View Full Version : Removing fixer stains

1-Nov-2007, 06:36
Is it possible to remove fixer stains from old prints? I have a bunch of vintage prints and some of them appear to have fixer stains (brownish) on them - I was figuring that simply dunking them in clean water and washing them thoroughly would do the trick - but thought to ask the experts before doing so :-)


Brian Ellis
1-Nov-2007, 19:04
I'm responding only because no one else has, not because I'm one of the experts to whom you directed your question. I don't know whether the brown spots can be removed or not but if they can be I doubt that washing them in plain water would do it. There probably are any number of reasons why older prints can show brownish areas but one fairly common reason is that the print wasn't properly fixed so that all the residual silver halide wasn't removed. The brown spots are caused by exposure of these unremoved silver halides to light. In other words, what you're seeing may not actually be a stain, you may just be seeing the reaction of the siliver halides to light. While I doubt that water will remove them I don't see that a water wash is likely to harm the print so it should be easy enough to try it on one of the prints and see for yourself.

Deane Johnson
1-Nov-2007, 19:21
I think your best opportunity to clean them up will be to scan them, then restore them in Photoshop, and print them out, perhaps on one of the new fiber based inkjet papers. I know that's a whole new technical effort, but it can produce some incredible restorations.

PS: I'm not an expert.

2-Nov-2007, 07:16
Brian/Deane - many thanks for your replies. They are actually vintage prints so I was hoping to restore the actual print. I guess I knew they weren't fixed properly - but hadn't made the logical step to recognizing that indeed the silver has been exposed further - and hence this is the actual print, not just a stain.....
I will give them a wash, just to see if that helps - but probably not I guess.
Many thanks

Jim Noel
2-Nov-2007, 09:00
I believe, although I have not tried it on a vintage print, that if anything will do the trick without damaging the print, a tablespoon of EDTA in a liter of water may help. I can not think of anything else which might works without damage.

You didn't state what vintage. are you talking 19th century or early 20th? Or newer?

2-Nov-2007, 09:40
I'd have to agree with the Photoshop option if they are antique prints. No use wrangling the paper any more than necessary.

robert lyons
2-Nov-2007, 10:34
alan, what type of prints are they exactly??? after this is determined then a course of action...do not put them in water....i repeat do not put into water...as we cannot know the cause of the stain and depending upon print type water can cause further damage....p.m. if you want more info...i am heavily involved in conservation/restoration of photographic materials for the past 35 years....cheers

katie cooke
2-Nov-2007, 15:21
on a related note... i have a photograph from the early forties which is mounted on card which is very badly foxed. (I suspect that wartime card mounts were not the cleanest and most acid-free ever available.) That seems to have stained the silver gelatin print in a couple of places. This is a picture of my father, as a young boy, by a rather famous photographer. I'd like to prevent more damage to the photograph. Any suggestions for how to preserve it, or how to remove the print from its card backing? I'm willing to sacrifice the stained card, even with the signature, if I can protect the print

3-Nov-2007, 05:03
They are 10x8 contact prints - silver gelatin doubleweight - I collect Clarence Bull, George Hurrell, Eugene Richee etc - so all from the 20's and 30's - some 40's. In short the war and pre-war period.


3-Nov-2007, 05:24

you might contact the new england document conservation center
they might have some suggestions ...


good luck!