Advice needed from analogue folk, please. I have a roll of exposed 120 Ilford FP4 (I think) that somehow became wet, probably from condensation. The backing paper has now stuck firmly to the emulsion. I'm thinking of perhaps soaking the roll in water for a few hours; then attempting to unroll the film. Any better ideas?


2 Answers 2


As a veteran of the photofinishing industry, receiving wet film or film that had been wet was not uncommon. Usually rolls in clothing that went through the washing machine and/or boat or swimming pool accidents. We would soak them for about 8 hours in plain water from the sink and then attempt to unroll in the darkroom. Our success rate was usually good. Sometimes the film strongly adheres to itself or paper backing. We would re-soak in PhotoFlow or we would add a few drops of liquid dishwashing detergent to the water. Best of luck on recovering this film.

  • \$\begingroup\$ You say, "We would soak them for about 8 hours." Could you be a bit specific about exactly in what solution you were soaking? \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Dec 22, 2016 at 20:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thank you! Most helpful. I'll give soaking the film a go. \$\endgroup\$
    – mooie
    Dec 25, 2016 at 0:14

I taught photography in college for 29 years and have "seen it all". We would put the film in a light-tight processing tank and fill it with plain water at 68-72°F (20-22°C) and agitate the tank for a minute or so. Pour out the water and pour-in fresh water a few times. We would do a water exchange/agitation cycle three or four more times during the first hour, and then in a film processing room check to feel if anything was happening. If needed, change the water and agitate one more time and let it sit. If no success after three hours, we would transfer the roll to a Photo-Flo bath prepared as for film processing, and check on it every half hour. If still unsuccessful after two hours, we would slowly increase the Photo-Flo bath temperature to about 90-110°F (32-43°C).

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ Wouldn't heating FP4 to 110F cause reticulation and irreversible damage of the gelatin layer? \$\endgroup\$
    – MirekE
    Dec 23, 2016 at 17:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'll make sure the water is the temperature you recommend. For us Europeans, that's 20-22°C initially rising to 32-43°C if needed. Thank you. \$\endgroup\$
    – mooie
    Dec 25, 2016 at 0:14
  • \$\begingroup\$ MirekE - Reticulating commercially available film manufactured since the early 1960s is very difficult to achieve with temperature. Before then, some films with a high silver content and thicker less stable emulsion, would reticulate at about 160F or even higher to almost boiling. \$\endgroup\$
    – Kenoo
    Jan 19, 2017 at 23:51

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

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