How long does unused fixer stay usable?

Discussion in 'Darkroom Developing and Printing' started by Timo Geusch, Dec 12, 2003.

  1. Timo Geusch

    Timo Geusch Guest

    OK, this might be a typical beginner question, but then I *am* a

    How long does fixer concentrate stay usable in an opened bottle? I've
    just noticed that the fixer I made from said concentrate yesterday
    seemed to have lost some of it's strength - a roll of 120 Tri-X didn't
    clear that well within the expected 2 minutes and looks
    'underfixed'. I developed a roll of Illford SFX200 afterwards and
    increased the fixing time for it from 2 to 3.5 minutes and that came
    out as expected. And I don't think that Addled Of Brain here
    accidentally made up the fixer at higher dilution although this may
    well be a possibility...

    Oh well, better chuck that fixer away and make up some fresh one, I
    Timo Geusch, Dec 12, 2003
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  2. Timo Geusch

    Willie wjb Guest


    Fixer concentrate my case (1+9) = 100cc fixer + 900 cc water put in a
    harmonica bottle to get out the air. I use amaloco fixer.

    stays good for several weeks tested until 3 months (i don't know how long
    exactly, but had never problems with it).

    What you always must try to do is remove all the air from the bottle. That
    way there is no problem.

    I read you fixed for 2 minutes tri-x film.
    Make this test.
    Take a piece of the film in daylight. Put a drop of fix on the emulsion
    side. when there is a hole visible after some time wash it. Now take your
    fresh concentrate put it in a bowl together with this piece with a hole.

    now take the time before you can't see any difference between the hole and
    the rest of the film piece. This is the clearance time needed to fix it, But
    the time you will have to take is 2 times this time. So if the clearance
    time was 2 minutes, fix the film 4 minutes!

    keep the made concentrate in a bottle without air. I use amaloco X89 and fix
    9 rolls with it. I start with 4 minutes and after 5 rolls i increase the
    time to 5 minutes. (you could make the same test after 5 rolls to see how
    long the time would be then).

    i hope this helps.

    Willie Jan Bons.
    Willie wjb, Dec 12, 2003
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  3. Timo Geusch

    Willie wjb Guest

    by the way my unused fix stay oks for severals months in a bottle without
    keep it i a dark place not to warm.

    Willie wjb, Dec 12, 2003
  4. The concentrate should last several months. So should the
    diluted fixer. If you are mixing a small amount of fixer at
    a time as a one-shot the clearing time should not vary much
    for the same kind of film. Fixing time for most films is
    about twice the clearing time. Where fixer is reused the
    capacity of a single bath for complete fixing is pretty
    limited, especially for paper. The capacity of a two bath
    system is from four to ten times that of a single bath so
    its an economy.
    The life of the concentrate in a closed filled bottle is
    not indefinite. Eventually, the fixer will begin to
    decompose. The usual sign of this is the precipitation of
    elemental sulfur in the bottle. The concentrate should be
    tossed out if there is any indication of this.
    I don't quite understand why you got longer clearing times
    the second time if the fixer is not being reused. Did I
    misinterpret what you are doing?
    Richard Knoppow, Dec 12, 2003
  5. Timo Geusch

    Tom Phillips Guest

    If you're talking about a dilute solution left in an open bottle
    (exposed to air), it may last a week. I typically extend my fixing times
    (from the previous batch of film) until a hypocheck shows it's time to discard.

    Rapid fix should have a shelf life of a good couple of years from date
    of manufacture if unopened. You might want to check the date or batch
    codes on the bottle. It's not unusual for some photo stores who don't do
    much volume to sell chemistry past the date. Even if opened, fresh
    concentrate stored in a bottle with the air squeezed out it should stay
    fresh quite a while. I've had mixed solutions (I use it film strength
    even for paper) stored in bottles last for months and months.
    Tom Phillips, Dec 12, 2003
  6. Timo Geusch

    PSsquare Guest

    Good comments so far. Let me just add that I found a discarded water bottle
    that is exact the correct volume for my film processing can. This means
    that I can store fixer between uses with basically no air exposure. I check
    fixer with hypo-check and find it undeteriorated for several months if I am
    not processing film regularly. My fixer time is usually 4 minutes, twice the
    clearing time.

    PSsquare, Dec 12, 2003
  7. In my experience it lasts for years.

    2 minutes is not long enough to fix Tri-X in a rapid fixer. Try 4 minutes.

    It may have changed temperature between yesterday and today.
    Michael A. Covington, Dec 12, 2003
  8. I should add that I test it periodically by looking for visible precipitate
    and making sure it still clears a piece of film in the specified time.
    Michael A. Covington, Dec 12, 2003
  9. Timo Geusch

    Timo Geusch Guest

    Richard Knoppow was seen penning the following ode to ... whatever:
    OK. I usually mix fresh fixer for a developing session (a few films,
    like 5-10 rolls max) or a printing session. I don't develop that often
    though, on average once a month atm, printing even less often.
    OK, I'll have to check this - I used concentrate from an open bottle
    and that had been open for several months now.
    I probably didn't describe it very well. I developed the Tri-X first
    and when I hung it up to dry I noticed that it had this typical
    'underfixed' look. As it was only a test roll anyway to test a new old
    back for my Bronica I wasn't too bothered about re-fixing it. However
    the other roll I developed (SFX200) had some pictures on it that I
    really wanted to keep, so I left this film in the fix longer and as
    far as I can tell (as a beginner) it appears to be fixed correctly.

    I probably made a mistake when mixing the fixer yesterday as I was a
    bit dozy that late at night but I might just buy a new bottle tomorrow
    seeing that I've got to pay a visit to my local darkroom supply place
    anyway - I need a proper easel for my new enlarger...
    Timo Geusch, Dec 12, 2003
  10. Timo Geusch

    Timo Geusch Guest

    Michael A. Covington was seen penning the following ode to ... whatever:
    Noted. That's another likely mistake, although I seem to remember that
    I got away with fixing the 'old' Tri-X for two minutes.
    Sorry, don't understand that comment - both films were processed
    yesterday evening...
    Timo Geusch, Dec 12, 2003
  11. Sorry - misunderstood you.

    The bottom line is that 2 minutes just isn't a long enough fixing time.
    Note that Tri-X has been re-engineered recently. Were you using one of the
    new films (320TXP or 400TX, with the numbers in front of the letters) or one
    of the old ones (TX or TXP)?
    Michael A. Covington, Dec 13, 2003
  12. Timo Geusch

    John Guest

    Do you know what effect would this sulfur have on the image ?
    I've read where photographers of the 20's~30's would mix a vat of
    fixer and use it for quite some time.


    John S. Douglas, Photographer -
    Please remove the "_" when replying via email
    John, Dec 13, 2003
  13. Does it merely mean that thiosulfate is being lost and the fixer is less
    effective? If so, it may still be effective enough, and you can test
    clearing time.

    In storing Ilford fixer concentrate for 2 or 3 years I have not noticed any
    Michael A. Covington, Dec 13, 2003
  14. Check the clearing time with fresh fixer. use a scrap of
    the film you are going to fix for the test. It should be
    soaked in water for a few minutes before testing beause
    wetted film clears at a different rate than dry film. Note
    the time for the film to become visually clear. Most films
    should be fixed for about twice this time. Some films are
    slower to fix than others. While this effect is well known
    for T-Max and other tabular grain films, it is also true of
    Tri-X. These films should be fixed for about three times the
    clearing time.
    Since you are fixing several films at each session I think
    you would be ahead by mixing the concentrate into two
    containers of working strength fixer and using the two bath
    method. In this method the film is fixed in each bath for
    half the total time. Most of the fixing gets done by the
    first bath leaving the second relatively fresh. The second
    bath will have a low enough silver content to permit
    complete conversion of the silver halide to a soluble silver
    thiosulfate complex. The capacity of a two bath system is at
    least four to as much as ten times the capacity of a single
    bath for archival fixing. When the clearing time in the
    first bath is doubled it is discarded and the second bath
    becomes the first bath. A fresh bath replaces the second
    bath. Up to five cycles of this can be done before replacing
    both baths with fresh fixer.
    The use of a sulfite wash aid, such as Kodak Hypo Clearing
    Agent, will further insure complete fixing because it will
    remove some silver complexes which are otherwise too tightly
    bound to the silver crystals to wash out.
    Richard Knoppow, Dec 13, 2003
  15. email

    The effect is that the thiosulfate is no longer thiosulfate
    but somthing else, so it just doesn't fix. Free sulfur in
    the emulsion will result in sulfiding of the image with
    Decomposed hypo makes a good toner in the right kind of
    solution (Hypo-Alum Sepia toner) but isn't a fixer at all
    any more. It can also smell pretty bad.
    Concentrated rapid fixers will decompose after a few
    years. Mixed working solution of either salt will eventually
    decompose but it takes months.
    I am not sure of what the mechanism of decomposition is
    for the concentrate, it may be caused by oxygen percolating
    through the plastic containers. While some types of plastic
    are pretty impervious they still let a little air in. Glass
    is better but its much more expensive to package stuff in
    glass partly because of the shipping cost of the heavier
    It will be interesting to see if Kodak's new packages for
    powder do any better than the old metalized paper
    containers. Back in the dinosaur days when photo chemicals
    came in vacuum packed cans things lasted for decades.
    Richard Knoppow, Dec 13, 2003
  16. Timo Geusch

    Timo Geusch Guest

    Michael A. Covington was seen penning the following ode to ... whatever:
    400TX. I'll take you comment about fixing time on board and make sure
    that I'll fix it properly the next time.
    Timo Geusch, Dec 13, 2003
  17. OK -- now we know exactly what got you. 400TX is not the same old Tri-X
    Pan. Although photographically similar, it is a new product with (I think)
    a harder emulsion. So a fixing time that was (barely) adequate for TX might
    well be too short for 400TX.

    Mystery solved!

    Now as for the development times for 400TX... there are lots of open
    questions there!
    Michael A. Covington, Dec 13, 2003
  18. Timo Geusch

    Jorge Omar Guest


    Here's something I'm curious about:
    If, as it has been sated before, traces of fixer helps to preserve
    negs/prints, won't the hypo clearing agent be a countrmeasure to it?


    Jorge Omar, Dec 13, 2003
  19. Timo Geusch

    Guest Guest

    I have, also with Ilford fixer. I got a yellowish deposit at the bottom. The
    bottle was unopened and had been bought about 3 years before, based on the
    date in the store stamp. It was quite visible from the outside. There was a
    faint odor of rotten eggs when I opened it.

    I guess that was the YMMV part acting up. ;-)

    Guest, Dec 13, 2003
  20. Timo Geusch

    Norman Worth Guest

    The life of the fixer depends somewhat on the fixer formula. Plain hypo (or
    ammonium thiosulfate) fixers do not last. Throw them out afer each session.
    Chrome alum fixers also have a short life because the hardener deteriorates.
    Most fixers rely on sulfurous acid as a preservative to keep the thiosulfate
    from oxidizing. Sulfurous acid itself deteriorates in time, so I would
    guess that used fixer has a definite, fairly short life - maybe a few weeks.
    I have no idea about the life of alkaline fixers or the relationship between
    pH and fixer life. Alkaline fixers contain sulfites to mitigate
    deterioration, but they may not last as long as the acid variety. Several
    fixers for color processes operate at about pH 6.5 and are reputed to have
    somewhat less life than regular acid fixers. But they are also more dilute
    than the regular fixers.
    Norman Worth, Dec 13, 2003
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