Storing Methods of Film Developing Chemicals

Discussion in 'Film and Processing' started by Analog Amateur, Jul 9, 2019.

  1. Hello,

    I couldn't find a thread concerning about this subject in this forum. I hope I am not mistaken and my questions are relevant.

    I developed my first roll of film 21 days ago and I want to develop 2 more rolls right now. But I am not sure if I can use my stop and my fixing solutions after all this time. I used Ilfostop and Ilford Rapid Fixer in my first try and stored them in dark glass bottles in case I would use them again. A friend of mine told me that I can use those solutions for 15 times at most before dumping them for recycling. Is that correct? Or should I make another fix and stop solutions because of the time passed. What is your method of storing reusable film developing solutions?
  2. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    There is a good thread here on PN on the subject. Link Storing chemicals
    Dark colored glass or polyethylene stored in the dark, if the latter, squeeze gently to remove excess air from the bottle and reduce oxidation. My recollection is that in "the old days" CO2 was sometimes used in the glass bottles to reduce oxidation. That last, take with a grain of salt!
    Analog Amateur likes this.
  3. What I use to store photography chemicals are empty 2 liter soda bottles. The developers, stop bath and fixers are all fine with these containers. I store the stock solutions in a cabinet underneath my bathroom/darkroom sink. The cap used to seal the bottles works very well over and over again and again. I use both the clear and the green (like 7 Up uses) empty soda bottles. Both work just fine. I do have 1 liter empty soda bottles that I use for C-41 chemicals but I don’t use very often anymore.

    After I empty the stock solution I wash the bottle, then stick it in a sunny location to get it to dry inside the bottle.

    Thought I would mention this as this method has worked very well for me.
    Analog Amateur and bgelfand like this.
  4. Developers oxidize, so should be kept in full closed bottles.

    Indicator stop bath is yellow when good, and turns purple when its pH is wrong.
    It normally lasts years, but isn't all that expensive.

    Rapid fixer in closed bottles should last for some months. (Check the data sheet.)
    Both ammonia and acetic acid have a somewhat high vapor pressure, and loss of those
    changes the pH. I believe if you measure and adjust the pH (add ammonium hydroxide
    or acetic acid), you can keep it longer. Otherwise, I have found that it plates out silver
    on the inside of bottles.

    says six months in full tightly capped bottles, and one month in half full tightly capped bottles.

    pH should be between 5.0 and 5.5.

    capacity is 24 rolls (135-36) per liter of working solution.

    Since you can't squeeze glass bottles, you can add marbles to fill up the space.
    This also works for plastic bottles that you can't squeeze far enough.
    Analog Amateur likes this.
  5. I never stored or reused stop bath. Mix it fresh and discard it. It can go down the drain. Used developer doesn't store well, so mix only small batches and use the diluted solution as a one-shot. I never worried about fixer. It seems to keep way better than the data sheets say, at least the old stuff did. I'd mix a gallon, then have a smaller bottle to keep just enough from film or the print tray for reuse. Still, I'd try not to store used solutions for more than a week or three. The big rule is never to return anything to a stock solution.
    Analog Amateur likes this.
  6. After 21 days your fixer should still be good, it lasts a lot longer than 3 weeks. However, you can test fixer by taking a small piece of film and test it in the fixer in a takeaway food tray. The film should go clear inside 5 minutes. If it doesn't, the fixer is finished. Yours won't be though, it's too new and hardly used

    The developer is the one to watch, but you've only developed one film and it's only 3 weeks old so it's still potent enough for more films yet. As said already, you need to keep air out of the bottle. Also check for sediment in the bottom of the bottle before using the developer. If there is any, filter it through a coffee filter or paper towel.
    Analog Amateur likes this.
  7. I wrote an article on this subject for PSA Journal many years ago - title was 'Jugs, Jars and Jereboams'.

    In the good old days, when there were actually camera stores, there would be large sections devoted to darkroom chemical storage options. The read traditionalists insisted on glass - actually brown glass because it wouldn't 'breath' - but the manufacturers tended to promote various forms of plastic containers. The 'state of the art' was to use accordian-style containers that could be collapsed to minimize the amount of air in the container since oxidation was thought to be the primary source of chemical deterioration. Glass bottle advocates suggested dropping marbles into partially filled bottles to elevate the liquid level and minimize air. My article focused on the options that were available for photographers who wanted to used recycled containers rather than buying expensive, for-purpose items. One of the points I made in that article was that the theory behind brown containers for chemical storage was that darkroom chemicals were light sensitive, and brown supposedly minimized deterioration due to light. I pointed out that in my darkroom, the lights were off most of the time, so that theory really didn't apply, and I didn't need to limit myself to brown containers. Also, I preferred plastic because it doesn't wear out as quickly - just think about what would happen if you dropped a glass container versus a plastic container! And realistically, today the manufacturers supply darkroom chemicals in plastic, so I think plastic is good enough.

    Anyway, the rules of thumb that I applied were:
    Film Developers: always use as one-shot. Development is the most critical part of the photographic process, and you only get one chance to get it right. Over the years I experimented with many developers - all were good, but I finally settled on HC110 because I liked the results and it was relatively easy to use. The shelf-life of the stock solution is extremely long (some say forever).
    Paper Developers: I mixed a fresh quart of working solution for each session, and found that it would generally last as long as I lasted. That is, by the time I got tired, the developer was also getting tired and needed to be dumped. I eventually standardized on Ilford developers.
    Stop bath: I only used stop bath in printing - for film, I used just a fresh water rinse. But stop bath is really cheap, so I would mix a batch for each printing session, and dump it at the end of the session. Normally, I used an indicating stop, but I recall happening upon a bottle of glacial acetic acid many years ago, and with the much higher dilution it required, it took the cost down even further. Unfortunately, most camera stores didn't stock glacial acetic acid.
    Fixers: I used different fixer solutions for film and prints - some people used the same solution, and at one point, I think Kodak even published a recommendation about that practice. Anyway, I mixed a working solution for film that I saved (in a recycled container) and reused. I kept count of the the number of rolls/sheets that I processed, and discarded the solution when I reached a point about halfway to the manufacturer's recommendation. I had two practices that I used for prints, switching between them somewhat randomly over time. One approach was to use two working solutions; the first fixer solution was saved and reused from a previous printing session, while the second solution was mixed fresh for the session. That is, each print is partially fixed in the used solution, then placed in a water bath until the end of the session. Then, before closing up for the day, I would dump that first bath, and mix a second working solution and refix all of the prints produced that day before proceeding to the wash. That second, fresh batch would then be stored to become the first bath in the next printing session. The other approach was to mix a fresh bath for each session; I would fix each print individually and then transfer it to a water holding bath. Then, at the end of the session, I would discard the depleted fixer and rinse off all of the prints in fresh water before moving them to a selenium toning bath. Selenium toner contains ammonium thiosulfate, so practically this second bath was not only a toner, but also a second fixing bath. Then, after fixing I rinsed the prints in hypoclear before washing. I preferred the second approach because I preferred the 'look' of toned prints, but from time to time that process can cause staining. So when I encountered stains, I would become frustrated and switch to the alternate approach for a few sessions until I regained confidence in the process.
    HypoClear: I used hypoclear on both film and good prints on real paper (RC was reserved for proof sheets and quick prints for publication). I mixed a fresh half-strength working solution (ie, twice as much water as the manufacturer recommended), that I discarded after use.
  8. Shelf life of photo chemicals:

    First, as to disposal – Most all are mostly water and benign. A home darkroom can safely discard all by simply putting them down the drain. The chief worry is – fixer is the same chemical used to banish chlorine from tap water. This is the stuff used if your hobby is tropical fish. I tell you this because what you pour down the drain goes to the waste treatment plant. They are required to chlorinate to prevent the spread of water borne diseases. Industrial size photofinishers dump copious amounts of spent fixer. This causes the local treatment plant money as they must compensate by doubling the amount of chlorine. The home darkroom’s contribution is a thimble full in the ocean. Spent fixer contains silver. Some forms of silver in solution are toxic. Photo effluent contains sulfur from the fix plus silver. They combine to form silver sulfide which is inert. The other stuff has low toxicity, you need not worry about discarding this stuff to the sewer.

    Developers 6 months mixed in full stopped bottles. Half-stopped bottle 2 months. Working solution 24 hours.

    Stop bath will last indefinitely in full stopped bottles. Mainly vinegar or citric acid, so cheap why not use as one-shot. Even if exhausted, if it is not staining, does little harm.

    Fixer concentrate keeps for years in fully stopped bottle. If diluted to stock strength, shelf life is about 2 months. If diluted to working strength, then use and discard. You can test by swishing the tongue of 35mm (scrap film) in the solution is normal room light. Fixer OK if film turns milky then transparent. Fix time is twice the time needed to clear the film.
  9. Sorry for missing that thread. Next time I will be more careful when opening a new one for my questions. And thanks for suggestion :)
    Thank you for the suggestion. I am a very obsessive person so I think I will stick with glass or polyethylene since develop my films once in a month at best. But if I run out storage space it is a very useful information that those soda bottles can work for my need :)
    I didn't know that yellow color is for indication of pH in stop bath. I don't remember if the solution I mixed for the development had that yellow color or if it diluted away with the water. Still it is a very useful information for me in case I make another mix if I don't trust my old stop solution. Thank you. I will also search for marbles for my glass containers. I have 500ml Paterson tank and 500ml glass bottles for each mix so it would help greatly if I squeeze that little pocket of oxygen with these.
    Thank you for the suggestion but I am afraid of any fumes that might come out of the developing chemicals if discarded to the drain. I know that they are very diluted solutions and they don't last long if discarded to the drain but I can't convince my OCD-brain to to that :D So I will stick with the bottles and give the used chemicals to the waste disposal :)
    That is quiet a useful information. Thank you very much. I think Ilford suggests to use DD-X for one time only. Also I remember that while I was using the stop and fix baths the developer solution started to get dark out in the open. I was careful enough to realize that something went wrong with it and learned that it is a sign of oxydation. So I won't use my developer mix again I think. How about the sediment? Is it part of the developer that deposited on the bottom of the mix? Or is it the part of the developer mix that is used?
  10. Thank you very much for this textbook-level information. It is very useful and I am sure that I will use this in my progress. I read about selenium toning and think of doing that in my progress in this hobby but it will take years for me to try it :)
    Thank you very much for answering all of my questions. You relieved me greatly. Now I know what to do with my stored chemicals :)

    And thank you all for teaching everything I asked for. This thread was very useful for me to learn about the topic I was curious for :)
  11. If worried about stop bath down the drain, don't put any vinegar down there either. Pretty much the same chemical, acetic acid, at not wildly different dilutions. Developer doesn't really have fumes, and oxidizes quickly. Fixer, OTOH, can be stinky and contains silver, so waste disposal is best.
    Analog Amateur likes this.
  12. When it comes to the disposal of spent photo chemicals, the US Government spent millions and countless hours preparing a guidance document. Their is fact and their is lore. I advise all to browse this document.

    Photographic Processing Effluent Guidelines | US EPA
  13. Sandy Vongries

    Sandy Vongries Administrator Staff Member

    Key point - I was worried / spazzing as well!
    "The Photographic Effluent Guidelines regulate direct dischargers that process more than 150 square meters (1600 square feet) of material per day. Both commercial and government facilities are potentially subject to these regulations."
    Analog Amateur likes this.
  14. I'm not sure what the sediment is exactly, but if I there is any solids in the developer, filter them out. You may need to pour the developer into a clear plastic jug first so the sediment can be more easily seen.
    Analog Amateur likes this.
  15. Main thing with developer is to squeeze the air out and use smaller bottles as supply dwindles for less air. In the old days it did not matter. You could buy pre-mixed NACCO gallons for $1 - $2 for your BW chems. Nowadays things are tougher with chemistry.
    Analog Amateur likes this.
  16. The best way I found to store the mixed developer, like the x-tol, is the soft bags for wine.
    After fill up, just squeeze to remove the air and use the tap. No air inside.

    Never reuse developer or stop bath.

  17. @pedro_hing_ that's some ingenuity there. It would be perfect for the stock 5 L rapid fixer I use. What particular brand of (boxed wine) bladder do you use & how do you fill it up? If I remember Franzia boxed wine is clear & thought the spout is "welded" to the bladder.
    Analog Amateur likes this.
  18. When I was shooting film, years ago, I had lost roll of film to expired developer. It was my first trip abroad to South America together with my wife, just snaps, but priceless for us. I didn't store any chemicals for more than a week after that :(
    Analog Amateur likes this.
  19. If you store photo chemicals in any container other than the original one, be sure to boldly label it "POISON: FILM DEVELOPER" or whatever to prevent someone from accidentally consuming it. This warning is especially important if the new container was originally a food or drink container. Use an ink marker or duct tape to hide the food labels. And of course keep it out of reach of small children.

    A partially filled bottle of Kodak T-Max Film Developer (stock solution) keeps for a year or more in its original plastic bottle if stored in a refrigerator. Mix the working solution immediately before use and then discard. Even after five years I successfully developed a roll of film by extending the development time by 50%. That bottle had been misplaced in a basement storage locker.
    Analog Amateur likes this.
  20. That's a terrible accident. A similiar accident happened to me but it was because of the lab. I trekked around the old trade routes between the ancient Greek cities in Anatolia and shot 4 rolls of slide film which depicted the scenery I possibly won't be able to see in the future and then lab burned them by accident because of a fault in the processing machine.

    pedro_hing_ recommended to not to use the stop bath either. But as far as I know it can be reused couple of times. Is this information wrong? Or does using the stop bath multiple times really endangers the negative?
    Last edited: Jul 29, 2019

Share This Page