View Full Version : Distilled water, any use in darkroom?

brian steinberger
27-Feb-2006, 21:52
I've been using distilled water for pre-soaking films, as well as diluting developers for paper and film, as well as with photo-flo because that's what I've been taught. Does using distilled water in the darkroom really make a difference as opposed to using regular tap water? I don't have a water filtration system, or softener.

27-Feb-2006, 22:22
distilled water makes a big difference if you use it as your final rinse (with photo flo) ... it eliminates mineral spots.

it's often a good idea to use for mixing up your developer, at least if you live in a place with funky water. i use it for film developer just for good measure, though i doubt it's all that important.

it's important to use in certain toners and other kinds of formulas that are sensitive to impurities. nelson gold toner, for example, is damaged by chlorine.

Henry Ambrose
27-Feb-2006, 22:38
The real answer probably depends on your particular water supply - you might get by fine without it. But I have pretty good water here and I still use RO water for mixing stock chemicals, diluting developer and for the Photoflo rinse.

Oren Grad
27-Feb-2006, 22:42
Depends on your water, and on what chemicals you're using. I use tap water for everything, and it works fine. I do have filters for particulates on the water lines coming in to the darkroom, to keep things reasonably clean.

John Kasaian
27-Feb-2006, 23:55
I use distilled water for chemicals and final rinse, but the water here is pretty cruddy these days. I think it make enough of a difference to use the stuff at least for mixing stock solutions and the final rinse.

Terence Spross
28-Feb-2006, 05:17
A few years ago I saw a pro (probably from NYC) and an assistant arguing about creek water on the side of the road as they were in the Adirondaks and needed to process on site to meet a deadline, it was obvious the pro was more than concerned, he was almost raving on and on like a lunatic saying the creek water could ruin everything, wondering how he had accepted such an assignment, never would go into the "jungle" again. How he hated sleeping in a camper. His laid back assistant, a seasoned camper prevailed and mixed the chemistry and processed the film. A while later I walked by again and the pro is delighted looking at his negatives and almost jumping up and down, explaining how great life is, how great they turned out, etc. This real life sit-com is etched in my memory.

28-Feb-2006, 05:29
I only use distilled for final photo-flo in B&W and for mixing colour chemicals. Seems colour chemicals keep longer when mixed with distilled.

Nick Morris
28-Feb-2006, 05:49
Hello. I use distilled water to mix all my chemicals (B&W) and filtered water to wash film and prints.

John Sarsgard
28-Feb-2006, 06:42
I use distilled only for final wash of film, and everything works fine. I would start with that, since the volume of water is low, and mineral spots on your film are VERY hard to remove. Spotting prints is the least entertaining activity I know of, other than washing windows. I am living with negatives now with these spots, and I've long since started washing with distilled water. If anything else seems quirky, changing to distilled water is one of the things to try.

Mike Chini
28-Feb-2006, 08:11
Using distilled water made a big difference for me with smaller format films. For 4x5 and up, I use 1/2 distilled for my first rinse and stop and 100 % distilled water for all mixing solutions. I buy the America's Choice stuff for $.70 a gallon at local stores rather than the 'name brand' distilled water.

Andrew O'Neill
28-Feb-2006, 08:17
Even though we have nice water, I prefer mixing stock developers with distilled water and final rinse of films. Makes a superb cup of tea, too.

28-Feb-2006, 09:28
I use it as you do for B&W films. For color film, everything is mixed with distilled water. Don't use it for prints.

brian steinberger
28-Feb-2006, 10:47
Bill, I'm curious as to why not use it for prints?

Brian Ellis
28-Feb-2006, 10:56
I used distilled water rather than tap water to mix developer working solution (the idea being to not have to redo all of my tests if and when local water conditions changed or I moved to another location) and also for rinsing prints as others have mentioned.

David Karp
28-Feb-2006, 12:12
I use distilled water for my film developer. I just don't want to take any chances on something that may potentially cause an irreversible problem. I don't know if it was a coincidence or a major factor, but I never had an X-Tol failure in years of using the product before I switched to another developer. It was always mixed with distilled water.

Calamity Jane
28-Feb-2006, 14:04
If I didn't use distilled water in my darkroom I wouldn't have a valid reason for having a still!

Donald Qualls
28-Feb-2006, 21:15
Distilled water has two advantages over tap water. First, it's always the same -- it doesn't (as tap water does in many areas) vary from alkaline in the winter to neutral, but iron-contaminated in summer, doesn't change calcium level from week to week as rainfall varies the percentage drawn from wells as opposed to reservoirs, etc. Second, as noted above, it doesn't leave mineral spots or otherwise affect any chemical process in the darkroom.

Despite the cost (here, it's 97 cents a gallon) I use distilled water for all darkroom processes -- mixing and diluting developer, water stop baths when used, diluting acid stop bath, diluting fixer concentrate, washing (Ilford method) and as the base for PhotoFlo treatment. I just don't trust the tap water here, and haven't been able to locate a more reasonably priced source of RO/carbon filtered water like what I used in the Seattle area.

I've learned to tolerate tap water for mixing my powdered milk (distilled makes it cost more than buying liquid milk), but still use distilled for coffee and tea, also -- same reasons I use it in the darkroom.

John Kasaian
28-Feb-2006, 21:22
Powdered milk? Yecccch!

Bruce Watson
1-Mar-2006, 07:06
What Donald said. Except for the powdered milk ;-)

The only water to touch my film or the film side of the equipment is steam distilled water. From mixing to diluting to washing to final rinse, it's all distilled water.

Donald Qualls
1-Mar-2006, 09:08
Powdered milk? Yecccch!

John, I drink fat free milk as a cholesterol control measure -- and find that powdered milk doesn't taste as "skimmed" or have as much "blue" appearance as liquid fat-free. Made with tap water, it's also significantly less expensive, and it takes me about five minutes to mix a two half gallons using a hand blender, 2 quart Pyrex measure, and kitchen scale (to accurately measure the correct amount of powder). After sitting in the refrigerator for 12 hours or more, it tastes a lot more like 2% low-fat milk than liquid fat-free.

Most of my consumption is in the form of capuccino (the coffee portion and steam made with distilled, of course, lacking a source of reasonably priced filtered water), and occasionally sausage or tuna gravy for biscuits...

Darin Cozine
1-Mar-2006, 11:00
Any good darkroom session requires good coffee. I use distilled water in my espresso machine. It does not leave mineral deposits in the machine like tapwater, and it boils at a hotter temperature.

Oh, and i use it for all my film processing, from presoak to rinse. (the water not the coffee)

Mike Kovacs
1-Mar-2006, 14:22
Distilled water boils at a LOWER temperature than water with solutes present. Basic chemistry :) Its a small effect, e.g. about one degree C for every 60 grams of salt added to distilled water.

1-Mar-2006, 16:19
in taste tests i've seen, coffee and tea made with distilled water do miserably. don't know why. i use water from a britta filter for this ... gets rid of chlorine and rust and a lot of the mineral content (enough to prevent scale) but leaves it tasting like water.

Donald Qualls
1-Mar-2006, 17:25
I've read/heard that tea, at least, needs dissolved oxygen for best flavor, while coffee actually needs a certain amount of dissolved minerals. However, distilled is better than the tap water either here or the last place I lived, and a Brita is too much of a pain to use for everything.

tim in san jose
2-Mar-2006, 14:36
"Any good darkroom session requires good coffee."

Any good darkroom session requires ice (made with distilled water) and scotch (made with distilled barley mash).

tim in san jose

2-Mar-2006, 15:30
Actually scotch is made from distilled beer. Better not use distilled water for that. Distilling a mash would get messy. Distilling the sparge water would give you a sweet syrup.