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Thread: Some passing thoughts on chemical cleanliness

  1. #1

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    Some passing thoughts on chemical cleanliness

    (I meant "Some." Is there no way to edit headers?) [Fixed! --Oren]

    By early photographic training, as well as idiosyncrasy, I have always been meticulous in the darkroom, keeping anything wet off the dry side (or area, when one counter and no sink was all I had) and scrupulously handling and cleaning up chemistry. As follows logically, I was never one for printing without tongs, though we had to at college. I rinsed a lot and kept a fresh towel. (I remember cringing repeatedly years ago, watching Fred Picker's excellent printing video. He kept going from hand-developing his prints and then returning to the dry side, as if directly from the fixer, with not even a mention of getting the fixer off his hands. Yes, it was a video, which cut from scene to scene, in between which he unquestionably washed and dried his hands carefully, but as a training video...)
    Anyway, as in the kitchen, where baking soda is a super, non-abrasive cleaner (great on stainless steel and enamel; chemically, it turns grease into a soap, I've read), I keep a box handy at my darkroom sink -- top off and lying on its side for easy access. I long ago picked up the habit of sniffing my fingers for, chemicals when processing. Since a baking soda solution can be used as a fixer-remover bath, I trust that, beside its deodorizing properties, it also helps keep me from transferring fixer residue (fixer clings to fingers as well as paper fibers, it seems) to my towel and wet side equipment. If my fingers fail the sniff test, a quick dip, rub, and rinse are all it takes.
    If one of our chemistry experts happens to read this and has a correction to make, feel free. Otherwise, I offer it as a tip to beginners and others who may be interested.
    Last edited by Oren Grad; 8-Jul-2018 at 13:33. Reason: Typo
    Philip U.

    Sine scientia ars nihil est. (Without science/knowledge, art is nothing.)
    https://www.flickr.com/photos/156933346@N07/

  2. #2
    Tin Can's Avatar
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    Re: Soms passing thoughts on chemical cleanliness

    Prints I tong all down the line into the wash. I add the tong to the wash.

    Then I use bare hands to remove print after washing to place on screens.

    I assume my print wash is clean and then dry my hands.



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  3. #3

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    Re: Soms passing thoughts on chemical cleanliness

    I use tongs too, but do often handle prints in the fix. I have a separate faucet for hand washing and lots of towels. I cycle the towels to the wash after several uses; towels can be a source of contamination too. The key for me is to wash hands thoroughly and dry well before returning to the dry side. Even clean, wet hands can damage the next print.

    Best,

    Doremus

  4. #4

    Re: Soms passing thoughts on chemical cleanliness

    Something I started doing is wearing those thin blue Nitrile gloves when in the darkroom. They seem to be a lot easier to rinse, dry off quickly with a towel hanging from my pocket, & go back to working. I actually have better tactile control through the gloves than with bare hands.
    --- Steve from Missouri ---

  5. #5

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    Re: Some passing thoughts on chemical cleanliness

    I am a notoriously sloppy person so I have to make extra effort in the darkroom. I do wash my hands frequently and I always have a supply of clean tea towels on hand. The ones for the darkroom always have some form of black pattern on them so my wife can distinguish them. I have improved a lot in terms of cleanliness and organization over the years, but not to the point where I trust myself mixing up any truly dangerous chemistry. I mix my own developers and some toners, but avoid the ones that contain really nasty stuff.

  6. #6

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    Re: Some passing thoughts on chemical cleanliness

    Quote Originally Posted by Ulophot View Post
    [/I] (I remember cringing repeatedly years ago, watching Fred Picker's excellent printing video. He kept going from hand-developing his prints and then returning to the dry side, as if directly from the fixer, with not even a mention of getting the fixer off his hands. Yes, it was a video, which cut from scene to scene, in between which he unquestionably washed and dried his hands carefully, but as a training video...
    Fred kept a big towel on a ring at the end of his 9' sink. He always dunked his hands into the last holding tray of water and dried them off before going back to the dry side. And if "he unquestionably washed and dried his hands carefully," why even mention it?

    Careful viewers of the video will note that Fred's darkroom was spotless, and uncluttered by junk. In the video he even puts away the box of paper that he's not going to use. The grain focuser is stashed way out of the way. No distractions. We should all be so obsessive/compulsive.

    Careful viewers will note that he did not use gloves in the darkroom, but did wear a cotton glove to handle negatives. Dektol, acetic acid, HC-110, and F6 fixer neither killed him nor suppressed his taste for good wine. I do believe he wore gloves when selenium toning.

    A younger me is in it. Careful viewers will observe how much taller I am than Fred. I spent many hours with Fred in his darkroom on other occasions than making the video.

    It was a video about printing pictures. Not personal hygiene. Neither did we discuss wardrobe choices. It was tough enough to keep it to the playing time without added stuff. No fluff allowed.
    Last edited by Bruce Barlow; 9-Jul-2018 at 11:36. Reason: Correcting grammar
    Bruce Barlow
    author of "Finely Focused" and "Exercises in Photographic Composition"
    www.brucewbarlow.com

  7. #7
    jp's Avatar
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    Re: Some passing thoughts on chemical cleanliness

    If you use something like TF5 for fixer, it is pretty PH neutral (not slimy) and rinses pretty easily.
    I mostly use tongs to reduce contamination too.
    (Sometimes the rare extra big wet prints need a little more care moving than tongs will provide.)
    Sometimes the tongs fall into the chemicals or get wet and I rinse and dry that hand anyways... If I keep one hand for handling dry paper and the other for handling wet tongs, that is also workable for smaller paper (8x10 or less)

  8. #8
    Joe O'Hara's Avatar
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    Re: Some passing thoughts on chemical cleanliness

    Another vote for nitrile gloves. Unlike skin they are not porous, rinse off cleanly, and are not allergenic or smelly like latex.
    They're about a penny apiece in the big box from the chain pharmacy. I use a fresh pair when removing prints from the
    washer. (Those, I admit, I hang up to dry and use again at the next session. Thrifty!)
    Where are we going?
    And why are we in this handbasket?


    www.josephoharaphotography.com

  9. #9
    sepiareverb's Avatar
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    Re: Some passing thoughts on chemical cleanliness

    Quote Originally Posted by Ulophot View Post
    ...I long ago picked up the habit of sniffing my fingers for, chemicals when processing...
    If you can smell chemistry on your fingers you are inhaling it. The inhaled chemistry won't hurt your prints, but to a stickler the "sniff test" would be considered very poor form, nearly as bad as the "lick test".

  10. #10

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    Re: Some passing thoughts on chemical cleanliness

    Quote Originally Posted by Bruce Barlow View Post
    Fred kept a big towel on a ring at the end of his 9' sink. He always dunked his hands into the last holding tray of water and dried them off before going back to the dry side. And if "he unquestionably washed and dried his hands carefully," why even mention it?

    Careful viewers of the video will note that Fred's darkroom was spotless, and uncluttered by junk. In the video he even puts away the box of paper that he's not going to use. The grain focuser is stashed way out of the way. No distractions. We should all be so obsessive/compulsive.

    Careful viewers will note that he did not use gloves in the darkroom, but did wear a cotton glove to handle negatives. Dektol, acetic acid, HC-110, and F6 fixer neither killed him nor suppressed his taste for good wine. I do believe he wore gloves when selenium toning.

    A younger me is in it. Careful viewers will observe how much taller I am than Fred. I spent many hours with Fred in his darkroom on other occasions than making the video.

    It was a video about printing pictures. Not personal hygiene. Neither did we discuss wardrobe choices. It was tough enough to keep it to the playing time without added stuff. No fluff allowed.
    Bruce, thank you for you reply. I apparently expressed myself poorly. I gained invaluable knowledge from Fred's videos as well as his newsletters, to which I subscribed for several years and the entire lot of all which I recently read through after someone here posted a link. Not to mention the Zone VI equipment that still serves me well. I appreciate the need to cut in video, and was only surprised that someone as meticulous as Fred would have left out that particular caution for new printers, that's all.
    Philip U.

    Sine scientia ars nihil est. (Without science/knowledge, art is nothing.)
    https://www.flickr.com/photos/156933346@N07/

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