ie dishwashing soap; whatever. Others might be scared; thus they would prefer to not try an alternate' since their DNA is hard coded that one has to use one product.
    The downside of washing ones hair in Dawn can be less than having 3 weeks worth of dirt in ones hair and not washing.
    With super giant 24x36 inch and larger films for our old process camera; here we used a simple baby shampoo; since it worked and the wash/rinse trays held about 30 gallons; but we just had about say 15 gallons in each. With this amount of water ; distilled and Photoflo's cost was a concern; thus we used an alternate for 1/3 century
    With a small negative; of course it gets enlarged or scanned and examined closely; thus Photoflo and distilled are used here.

    Thus here I use fresh distilled water with a tad of photoflo for each roll and dump it after each usage.
    I have negatives from 40 years ago that they were rinsed with a rinse of water and non photoflo soaps; and *none* have any issues. This bugs many folks; it goes against an alternate in an emergency can have zero issues. Many folks get into very rigid mindsets about this issue; to them an alternate has to be terrible.
  24. I've used substitutes such as distilled white vinegar for stop bath. I already had indicator stop bath, but at the time I lived in a rural home and we bought distilled white vinegar in large batches for pickling and homebrewed recipes for eliminating garden pests.
    But most photo chemicals are cost effective. And when you consider the rising costs of film and printing papers it's probably false economy to use substitutes for wetting agents, stop bath, or to avoid hypo clearing agent if you print on fiber paper. While some of these may not be absolutely essential, they maximize your opportunities to help ensure archival preparation of your photographic efforts. And the environmental impact is negligible for items like Photo-Flo and HCA, and very low for most photo chemicals when used in typical home darkrooms.
  25. Photo-flow is great stuff and it really should be used , its also great in window wash water on the car .
    I have a lot of it
  26. I often don't use hypo clearing agent for film. However, with the water I have here, I have to use Photo-flo. It's really cheap and lasts forever. Everyone's water is different, so take their advice with a grain of salt. In my previous apartment, I mixed it 1:200. At my new place, that was a bit too much, so I back off a bit, to 1:300. I arrived at that value by doing a roll in just distilled water, and then for every roll after, adding one more drop of photoflo over the previous try.
    I also had strange 'sticky' deposits on my film. I had many people tell me I wasn't using enough photoflo, and many others saying I was using too much. Turns out it was something in the wash water.
    Get Photo-flo - It's super cheap. Not much more than detergent.

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