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Thread: Fixer Fumes, Mental Funk

  1. #1
    Beverly Hills, California
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    Question Fixer Fumes, Mental Funk

    First, I realize the wet darkroom should be well ventilated.

    But I wanted to ask out of curiosity to those who have worked all day in an unventilated one developing B&W prints in open trays: Have you noticed an ill effect from sucking in fixer fumes on your (even if just temporary) state of mental health? Did it put you in a slight funk for a sort while - like adding a full moon to a hangover?

    Over the years, when I've had rare occasion to develope prints for a whole day stretch, I kind of felt 'out of it' the next day.

    Is this just my imagination?

  2. #2

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    Re: Fixer Fumes, Mental Funk

    Switch to an alkaline fixer like TF-2. Problem solved.

  3. #3
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    Re: Fixer Fumes, Mental Funk

    I used that kind (but TF-4) in past, but was (possibly) have problems with the high (pH) alkalinity affecting the paper/emusion bond a paper's dimesional stability.

    Specifically, I was getting random, parallel creases in the paper, and an almost flaking-like emulsion after developing in Ansco 130 and then water stop and then TF-4 fixer then complete air dry, then dry-mount press flattening at 200F, 1 minute of fiber prints.. I'm sure the problem was somewhere there, so i went back to Bromophen developer acid stop and Ilford rapid fixer.

    But my current question is about the (thiosulfate) type fixers. Does it make you feel funky?
    Last edited by Andre Noble; 4-Jul-2006 at 04:57.

  4. #4

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    Re: Fixer Fumes, Mental Funk

    TF-2 is a hypo [sodium thiosulfate] fixer. No smell at all. I guess if you stick your head in the tray but that's about it.

  5. #5
    Donald Qualls's Avatar
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    Re: Fixer Fumes, Mental Funk

    I can barely smell plain hypo at all. I normally use commercially made rapid fixer, and the acetic acid and low level of sulfur dioxide (from sulfite in an acidic solution) doesn't bother me -- I use acetic acid stop bath, too. Even in an unventilated darkroom, I find it no big deal.

    I have experimented with water stop and plain or alkalized hypo fixer, and may go there again at some point in the search for a method of making archival fiber prints without spending hours on my knees washing in trays in the bathtub (alkaline gelatin washes faster). The difference in odor isn't significant, even with zero ventilation. However, the one time I've tried an ammonia alkalized fixer (which would be similar in odor to an alkaline rapid fixer), the ammonia nearly drove me out, even though I had the darkroom door open (working with alt process, faint white light wasn't a problem since the prints were sensitive only to UV or very intense blue light).

    My likely solution for rapid washing will be to use alkalized hypo clearing agent (homemade -- 2% sodium sulfite plus a small amount of sodium carbonate); this is odorless, and won't add to the miasma I'm used to.
    If a contact print at arm's length is too small to see, you need a bigger camera. :D

  6. #6
    reellis67's Avatar
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    Re: Fixer Fumes, Mental Funk

    I work in a bathroom/darkroom with little or no ventilation, but I've never had any problems other than sore feet after 6-8 hours in there. I use TF-4, which does have some smell, but not enough to cause me problmes, even after long printing sessions. Having said that, I should add that I wouldn't tone in a small space without ventilation...

    - Randy

  7. #7
    Moderator Ralph Barker's Avatar
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    Re: Fixer Fumes, Mental Funk

    Quote Originally Posted by Andre_941
    . . . Over the years, when I've had rare occasion to develope prints for a whole day stretch, I kind of felt 'out of it' the next day. . . .
    Perhaps it was due to the mild depression of having to go back to the "day job"?

    I've b-b-been d-d-doing this f-f-for years, and haven't s-s-suffered any i-i-ill effects.

  8. #8
    David Vickery
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    Re: Fixer Fumes, Mental Funk

    Andre,
    Yes I to sometimes felt kind of sickly after being in the darkroom for a long time when using acetic acid and ammonia based stop baths and fixers. During the summer when it was warmer in the house I would sometimes feel nausias and get headaches.

    I solved the problems by switching to either a water bath for stop or a citric acid stop bath. As for the fix, I started mixing my own TF-2 type fixer (but with ammonium thiosulphate) and I sometimes I ad Citric Acid to it as well (mainly for printing). This keeps the fixer slightly acidic plus there is almost no ammonia aroma or other noxious fumes.

    As far as the problems with the paper, there was definitly something wrong there, but I don't see how a normal alkaline fixer could have caused those problems.

  9. #9
    All metric sizes to 24x30 Ole Tjugen's Avatar
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    Re: Fixer Fumes, Mental Funk

    I tried TF-4 once to compare it to my own mix. I'll stick to my own OF-1; it's far less smelly!

    It's a sodium thiosulfate fixer, with an addition of ammonium chloride to "speed it up". I then adjust the pH by adding any one of several alkalis, depending on the rest of the process and the "pH of the day" of the wash water.

    Maybe I should have renamed it to "OF-1.33" by now...

  10. #10

    Re: Fixer Fumes, Mental Funk

    Years ago as a teenager I spent 4-6 hours a day in my small garage darkroom printing.The darkroom was/is about the size of a small apartment bathroom.It had no vents in it.Rapid fix was my brew of choice along with dektol and acetic acid stop.I developed severe lung pain and was seen by my doctor who took a lung x-ray.I had developed some kind of benign nodule in my lung.I forget the exact diagnosis as this was 30+ years ago.Several weeks later with no darkroom work it went away.After that my folks installed a beefy fan in the darkroom.I never had the problem again.The exact cause of my ailment was never known.Of course smoking cigaretts during printing sessions I'm sure didn't help either

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