Fixer Effective Lifespan ?

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Howl23

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I use the so-called "Plain Fixer" for my workflow, its cheap and gets the job done. What I don't understand is what the effective working life of the fixer is. Lots of comments/articles/books say that this fixer doesn't last long, varying between 2-6 months or after 25 rolls of 36exp then the fixer is done. I've even read some blogs about using it as a one-shot. However, I've been using the same bottle of fixer for little over a year at this point, going through several rolls, and even sheets of photopaper, without any problems so far. The solution has turned a slight pink color, but that's about it. Fixing time hasn't increased all too much either.

How do y'all know when to stop using the fixer? I am also curious if this fixer lasts longer because of how modern film is designed compared to before.

I am tempted to just keep using it until it can no longer fix the film, or until the silver crashes out of solution (which is what we do at my work).

The recipe I use for the fixer is:
240g Sodium Thiosulfate pentahydrate
30g Sodium Sulfite
1000mL Water
 

ic-racer

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I use one-shot now , but used to test it with hypo-tester. The drops turn cloudy when the fixer is spent.
 

nosmok

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I use EcoPro Neutral Fixer, and caffenol developers. When you pour the fixer in or out of the tank after dev and wash, it has a certain smell that I characterize as "aggressive tuna sandwich". When that smell becomes too faint, it's time to mix a new batch.
 

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For film, I keep track of how many rolls I have fixed on a sticky note on the side of the bottle. Erring on the safe side, I usually toss it after 15 rolls. For prints, I get rid of the fixer after 15-20 8x10 prints. You can also use a hypo-testing solution, a drop or two in a bit of fixer will turn cloudy if the fixer is no longer good. I prefer to dip a snippet of undeveloped film (like a piece of the leader of a 35mm roll) in a small cup of fixer. The film should clear within less than 60 seconds, otherwise its depleted or no longer good for film or paper.
 

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I watch how long it takes to clear film with fixer. When it takes twice the normal time, I get rid of the fixer. I keep all my photochemicals in tightly sealed bottles including fixer which does not have a reputation of dying off from oxidation.
 

Roger Cole

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I've always used a drop of Hypo-check which checks for residual silver. The fixer will usually still clear film in a time that would indicate it's "good" at that time but I don't push it.

I was surprised on just checking that Freestyle no longer sells it, apparently (not listed online anyway) and while I found it on Amazon it's $20 for the little bottle. OTOH that bottle will literally last YEARS because you use one drop to test, so maybe not so bad anyway. Instructions say two drops but one is enough. I don't know what I paid for it back when I bought it before but it certainly wasn't twenty bucks. Maybe four or five, don't recall.

EDIT: That's the little 3/5 ounce bottle. Turns out they have a 4 oz bottle for $25. That's nearly a lifetime supply, at the rate I did and even hope to do darkroom work, anyway.

EDIT II: Looks like there's a new brand that sounds the same as the Edwal that's cheaper:


EDIT III: I don't know why searching for "Hypo Check" on Freestyle's page didn't turn this up but it didn't. But B&H carries it and from there I checked with the source for "Arista" and searched the entire name. This is a much more reasonable price:

 
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Roger Cole

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I thought I tried it both ways but yeah could be. No matter, that’s the stuff I’ve used for decades. Prints and films I fixed in the late 70s are still fine so it doesn’t seem to have lead me wrong.
 
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Howl23

Howl23

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Not sure why I wasn't notified about these replies. Anyways, that seems like I good investment, Roger. Thank you for letting me know. I may order the Arista version of the Hypo-Check, for my workflow 1oz should be more that sufficient.
 

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Not sure why I wasn't notified about these replies. Anyways, that seems like I good investment, Roger. Thank you for letting me know. I may order the Arista version of the Hypo-Check, for my workflow 1oz should be more that sufficient.

make sure you follow the instructions. I have never used the Arista version but it is probably Potassium Chloride ( salt water ) and it ( like the Edwal's version ) requires to be done a certain way ( extract 1oz of fixer out of the tray, do the drops and stir the solution to see if the cloud is re-absorbed ). It is not very accurate. You are better off taking a leader of your favorite 35mm film ( or cut up small useless 1 inch pieces of whatever film you like to use ) and seeing how long it takes to turn into "clear film" when you have fresh fixer and when it is 2x that time your fixer is donzo. Different films have different amounts of fixer so just use the same film every time. If you use 2 fixer baths you are better off than 1 bath. split your total fix time between 2 baths 1/2 and half. Bath 1 does all the heavy lifting. When bath 1 is useless bath 2 becomes bath 1 and you make a new bath 2. better fixed than sorry.
 

Roger Cole

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I never did that. I just discarded the fixer when it formed a white cloud when the drop was dropped in. Stirring to dissolve would make the fixer last longer, yes - but fixer is not expensive. I'm sure I was erring on the side of caution. And I would occasionally verify with film, and the film test always said it was still good when the hypo-check said (using my cautious way) to discard it.
 

guangong

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Because my film processing is rather erratic in that I usually develop a batch of film over a day or two, I simply dump it when finished. I used to save it, but usually would go bad before next session. Then the messy cleaning of deposits from storage bottle.
 
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Well I prefer not to dump it down the drain. If at all possible, I would like to try and recover the silver from the spent fixer. Worst case scenario, for me at least, I just submit the fixer to the city for proper processing and silver recovery. I am trying to maximize my fixer's usability, while being cost-effective, and environmentally friendly.

I may also look into the EcoPro Neutral fixer that nosmok uses and see if that may be a better alternative for my workflow, but sodium thiosulfate is pretty damn cheap on its own.
 

Sirius Glass

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I never did that. I just discarded the fixer when it formed a white cloud when the drop was dropped in. Stirring to dissolve would make the fixer last longer, yes - but fixer is not expensive. I'm sure I was erring on the side of caution. And I would occasionally verify with film, and the film test always said it was still good when the hypo-check said (using my cautious way) to discard it.

I test fixer with drops too when I am working with prints. For film, I test to how long it takes to clear and when it start to approach twice the fastest time I get rid of it.
 

nosmok

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Well I prefer not to dump it down the drain. If at all possible, I would like to try and recover the silver from the spent fixer. Worst case scenario, for me at least, I just submit the fixer to the city for proper processing and silver recovery. I am trying to maximize my fixer's usability, while being cost-effective, and environmentally friendly.

I may also look into the EcoPro Neutral fixer that nosmok uses and see if that may be a better alternative for my workflow, but sodium thiosulfate is pretty damn cheap on its own.

Even with the Eco-Pro, I still try to clear the silver from it by pouring it over steel wool and letting it soak for a week before pouring the remaining liquid down the drain, or taking it to household haz-mat disposal. Still haven't figured out what to do with the silvery wool. Anybody? (I get about a liter of spent fixer to treat every 3-6 months, depending on my level of inspiration.)
 
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Howl23

Howl23

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Even with the Eco-Pro, I still try to clear the silver from it by pouring it over steel wool and letting it soak for a week before pouring the remaining liquid down the drain, or taking it to household haz-mat disposal. Still haven't figured out what to do with the silvery wool. Anybody? (I get about a liter of spent fixer to treat every 3-6 months, depending on my level of inspiration.)

I think you might be able to sell it off to a refinery, or anyone who buys precious metal in general. Your city may also have special ordinances/protocols for proper disposal of heavy metals, including designated places to send them to.
 

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a refinery won't bother, they will charge you for a small amount of refining. it takes a lot of energy, effort and refining chemicals to remove the silver plated on wire wool. even if you have 30 or 40 lbs, to them it is a 1-off and is more trouble than the silver is worth. there is somebody who puts old developer in his fixer claiming it also drops "pure silver" out of the silver so it can be disposed properly. it isn't true it is the same sludge that wire wool makes and just as or more messy to do.
 

Michel Hardy-Vallée

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Fixer at the strength it comes out of the manufacturer is quite stable compared to fixer diluted to working strength.

I'm using Ilford Hypam and Rapid Fix, and keep track of usage. By the time I get close to expected lifespan, a test with FT-1 confirms Ilford's metric.
 

Sirius Glass

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a refinery won't bother, they will charge you for a small amount of refining. it takes a lot of energy, effort and refining chemicals to remove the silver plated on wire wool. even if you have 30 or 40 lbs, to them it is a 1-off and is more trouble than the silver is worth. there is somebody who puts old developer in his fixer claiming it also drops "pure silver" out of the silver so it can be disposed properly. it isn't true it is the same sludge that wire wool makes and just as or more messy to do.

That is the conclusion that I have come to. Whether or not I use steel wool to collect the silver, the local toxic chemical collection site will take it from the trunk or rear of the vehicle, ask for my zip code and tell me to drive on without telling them what they have just removed. The best that I can do is to label bottles and packages.
 

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When total time (doubling the time to clear) reaches around 4:00, I dump it. So far, so good.

As to what to do with it, I've given up trying. There are so many other things I do that are far worse for the environment, including driving my car to the dump to ask them to dispose of that small amount of chemicals (which they'd probably just throw away anyway).

For me, undertaking film photography requires me to offset in other ways the environmental impact. I try to be really good about lights, heat, non-essential driving, water-use (even in photography), etc. That's my equivalent of carbon offset.
 
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jnk

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That is the conclusion that I have come to. Whether or not I use steel wool to collect the silver, the local toxic chemical collection site will take it from the trunk or rear of the vehicle, ask for my zip code and tell me to drive on without telling them what they have just removed. The best that I can do is to label bottles and packages.
the main problem is transporting liquid hazardous chemical waste is it is federally illegal, and federal laws overlay local and state laws. I certainly hope your buckets, bottles and packages don't spill in your trunk, or you don't get back-ended and have to deal with the police or insurance. you will be hung out to dry, and end up calling "the general" soon after for your insurance needs, while the back end of your car corrodes from the silver laden waste and you foot the bill for the "clean up"of the accident site. you are better off using the steel wool, getting your PPM below the federal limit (5PPM) and then transporting the steel wool and dried out sludge, at that point as long as it is dry it is just "waste".
 

Sirius Glass

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the main problem is transporting liquid hazardous chemical waste is it is federally illegal, and federal laws overlay local and state laws. I certainly hope your buckets, bottles and packages don't spill in your trunk, or you don't get back-ended and have to deal with the police or insurance. you will be hung out to dry, and end up calling "the general" soon after for your insurance needs, while the back end of your car corrodes from the silver laden waste and you foot the bill for the "clean up"of the accident site. you are better off using the steel wool, getting your PPM below the federal limit (5PPM) and then transporting the steel wool and dried out sludge, at that point as long as it is dry it is just "waste".

First I do not store or transport photochemicals in the car regularly. Second the toxic waste collection is a little over a mile from where I live.
 

jnk

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First I do not store or transport photochemicals in the car regularly. Second the toxic waste collection is a little over a mile from where I live.

If you speak with police, fire, emt and insurance statisticians they will tell you most accidents occur within a mile of your house. It only takes once and you are calling the general, but don't tell him you're transporting waste he won't be insuring you either.
 
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wiltw

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Kodak Darkroom data guide has shown fixer to have the following storage life, depemding upon container:
  • working solution in tray: 1 week
  • working solution in gallon tank: 1 month
  • stock solution in stoppered bottle: 2 months

As for capacity, this is somewhat dependent upon specific fixer, but generally about 100 8x10 equivalents
135 mm or med format roll = 1; 8x10 print = 1
 
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