4

When I bought my darkroom sets, I additionally acquired two powder developers, being XTOL and D-76.

I have only ever used Rodinal (Adonal) to develop my negatives, so I know little of how well such powder developers last stored unmixed.

I don't know of any production or expiration dates, but they are sealed in their original boxes and thus have never been mixed, and have been stored in the dark. Some of the paper I got together with the developer came from the 80s, but since the packages don't look all too old and worn I doubt the developers are that old. It is likely to be at least five years old.

Could I still use the powders? And if so, would there be any loss in quality?

2

This is almost purely anecdotal, but... I recently (3/2019) bought a bag of XTOL which has the following markings:

© 2016 Kodak Alaris Inc.

EXP: 2021-05

From this I gather that Kodak gives a shelf life of 2–5 years for unmixed, unopened XTOL. (Not sure whether the copyright statement indicates year of manufacture or something else.)

However, word on the Internet is that you may expect much longer lives from powders that have been properly stored. Cans/jars are reputed to be less porous than bags, leading to increased shelf life.

In practical terms, I'd

  1. Open the bags/cans and inspect the contents; if the powder is white (not brown) and dry, proceed to next step.
  2. Mix it up and develop a test film.
  3. Only proceed to develop important stuff once you're satisfied that the developer still works.
  • Thanks! First step may as well be directed at buyers inspecting their sellers' coke. ;) – timvrhn May 23 at 17:30
3

The unmixed powders, such as XTOL or D-76, in their original sealed packaging can be expected to last several years.

However, with age does come increased risks of issues.

If the powder remains as fine grains and pours smoothly, then that is a good sign that there were no issues in storage.

If it is clumpy, has uneven texture or colours, then treat with very high suspicions.


Powders you suspect are more than a few years old should likely be tested before use with rolls of film you deem important.

Extremely important rolls should probably always be processed in chemistry you've very recently tested with less important rolls. Film and chemistry is cheap, once in a lifetime shots aren't.


  • The older tins of developer are typically considered totally shelf stable if they're not damaged, and are potentially good for decades.
  • The newer foil packets are apparently more prone to spoilage, and may quietly fail after only a few years with poor visual indication.
  • Stock solution made from older powders can fail faster than normal due to being more oxidized than expected. In general it is good to avoid letting mixed stock solution sit too long, but aim to use up older chemistry sooner rather than later.

In general it is good to treat all chemistry with some suspicion and care, and increase your suspicions as it ages.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.