Mass Film Cleaning

Rewashing moldy/dirty film can dramatically affect the quality of digital scanning.

First, the film is digitized, and the current conditions are documented to create a record of the item before cleaning.

Second, we evaluate the film to confirm it is safe for this cleaning method. High-value, unidentifiable films or older materials will not be washed and instead, we recommend a trained photo conservator review the items. Our approach is only recommended for modern films (~1960s on) and involves rewashing film with the final wash chemistry, which contains wetting and anti-fungal agents.

Our rewash method involves three baths of the final rinse solution. Mounted slides are removed from their mounts. The first bath softens the gelatin emulsion and molds/funguses that have grown on or into them and allows loose debris to fall off. In the second bath, we apply light physical rubbing to remove stuff stuck to the surface. Parts of the emulsion with mold growing deep into them may also be removed, leaving a permanent mark in the image (see illustrations below). The last bath is to ensure a clean rinse. Then, the film is hung to dry in a dust-free cabinet.

Dry film is then rehoused in archival materials and prepared for final scanning. This is a custom service, and the cost is based on all the labor involved. In the cases where the images will be printed/published, the washing of the film can be more cost-effective and superior to the many hours of retouching the digital image.

If you’re interested in having your film rewashed, send documentation images of the entire collection to illustrate the film’s condition and a count of the exact number of films.

Before and after film cleaning service examples