Cleaning 4x5 film holders

Discussion in 'Large Format Cameras and Accessories' started by filmamigo, Mar 24, 2010.

  1. filmamigo

    filmamigo Member

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    I have a box full of 4x5 film holders. They are in pretty good condition, but they are pretty dirty/grungy. Probably stored for too long in a basement.

    Does anyone have any suggestions for the best way to clean film holders? These need more than a simple "blowing out".
     
  2. BenZucker

    BenZucker Member

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    In the past i have sprayed windex on a paper towel and wiped down the holders, once dry wiped them down with an anti static cloth, and then blown them out with canned air, seemed to work well....
     
  3. Mainecoonmaniac

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    I would use a 4" paint brush. I wouldn't use canned air because it's expensive and might be bad for the environment. Store your film holders in an Igloo Playmate to keep them clean. If they're really dirty, use a vacuum.
     
  4. williamtheis

    williamtheis Member

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    DON'T BLOW... SUCK!
    I use a vacuum cleaner and carefully vacuum entire holder with the round fixture with horse hair (or whatever), then pull out the dark slide vacuuming from the opening in the dark slide to pull the dust that went in with the darkslide towards the out direction... Then I vacuum the inside of the holder. the better the vacuum cleaner the better the job. then if you are still worried, use the windex for any dust that has welded itself to the inside. vacuum off both sides of the dark slide before you slide it in. if it's particularly dusty, you can hold the vacuum hose next to the slide as you move it in and out a couple times.. this should about do it
     
  5. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    An old tooth brush. I never throw them away. They are invaluable to have around.
     
  6. Doremus Scudder

    Doremus Scudder Member
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    Here's my routine for new "used and often grungy" holders.

    First, remove excess dust, dirt, etc. with a damp cloth.

    Often, holders have stickers, markings, etc. on them that I don't want. Goo-Gone and fingernail polish remover (both with and without acetone) are your friends here. Old toothbrushes, cotton swabs and even a pocketknife are often needed to get the crud off. Sometimes, if the previous user has written lots of stuff on the white data recording areas of the holder with permanent marker, I simply cut white stick-on labels to size and cover the offending areas.

    Pull dark slides and check the film backing plates. If they are flaking, you will need to sand them down with some very fine sandpaper and then repaint them with flat black paint. You could use them as is, but you risk new flakes getting on your film as well as unwanted reflection from the shiny aluminum areas. I use flat black Rustoleum spray paint. Mask the plastic/wood part of the holders with normal masking tape before painting. You can paint the black side of the darkslide handle if it is metal and flaking as well, but I often just use a big Sharpie to cover chips. Plastic slide handles are usually ok.

    Getting at the light trap to get dust out is the biggest problem. I find that working the darkslide in and out often dislodges most of the dust. However, I have had some holders that were dirty enough that they warranted taking to the sink and running water down through the light traps while working the slide in and out. On very old, wooden holders this isn't a good idea, but on the more modern plastic Fidelity, Riteway, etc. holders, the water causes no damage. Let them dry completely. This often takes a couple of days, even in dry conditions.

    When you are ready to load the new holders, drag out the vacuum cleaner. I run a ring of masking tape around the rectangular brush upholstery attachment, leaving just a quarter-inch of brush or less exposed, to increase the suction. Vacuum the light trap from above and below, vacuum the holder and both dark slides and then, insert the darkslide and pull it in and out of the light trap a few times while holding the vacuum attachment below the trap inside the holder to get those last pieces of dust in the trap. Give the inside of the holder one more suctioning and close the darkslide. Stack your holders under a plastic cover to keep dust from landing on them. I try to vacuum in another room from where I load to keep the vacuum from stirring up dust. If I can't, I run the hot water and let things sit for a while to settle the dust.

    This last bit is repeated every time I load holders. Once you get a clean, keep it as clean as possible by reducing exposure to dust. I keep mine in Ziploc bags, which I change at least every other time I load.

    Best and good luck,

    Doremus Scudder
    www.DoremusScudder.com
     
  7. bdial

    bdial Subscriber
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    I can only think of two thing to add to Doremus's excellent procedure.
    First, use a brush, like a paint brush to get loose stuff off before using anything wet. My experence is that you can sometimes adhere the particles by using water first.

    Two, finish up with some paste wax on the darkslide, and sometimes in the grooves of a wooden holder to make it slide in and out well. Wax on the surfaces of a wooden holder would be good too. If you wax the grooves, apply it very sparingly and make sure there is no residue.
     
  8. OP
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    filmamigo

    filmamigo Member

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    Brilliant, I knew I was asking the right folks! Thanks so much. I know how I'll be spending my Saturday...
     
  9. nawagi

    nawagi Member

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    Don't Laugh...Quick and Easy Film Holder Cleaning

    Take the slides out. Place the holder and slides on the TOP rack of your dishwasher. Run a cycle with cold water and no soap, and stop the cycle before the "drying" mode starts.

    After washing, remove the holders and place them in the sun to dry. Use compressed air to "fluff out" the fuzzy light locks and replace the dark slides.

    Your holders will be "clean enough to eat off!"

    NWG
     
  10. OP
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    filmamigo

    filmamigo Member

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    A little update -- the holders were even dirtier than I thought.

    I picked seven of the holders that were in the best condition. They were Folmer Graflex holders, part metal and part wood. Another 6 or 7 holders I didn't bother with, for various reasons -- damaged dark slides, corroded metal that had seized the dark slide and latch, excessive residues (!). I also didn't clean the one holder that had a varnished wood finish. (Are these rare, or should I not worry about it?)

    So I ended up using a sink for of hot soapy water, a tooth brush, and a j-cloth. The dark slides went for a soak, and came up nice and clean. The holders themselves went for a quick dunk, scrub with the toothbrush, and a good rinse. Some of them needed a harsher scraping or scrubbing. They were then hand dried, and put in a sunny spot to keep drying for a few days. Everything seems to have come up nicely -- and honestly, had I not given them such a thorough cleaning I wouldn't ever put film in them.

    Thanks everybody!
     
  11. 2F/2F

    2F/2F Member

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    So, all of that good advice, and you ended up doing the one thing that only one person suggested, and that was by far the worst suggestion in the entire thread: to fully soak the holders with water. They might be fine in the end, but would not common sense tell you to never completely soak something that contains elements of wood and cloth...especially when true and straight wood and properly "fluffed" light traps are necessary for proper operation of the tool?
     
  12. OP
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    filmamigo

    filmamigo Member

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    Oh, I agree, it was drastic. Foolish even.

    But you didn't smell these film holders! :smile:

    Seriously, they were worse than I thought. They were going to get a thorough scrub in detergent and water or they were going in the garbage.

    These holders are now smell-free, and free of particulate matter (unlike the water they were cleaned in.

    Wood swelling in water is largely a function of finish and time. These are painted finish, and spent the minimum amount of time in the water possible. They were immediately dried as well.

    I have now also retaped all of these holders. The original tape on them was in tatters. Between their bath and their new gaffer tape, these holders are now quite respectable looking. And did I mention they don't smell anymore? :smile:
     
  13. Shadowtracker

    Shadowtracker Member

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    Hi all, I'm new to LF and found this thread very helpful. I have 10 holders on the way and two at home that came with my used 4x5. The two holders I have are in ok shape and I was wondering what the best way to make sure they are clean is - all of you answered that for me and I now have a standard to go by in working out the details of a step-by-step process for myself. Apug has been a great find for me on all counts! Thanks much for the question and the answers.
     
  14. adriancblack

    adriancblack Member

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    Can I just put like 5 holders in water with soap, leave them overnight ... then do them one by one afterwards with wax or other things suggested here? I mean, they're really dirty ... 2 of them ordered from ebay came literally taped together with scotch tape ... so water/soap overnight? oh ... they're plastic all of them
     
  15. locutus

    locutus Member

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    Oh no no no no... that sounds like a bad idea.

    There's felt in the light trap of the dark slide, that would be ruined....
     
  16. bdial

    bdial Subscriber
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    Immersing them might not ruin the light trap, if you're lucky, but it wouldn't be good, especially an extended soak.
     
  17. Doremus Scudder

    Doremus Scudder Member
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    I've used running water to clean film holders, but I'd likely avoid a prolonged soak just because there may be adhesive holding the light trap material that could dissolve. I don't think the water would hurt the felt itself, but it might detach. In any case, water should be a last resort and the light trap should be fully dry before using.

    Best,

    Doremus
     
  18. adriancblack

    adriancblack Member

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    Ok ... no water :smile: ... i'll manually clean them one by one and hoover and such :smile: ... thanks for replying so fast
     
  19. E. von Hoegh

    E. von Hoegh Member
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    The wood Folmer Graflex filmholders have light traps which can be disassembled, no need to put them in water (!!!) and you can replace the velvet light traps. I use a vacuum and a round bristle brush, keep them in plastic bags, and load them by holding over my head with the side to be loaded down, insert film, insert darkslide, flip & repeat, back in the bag.
     
  20. BradS

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    Warm soapy water won't hurt the modern plastic holders at all. Prolonged soaking might.

    My standard treatment for used plastic film holders is to fill the sink with warm water, add a little dish soap (I like Dawn), remove dark slides and put the film holders and dark slides in the sink full of water. I scrub very gently with a sponge or an old tooth brush, rinse thoroughly with warm clean water and set on edge to dry with dark slides removed. Let dry for several days. Then vacuum out the light traps with the shop vac. I dry the dark slides by hand with a clean, dry terry cloth bath towel. Then polish them with either bee's wax (lots of work but superior) or...some spray on furniture polish stuff that I can't remember the name of at the moment. The dark slides get lots of rubbing with clean towels before being put back into the film holders.

    I learned this method by trial and error. Frankly, I tried it on a set of film holders that were so bad that it was a last resort before tossing them in the garbage..I had nothing to lose except my time and effort. Turns out, the method works great , even if it does require a lot of time and effort.
     
    Last edited: Feb 1, 2018
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