I have a roll of 35 min film that I found while cleaning out a closet. I stuck it in my pocket so it wouldn’t get misplaced, then accidentally ran it through the washing machine. Can it still be developed?? I am hoping and praying I didn’t ruin it.

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    Talk to a lab, and tell them what happened to it. Wouldn't attempt to drop it off at a drugstore without comment - you could really piss off a mass production lab if you introduce contaminants into their chemistry.... Sep 27, 2019 at 9:51
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    If you develop yourself, I'd consider doing a thorough prewash in order to prevent a contamination as mentioned in the comment above.
    – timvrhn
    Sep 27, 2019 at 12:30
  • Thank you for the advice. I wish I knew how to develop it myself. I will tell the photo lab what happened & ask if they will develop it. Sep 27, 2019 at 13:29
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    At which temperature did you wash the film?
    – jarnbjo
    Sep 27, 2019 at 14:39
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    Usually you wash the film AFTER you develop it. ( sorry i could not help myself ) Hot water, soap and sticking together after it dries makes it unlikely that it will be saveable but who knows.
    – Alaska Man
    Sep 27, 2019 at 19:29

5 Answers 5


Contrary to some comments here, a 135 film cartridge is very open to water intrusion. The film slot and both spindle holes are designed only to keep out light. The cartridge filled with water in just a few seconds after it was submerged. If you still have a a professional photo lab, preferably one with a darkroom and someone who knows how to use it, I would take it there. If the film wasn't exposed to any oxidising chemicals (bleach or peroxide), it may be fine after some special handling. The film in the cartridge naturally is springy and is usually resting in a hollow roll against the outside walls of the cartridge, so resist the urge to turn the cartridge spindle now since the wet film may have welded itself together and turning the spindle could damage it. In the darkroom, I would carefully remove the cartridge end and gently see how easily the roll comes out. If it won't, I would soak the whole thing in plain water for a while and try again. It should soften up and be able to be unrolled to a reel and thoroughly washed. Once clean, they can either develop it manually while still in the reel, or dry it and reload it into a cartridge so it can be sent off to a lab for normal machine processing.


Generally if film gets wet and then dries, the film will stick to itself. Sometimes it can be saved by pre=soaking in water and separated (difficulty). Prognosis is not good. Some labs may attempt -- lots of work. Best of luck.


The film is probably fine, but definitely heed rackandboneman's comment about informing a lab about what happened. They may not take your film if it's contaminated.

Water is certainly not going to harm film. Detergent probably won't, either. Some detergents contain dyes that could settle on the emulsion or backing and may be harder to remove if the roll went through the dryer as well.

Most of the film will be pretty tightly wrapped on the spool, so anything that gets in will likely only touch the first couple of layers (which are leader anyway) and the edges.

35mm film cartridges have to keep light out and are, in general, well-sealed. The exception is the felt part where the film comes out. I've never submerged a cartridge, and have no idea how much would get in. If you have a roll you don't care about, you could run it through the washer in the same pocket as the last one, break it open with a bottle opener and see how much liquid got in and where it settled.

My advice would be to find a camera shop that services pros and ask if they can hand-develop the roll in a tank or can point you at someone who can. Explain what happened; they might suggest an overnight soak in water followed by a couple of rinses and then the usual development process. It will cost more than machine developing, but you'll have the best chance of saving the roll.

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    In would not be QUITE as optimistic - the film emulsion is of gelatin usually. It is SUPPOSED to soak and soften a bit in contact with liquids (otherwise, how is the developer going to get to it). Gelatin is organic material. Detergents are usually formulated to make short work of any organic material that isn't typically part of garments themselves.... Sep 27, 2019 at 15:16
  • @rackandboneman Fair point. Even if there was liquid incursion into the cartridge, I still don't think it's going to be much. I think I have a couple of old rolls floating around somewhere and I will be doing laundry this weekend. Stay tuned.
    – Blrfl
    Sep 27, 2019 at 16:19
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    Washing machines are kind of designed as liquid incursion facilitators :) Sep 27, 2019 at 16:41
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    Might it be useful to use a thermal camera within a dark bag (monitor outside the bag, of course!) to inspect the film for physical damage before committing to any course of action]? If the film's temperature doesn't match that of a bag, I would think that the rate at which the surface changes temperature would vary with emulsion thickness, making it possible to see if the emulsion is still attached on the proper side and hasn't pulled away or washed off.
    – supercat
    Sep 28, 2019 at 18:44

I'm pretty late to the game here, but- not knowing if you dried it or not matters a lot. If the film was still wet (swelled gelatin) then we'd probably water bath it and get it into the machine directly, after washing it with photoflo.

If it's been dried, however, the lab is going to have to un-reel it and separate the gelatin from sticking, then clean it, then run it. And you're going to have some messed up photos, but it's still salvageable.

You're better off finding a custom lab (but they probably don't exist anymore).

Source: Former Kodak Pro employee. Former Lab Tech (and not the just 'run it' type).

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    How likely is a modern mass lab to throw the whole thing away in a high arc and claim it lost? Sep 29, 2019 at 19:09
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    Actually, pretty likely. That's why I said to find a 'pro' lab. Because a modern 'store' lab, unless they're really photo enthusiasts, ain't going to give a sh**. When I was in the business we were 'pro'. We competed with every other 1 hour photo- at sometimes twice the cost- and still maintained position because of the quality. So I was making a couple bucks over minimum wage but I was encouraged to reach out to Kodak (1800-242-2424) and you could actually talk to engineers there - and get answers. So... today? yeah they'd toss it. But a Pro lab has standards and they'd help you out.
    – J.Hirsch
    Sep 30, 2019 at 21:54

Yes !! Same thing happened to me last year !! The photos actually came out cooler than I thought !! Not all of them came out but all the ones they did they where amazing !!

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    Cooler as in temperature or as in radicalness? Sep 28, 2019 at 11:29
  • He probably means 'funky-funky'.
    – J.Hirsch
    Sep 30, 2019 at 21:54

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