Developing Film 1 – Distilled Water

This is the first post in a series on how I develop film. These posts will not be a How To. They will not argue that my way is the best way. They will just describe how one person develops 35mm black & white film.

I’ll start with water. The only water I use when I develop film is a jug of distilled water. I use it for three reasons.

No Plumbing Needed – My entire film developing process — develop, stop, fix and wash – uses just one and a half liters of water. With a jug of distilled water, an 11×14 print developing tray to catch spills, and a plastic bucket for used liquids I can develop film anywhere I have a small counter space. No need for running water, or a drain.

Temperature Control – I store my jugs of distilled water where the temperature is a steady 68°-75° Fahrenheit. In winter on top of the refrigerator, where it never goes below 68°. In summer in the basement, where it never goes over 75°. The developer and fixer are mixed one-shot with distilled water and liquid concentrates stored with the water. The stop bath and the three changes of wash water are plain distilled water. Everything is at the same temperature with no fuss and no bother.

Spotless Negatives – I have used this plumbing-free process with my own tap water in a clean jug, with bottled spring water, with bottled filtered water and most recently with bottled distilled water. Since I finally switched to distilled water I have absolutely no water spots on my negatives. No rinse aid. No squeegee or wiping of any kind. I just snap the film to remove the bulk of the water and hang it in the shower stall. I also have almost no dust spots, but that has been true with all the varieties of bottled water.

6 thoughts on “Developing Film 1 – Distilled Water”

  1. Thanks for sharing.

    I was plagued too by water spots in my negatives before I switched to distilled water.

    But I only use it for the final, thorough wash with a drop of Photo Flo.

    My Rodinal, stop bath (plain water) and fixer are mixed with tap water. Might be that my water is less hard, but I hardly have stains on my negatives.

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    1. I suspect I might do just as well with just using distilled water for the third (final) rinse, but it’s no more expensive than any other bottled water and I know for certain that eliminating tap water from my process greatly reduced the need for spotting the scans.

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  2. I’ve never had water spots, and I live in a hard water area, so others I know complain about this problem, yet I never suffer from it.
    I develop in tap water, stop bath made with tap and rinse under the tap for 10 minutes, still no spots. All I can think is I use Kodak Pro Flo, run wet fingers down the negs after hanging the shower cubicle and leave to dry for six hours.
    Interesting the no plumbing idea, and somewhat cheap with a watermeter. I might give a try, thank you for sharing.

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    1. I used to run my fingers down the wet strip of film until I ruined some important frames on a roll of Silvermax. No such problems with FP4 or HP5 but I need to standardize my procedure for a particular task because of the way my brain is wired.

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    2. The key to the no plumbing approach is the Ilford washing procedure. It’s so fast and easy, and uses so little water, that I’m surprised it isn’t more popular.

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