View Full Version : Washing print without running water?

17-Aug-2010, 15:07
Unfortunately, I am unable to dump fixer or wash water down the drain due to my having a well. I thought of setting up a recirculating tank to pump water into a tray and back to wash prints. I am think about 5 gallons in the reservoir. BTW, I store my other used chems and dispose properly off site.

Does this seem workable or am I just better off resigning myself to not processing my own prints? I am currently learning basic printing and using RC paper, of course Fiber would be out of the question in this setup, no?


Andrew O'Neill
17-Aug-2010, 16:02
I don't get it. So water goes from the recirculating tank to a tray of prints. Then the water goes back to the tank... and keeps circulating? If that's the case, you're just washing with fixer laden water... Am I missing something here?

Brian C. Miller
17-Aug-2010, 16:32
You would have to filter the water completely, and that would probably take a reverse osmosis rig.

Instead of doing that, use a soak-dump method and dump the water into a container for evaporation. Since this will only be the wash water, it won't be noxious. There's some good information out on the web. (Silvergrain Labs (http://silvergrain.com/labs/Washing))

17-Aug-2010, 17:39
due to my having a well

Ummm....I don't know where you are located, or in what kind of geology, but if you have a bathroom and/or a kitchen, you are almost certainly putting far more chemistry into the ground than the typical amateur darkroom will.

Drying the fixer and landfilling the residue is probably the most benign disposal if you don't want to let the bacteria in the septic tank deal with it, but the concentration of anything but water in your wash water is negligible. If those traces of chemicals are in fact a threat to the quality of water in your well, then you have a much bigger problem than you think and the problem is with your well, not your darkroom.

US public-health doctrine allows a properly constructed water well at a distance of 100 feet from a septic tank leach field, which should give you some idea of the well's sensitivity to things that go into the drain.

18-Aug-2010, 04:12
Andrew - you aren't missing anything, that was my thought and I wanted to get opinions as to the viability, thanks.

Brian - I will research "soak and dump". I thought about evaporation, I think it should work. Thanks

Harold - I am just being very cautious re the well. There is nothing peculiar about my setup, and I don't have any known problems. thanks

18-Aug-2010, 04:22
teh wash water will not hurt the well or the septic system.

if you are worried, what are you doing about other various chemicals that wash down the drain? cleaners? de-greasers? detergents? cosmetics? etc etc?

18-Aug-2010, 12:40
if you are worried, what are you doing about other various chemicals that wash down the drain? cleaners? de-greasers? detergents? cosmetics?

Precisely. If you want a good example of something to worry about, look at the Wikipedia article on triclosan, which has a lot of environmentalists concerned and possibly for good reason.

gdi: your well is probably fine (if it weren't you'd probably know by now); I was just trying to offer a basis for perspective on the issue.

Neal Wydra
18-Aug-2010, 14:30
Dear gdi,

If you are concerned about your wash water, consider a trickle tank from US Imagineering (http://www.silverprofit.com)

Neal Wydra

18-Aug-2010, 16:05
Yes, yes, I hear the comparisons with other chemicals - but to preserve marital bliss I have to avoid flushing any chems (and yes she does watch the other stuff too, and I know it really can't be totally avoided).

Neal - the trickle tank looks interesting - thanks

Eric Woodbury
18-Aug-2010, 17:52
Once the prints have had a quick rinse, there is so little fixer left that it is pure -- at least pure enough to drink or put on your plants. I have a well and septic and hard water. (28 grains hardness.) That is basically bullet-proof. With that, hypo is nothing.

But you are right about a recirculating print washer. Years ago someone did some research on this here in California since there wasn't enough water in the Monterey area for some photogs to wash prints. The scheme went like this: rinse the print after fix, then into a print washer for the prescribed time, and then a final rinse in fresh water before drying.

The idea is that recirculated water is basically clean and that the transfer of salt from the print to the wash water is by diffusion more than anything. So as long as the local concentration of fixer is lower in the water than the print, the print is washing.

Here is a print washer that works on 1 liter/min

Other research is often quoted that films and prints can be washed in sea water. This was done on ships in WW2 to preserve fresh water.

19-Aug-2010, 07:03
The only item you and yours need to handle differently is used - silver laden - fixer. The wash water is so dilute it does not matter. The fixer by contrast has a high concentration of silver and needs conscientious handling. There are lots of threads here and on APUG ( www.apug.org/forums/forumdisplay.php?f=13 ) on the topic.

If you use non-standard items like mercury based solutions etc, then those need individual recommendations, but for the everyday BW process: develop, stop, fix, clearing agent, wash... just deal with used fix and you have done your entire duty to your septic field, your own health, and the environment in general.