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Reduce/Avoid Risk of Dust on Film Negatives

One of the major killers of a good film image can be the accumulation of dust and lint – pet hair, jumper lint, dandruff. I’ve spent endless hours clone stamping film scans to remove this garbage but the easiest and most efficient cure is to avoid dust (almost) entirely. So I thought it worth sharing my no-dust film processing/scanning regime.

I rarely get any dust at all now (maybe 1-to-3 spots on a 120 film negative). Often my film negatives scan without any dust. I have a pretty tight process.

My film negatives are loaded onto a spool for a Paterson Developing Tank so the first part of the regime is to always have a lint free dark bag. Bare arms only. The bag is kept in a sealed plastic lunch box until required. The tank, as it gets assembled, is blown free of any dust or lint by using a Giotto air blower. And I wear cotton or linen; not wool.

With the tank loaded the next step is the developing process in our bathroom. I never process in that bathroom on a breezy day. So, if it’s a reasonable day I turn the hot water on in the shower to build an intense steam. I turn the water off after a few minutes and walk away until the steam has dissipated.

Then the bathroom gets a good wet-dust with a handy kitchen sponge. Start with the windows, sills, tops and faces of doors; anywhere you would hit dust it needs to be removed. Keep the sponge clean by holding it under warm tap water to de-lint the surface. Then mop the floor. Why? Because every piece of dust that fell out of the air with the steam process fell and attached itself somewhere.

At this point the film processing can commence. When the film has had two minutes at the end in wetting agent – film goes into a drying cabinet. My drying cabinet is made with fencing wire covered by a wedding dress dust cover. It cost $10 to build. The drying cabinet is carried to the loungeroom.

The next day it’s time to scan those film negatives. And I can tell you my office is a small non-commercial meadery combined with a general office space. It’s an old bedroom with carpet and the carboys of mead are covered in blankets. All potential nightmares for the dust regime.

I get a damp tea towel and wipe the computer monitors, the computer, keyboard, mouse, modem, speakers and around the entire top of the desk. Be meticulous. Then I hit any open horizontal surface with that damp-dusting until all the obvious villains are captured.

Finally, the trick is to vacuum the office and the chair as best as can be achieved without disturbing anything else in that office.

And voila, film is removed from the cabinet one small section at a time for scanning. It’s loaded into the holder on top of a fresh piece of typing paper. And I rarely see any dust. Often never.

Yes, it’s a bit of effort. But that’s a lot easier than spending the next day clone stamping all that dust and lint away. And lint-free negatives look finer than lint-laden negatives.

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About the Author

Steven Clark Steven Clark - the stand up guy on this site

My name is Steven Clark (aka nortypig) and I live in Southern Tasmania. I have an MBA (Specialisation) and a Bachelor of Computing from the University of Tasmania. I'm a photographer making pictures with film. A web developer for money. A business consultant for fun. A journalist on paper. Dreams of owning the World. Idea champion. Paradox. Life partner to Megan.

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