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[novice question] washing prints in a darkroom with no running water


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At the moment I'm considering building my own darkroom in a garage I

rent. Problem with the garage is, it has no running water. This means

washing my developed prints would have to be washed in a normal

developing tray or other form of container. I'm kinda new at

developing my own prints and was wondering if this would cause

problems with the quality of the prints.


So obviously I have some questions about this... What do I need to do

to ensure my prints will come out the same way as when I did have

running water? Must the water be agitated or can I just put the print

in a tray of fresh water? Since most information about washing paper

(like the ilford pdf files on their papers) is for washing under

running water...how will this effect the washing time?


I've been thinking about building some kind of setup with a large

water container mounted on the wall, a sink below and a drain to

another container...but I first want to make sure there are no other



Any thoughts, comments, suggestions are appreciated.





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Well i would say it can be done and i have used bottled water to wash prints wasnt easy takes a lot of bottled water but if there is a water hose near by then maybe you can just buy a water hose and make it long enough to bring the hose in so that you can wash them correctly because washing doesnt need to be done in the dark so you will not have that problem good luck and have fun.... also remember when washing prints the water has got to be recirculated at a good amount of speed and one suggestion is to get a tray with holes so the water recirculates.....
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Don't know how this would work, but... what if you got a bunch of trays, say 5 or more, and filled each with water. For the wash cycle, take the print from tray to tray, perhaps 30 seconds in each. Each tray would have a decreasing amount of chemical residue.


This scheme would probably only work well for RC papers. Fiber based paper... better look at other techniques.

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Dear Dennis,


I think (I did not verify this) that there is a description of a washing process used by Ansel Adams during a water shortage in "The Print". I seem to recall it involved moving prints from tray to tray of water using quite a few trays. Of course if you stick with RC paper you will use a lot less water.


Neal Wydra

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What i would do would be to collect the day/night's prints in a holding tub (a extra large tray filled with water for example), and then as you shutdown the darkroom, transfer the prints into another tray with less water, or a rubbermaid-type container with a lid, and then when you get home where you have running water, do the final bath there and hang them to dry. That way you dont have to go back in the morning to collect your prints either ;)



Enjoy the new darkroom!

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Thanks for the information so far. I'm glad it's not all a lost cause :) I pretty much thought it would be more difficult this way, but I'm giving it a go anyway.


Neal Wydra, the book you're referring to is on my wishlist for christmas, so I'll find out soon enough :)


Bill Pearce, indeed! I though I read just about all pdf files on the ilford site, but obviously one not well enough. In the pdf file on:




in step 14 a diagram shows how to wash directly in a tray, now all I need is to get some steady flow of water from the 20 litre container I have. Hmm...time for some DIY tinkering :)





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Get two 5-gallon mop buckets - the rectangular shaped type is best. Easiest way to carry water from your water source to a darkroom lacking any water source. Trays, etc., will slosh around too much.


Get two recirculating aquarium pumps.


Fill the buckets with water.


Hang the pumps off the side, prime 'em and turn 'em on.


Put your prints in the first bucket and let them soak in the recirculating water. Two to five minutes is enough for RC prints.


Transfer the RC prints to the second bucket for a minute.




Change the water in the buckets occasionally. How often depends on the number and size of the prints. These buckets will accomodate print sizes up to 8x10.


For fiber prints soak longer and change the water more often. I might even add a third bucket and pump, especially for selenium toning sessions.


This is just a variation of a long-recommended method that can be seen in many darkroom books dating back several decades.


I don't know whether the aquarium pumps help liberate fixer more quickly but the recirculating water helps keep the prints from sticking together. That's the main reason I use 'em.

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  • 2 years later...

Heh. I hope it's not too late....


I, too, have a darkroom in my garage. My enlarger is on a cart I built from parts of an old bed (which I also built) so that it fits over the Webber grill when not in use. I have a table (an old desk top plus bed parts) that folds down from the wall. I only have a medium format camera, so really I'm only doing 8x10's or 16x20's. I want to do 20x24's, but they don't fit in the concrete mixing trays I use to put the chemicals in it. I do only fiber based paper, and I was told it needs to wash for 30 minutes.


Anyway, there is a hose in my garage, but no drain, so washing there is not an option. So what I do is I have one of these concrete mixing trays that I fill with water, and I dump my prints there as I go. When I'm done for the day, I transfer those to another mixing tray that I drilled some holes on one side of. When I pull the prints out of the reservoir tray, I don't shake off the water; I try to keep them pretty wet. Then I take the tray with holes in it to the bathub, and just open up the faucet (cold water only) for some 20 to 30 minutes. The most frustrating part is that the spout does not reach the tray, and the shower head pipe is higher up than the length of most shower-heads-on-a-hose, so the only alternative outside of spending $40 on a pet bathing bathtub hose adapter thing (which is ludicrous) is to rubber-band a dust pan onto the spout to channel the water into the tray with the holes in it. A piece of gutter would do much more nicely, I suppose, but I don't have any.


I squeegee the prints against the tile and load them up into a rack of screens I made by buying all the screen-making materials at a hardware store (for making window screens). I got non-metallic screen mesh, and figured out from the aluminum frame sizes available the optimal size to make, which I believe came out to be 20x30 or so---this let me get two screens out of one pack of screen frame. I drilled holes in the four plastic corner pieces of each one, and wound string in a loop through the holes---that is, the string comes down through the hole, then I loop the string up and back down through the same hole, for all the screens except the last (bottom one) to which the free end of the string is tied. The four strings on the four corners are then tied above to two coat hangers, and the whole thing hangs off the curtain rod for the bathtub (this takes up essentially the whole bathroom). The nice thing about the loop of string is that it provides height adjustment between screens. Under their own weight, the string loop locks itself and they don't move. Releasing tension on one side or the other will allow the screen to move in that direction---for example, to move a screen up, you decrease the tension in the string segment above the screen. Trust me, I discovered this by accident, but it sure seems like it was planned!


Anyway, that's my method.

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