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Completely Dry Darkroom for Printing

Noel Oatley , May 17, 2010; 07:55 a.m.

I really want to do lith fiber prints for an art fair that I am going to be in. Problem is I cant use the college darkroom. I also cant wash prints because I rent a farmhouse and it has a septic field surrounded by cornfields. I don't want to contaminate anything. I can't seem to find any darkroom rentals in the Detroit MI/Toledo OH area.
Can I dry prints with fixer still in them then take them to school where I can wash them during open lab?
Is there a way to build or buy a system that will filter out fix and recycle the wash water so I dont have to dump it?
Any other solutions?



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Fred Welch , May 17, 2010; 12:27 p.m.

When my Dad used to do the printing for a local wedding photographer back in the 60's, he was permitted to do his own prints as well. To save time he used to give them a quick rinse and bring them home still wet in a polythene bag. He would then wash them fully at home. They were of course fibre based as that's all there was back then. Could you not do something similar?

Brian Quinn , May 17, 2010; 01:42 p.m.

Here is a link about septic tanks and darkroom chemicals.
Here are some more eco friendly darkroom products
As a final note you must realize that any washing you do in regular darkroom that is connected to a city sewer will have the waste make it to a river or lake anyway. A sewage treatment plant is really like and industeral compost bin. It does not filter the chemicals out of the water.

Noel Oatley , May 17, 2010; 03:29 p.m.

At least at the school there are really good filters on every drain.

Brian Quinn , May 17, 2010; 09:33 p.m.

This is a serious and comment. I am in no way trying to be mean.
I do not know of any filters that can go on a drain that will clean up darkroom waste.
If you can find out some information on the filters on the drains you speak of please let me know. Perhaps there is some product out there that I am not aware of. I would like to know the name of the filter and who makes it and any number on it so I could look up the model number. I really do not think such a filter exists but I would be happy if you proved me wrong.

Joseph Wisniewski , May 17, 2010; 10:13 p.m.

I saw a home darkroom that had some sort of processing (not filtration, because you can't just filter out most chemicals when they're in solution) tanks. They were big, 3 or 4 garbage can (35 or 50 gallon) sized drums. The owner claimed that they took darkroom waste down to near drinking water purity.

Mark Tate , May 17, 2010; 10:37 p.m.

your main problem with septic tanks is the silver as it will kill the bacteria in the septic , you could looking to a silver recovery unit but unless you are going to be doing a lot of printing it is not worth it .

Your only option is to wash it of site .

Yes there are filters that can render it near drinking quality but they are even more expensive than silver recovery units.
Silver is not toxic in the same way as mercury or lead but it will kill certain bacterias and a septic will stop working if concentrations are high

Brian Quinn , May 17, 2010; 11:00 p.m.

"Your only option is to wash it of site ."
NOT TRUE (See my the link to my first post in this reply)
Letting used fixer sit for a few days with regular steel wool in it will remove the silver and the bacteria will be fine. Any small amount of fixer that washes out of film or paper will not harm anything.

Lex Jenkins , May 17, 2010; 11:53 p.m.

It doesn't sound like Noel will be producing enough darkroom waste to worry about. A few lith prints for a single show?

It takes a lot more silver than a typical home darkroom generates to interfere with septic tank operation. My own darkroom in a rural area with septic tanks didn't produce enough to cause problems.

If you want to conserve water, fill up some large containers with water and soak the prints. When you're done, take the water with you and dump it elsewhere. Personally, I wouldn't bother. I doubt a typical home darkroom would generate enough contaminants in waste water from washing film or prints to be a problem.

However, if you prefer you could store the used chemicals - developer, etc. - in containers to dispose of elsewhere.

Doremus Scudder , May 18, 2010; 07:49 a.m.

I would 1) use two bath fixation 2) use a 10 minute bath in a hypo-clearing agent and 3) collect both of these solutions in 5-gallon jugs to take to the hazmat/recycling center for silver recovery (alternately, you can take the solutions to a local photo lab with a silver recovery system. Many will do this for free since they get the income from the recovered silver).

I can't imagine that the wash water would have enough dissolved silver in it after this to do any harm to the septic system.

Developer and stop can go into the septic system once they have been mixed together with no ill effects. They are biodegradable to non-toxic compounds.
I work in a darkroom on a septic system and this is what I do.


Doremus Scudder

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