How do you clean a print washer?

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David Brown

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What is recommended for cleaning a print washer?

Years ago (well, 2006) I posted this thread about emptying prints washers:

(there was a url link here which no longer exists)

The consensus was that most people empty theirs unless they will be printing again within days. Up until that time, I had left mine full for quite a while with no ill effects, but as you would see from post #18, that changed. So, I empty. But, even so, what about cleaning?

I have moved and built a different darkroom since that 2006-07 thread, and although with the same washer, I have very different water! It leaves scum! So, even with draining and emptying, what is recommended for cleaning a print washer? Without having to read the whole thread, the last two posts talk about using denture cleaner to clean washers!

(For the record, I use a Versalab.)
 

paul ron

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A few gold fish n a pleco.

Take it appart n scrub it out, use CLR if it's that scummy but a real good rinse out after.
 

grahamp

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The Versalab tank should be easy enough to clean of organic scum - mild citric, acetic (white vinegar) acids, or even baby bottle sterilizer and a big pad of kitchen paper. Wear gloves as your hands will stink otherwise. And the chemicals won't be kind to any cuts.

The Versalab spacers should clean the same way, but the plastic won't like abrasive tools. use a soft sponge on a rod, or just slide your hand in with a wad of paper towel- they flex.

Chemical deposits, like hard water, should go with the mild acids.

Rinse well after any cleaning.
 
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For organic growth: empty, scrub with soft cloth/brush/sponge on a handle, etc. and rinse. Refill and add chlorine bleach. Let sit. Drain, rinse, rinse, rinse. Refill and use.

To get rid of hard water deposits (usually calcium carbonate) I scrub first and then just add some stop bath and let it sit for a couple days to dissolve the deposit. Empty, rinse, rinse, rinse. Refill and use.

The trickiest thing is cobbling a cleaning rod to efficiently get the separators. Not a real big problem though...

FWIW, I use both Versalab and modified Paterson agitating washers. I've come to like my Patersons a lot. I added an extra spray surface water feed and more efficient draining to eliminate areas of no circulation. They work better and faster than the Versalabs and they are easier to clean.

Best,

Doremus
 

TheFlyingCamera

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Instead of chlorine bleach to get rid of any biologicals, I'd put a couple caps full of bacteriostat you can buy for home humidifiers in the washer and let sit for a few hours (depends on the size of your washer how much to use). I put a cap or two in the tempering bath of my Jobo when I'm running it, and it does a bang-up job of keeping the tempering bath scum-free.
 

paul_c5x4

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I've come to like my Patersons a lot. I added an extra spray surface water feed and more efficient draining to eliminate areas of no circulation.

I for one would be interested in hearing more about the modifications you have made to the Paterson washer. Could you post some images & text please.
 

Vincent Brady

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I have on occasion dropped in a few Steredent Tabs (used for cleaning dentures) into the print washer. But I have made sure to flush out the washer afterwards.
 

bdial

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I for one would be interested in hearing more about the modifications you have made to the Paterson washer. Could you post some images & text please.
Don't want to hijack the thread, but I would also be interested.

As for the topic, I do the same as Doremus, bleach soak for the organics and acetic acid for mineral stuff.
 
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Rick A

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Vincent has the correct answer. Denture cleansing tabs and let soak over night, followed with a thorough rinse. I used to clean my Nova slot processor with them(I no longer own it).
 
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David Brown

David Brown

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I empty and dry mine thoroughly after each use;not a big deal;only takes minutes and keeps it clean and operational for many years now. But then, I 'm a clean freak when it comes to equipment and print spotting.

I'm a bit of a "clean freak" myself, Ralph! :smile:

Emptying is one thing, drying would be a "big deal". Fortunately, on the Versalab, the cabinet and dividers do not seem to have any appreciable residue. It's the hoses! (Probably should have mentioned that in the OP.)

I am replacing the main siphon hose, as it is the one that remains submerged in the water. Over the years, the once clear plastic hose has turned white and opaque. It's a cheap and easy replacement. In the meantime, I think I'm going to try a good clean on the other hoses. (They could eventually get replaced, too.) I use a gun cleaning rod, and that seems to be the right tool.

Thanks for all the suggestions, everyone!
 

nsurit

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Interesting discussion. I have one at school that I'm thinking about using a pressure washer on. Bits of paper and crud at bottom. I have three at home and always drain them after use as I have an abundant supply of rainwater. Bill Barber
 
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I always drain my print washer at home, and usually do a rinse with hot water at the end. Then it sits to air dry. Haven't has any build ups yet.
 
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I for one would be interested in hearing more about the modifications you have made to the Paterson washer. Could you post some images & text please.

Don't want to hijack the thread, but I would also be interested...

Off topic but by popular demand... :smile:

Sorry, no pictures since I am in Europe till summer and my darkroom is in Oregon.

However, the modifications aren't really that difficult. I added a length of 1/4-inch tubing lengthwise over the top of the washer that is held by spring clips (it needs to be removable to get the prints in and out). I perforated the tubing with lots of small holes using a micro-drill-bit. Under pressure, it drips/sprays water into the top of the washer in a fairly even pattern. This is fed from a separate water hose with an adjustment ball valve (normal garden-hose hardware).

I also use the factory agitator function which feeds water in as well from one corner of the washer. I like the idea that the prints move gently in the water while being washed and can't stick to separators. With non-agitating washers, I always move the prints around a time or two during washing and really try to make sure one side of the print doesn't get inadequate washing because it is always in contact with the separator.

I also added a small drain/petcock to the opposite corner of the OEM drain on the Paterson washer that I can adjust the flow on. I let it drip during washing to get that dead corner drained well.

I usually siphon the washer water down about 2/3 of the way and refill once during a final wash to ensure fresher water for the last half of washing. I wash fiber prints for one hour minimum. I regularly test for residual hypo and have excellent results with this wash method.

And, back on-topic finally: Mildew build-up in hoses can also be a problem. I try to keep mine drained when not in use, although when printing a lot, they (and the washers) can stay full for days. I find that submerging the hoses overnight in a tray of water with chlorine bleach does the trick. I also made a cleaning swab from nylon cord, a weight on one end and a loop on the other to hold a piece of folded cotton cloth. This I thread and pull through the hoses to swab them out. When worse comes to worse, I replace them. Poly hose material isn't that expensive.

Best,

Doremus
 
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