Dont want to use darkroom chemicals to process your film? Ok, here’s an easier way!

Greetings from merry England, folks!

You know, I get many, many emails from readers complaining that they either can’t get the right chemicals for processing their own films, or chemicals are too expensive, or more commonly, they just cannot buy any in their particular country.

That’s a sad state of affairs. I know lots of my readers live in what we all euphemistically call the 3rd world…places like Africa, some places in India, Mongolia etc…you get the idea.

And therein lies the conundrum….it’s from places like those that our staunchest followers come from, as they not only prefer film, but more to the point, they just cannot afford to go digital.

Without these guys, film usage could drop to an all-time low. Furthermore, it’s really frustrating that some countries don’t allow photographic chemicals to be shipped in the postal system, for obvious reasons. As a supplier, that creates headaches for me too…I often ship darkroom chemicals to far away places…Morroco, New Zealand, Fiji are some that I have shipped to….but either by some quirk of the postal systems or by sheer chance, those products have gotten through and delivered ok!

On some occasions, delivery has been refused. So it’s a catch-22 situation really, with the end-user caught out as a result. Must admit though, that the number of non-deliveries is fairly low…I’d say out of 10 shipments, 1 or 2 get impounded.

So anyways, I’ve been talking to my friend here in England (he of the subminiature 16mm cameras!), and he explained an easy system of processing monochrome films at home, without darkroom chemicals…no, I’m not pulling your leg, they say here!

In short, he uses just 2 items, which are in your kitchen right now most probably… and washing soda!

That’s all he uses! He explained it all in layman’s terms…with film processing, there are 2 main essentials you need to carry it out…what he describes as a developing agent and an activator…in our case, the developing agent will be coffee and the activator will be washing soda.

If you’re still with me and want to try, here’s the complete recipe for you:

To make around 250ml of developing liquid, you will need:

230ml (8oz) of water

4 teaspoons full of coffee granules (proper coffee, not decaff)

2 teaspoons of washing soda

Mix the measured products together thoroughly

Load your film into your developing tank

Pour the mixture into the tank; develop for 25 mins, agitating every 30 secs or so

After the 25 mins developing time, pour in clean water 4 or 5 times….the process is done…easy as 123!

The mixture above is good for 1 roll of 35mm or 120 film…beacuse it is rather an unstable concoction, it will degrade quite quickly, so not really worth storing it…it’s dirt cheap to make anyway.

However, please don’t all rush out and mix up your solutions to dunk your precious films into…there is a certain amount of experimenting involved too, as you have to try to determine yourself, the exact amount and mix of the chemicals and development time required for our particular film..did I say it was as easy as 123?

The mix above has been tested with Ilford HP5 film shot at ISO 100.

There we go, folks! If you just cannot get your hands on the proper chemicals, use this method…rather this than just sit and cry your eyes out, eh?


for ease of reference, this article has also been posted under the Very Useful Links tab on the main front page of this blog….

About filmcamera999

ME & MY PASSION! ok, you probably looked at the length of this "about me" page and thought, god, what's wrong with this guy!....does he have to start telling us his life story or something!!? well, youve come here now anyways, so why not hear what im like as a person, eh? ive been using film cameras for well over 30 first one being the family yashicamat twin lens! over the years, ive both bought sold and collected film cameras...too many to tell the truth! in fact, ive been buying and selling cameras well before the internet came on the scene, so anything you purchase from me is backed by my self-styled moneyback promise.....if you dont like what youve bought, send it back within 14 days and you get all your money arguments!! WHERE I STAND ON THE DIGITAL REVOLUTION! yes, i do use digital as well, but only as a ready-reckoner...i try and take most shots with my simple 2megapixel digicam....if the shot looks good, i pull out my film camera and shoot! i most defintely do not believe in digital manipulation of photographs....that in my eyes is not photography...its cheating! WHERE I USED TO LIVE, WHERE I AM NOW & WHAT I WOULD LIKE TO DO! i used to live in Ontario, Canada, but moved back to the UK a little while ago (its a long story..!)...but now i'm living in the one place i always wanted to be...Vancouver, BC..the next best thing to paradise on earth! as i work as a freelance writer as well as other things, i often find hat my work takes me to europe for short spells, so i get to travel a lot...not a blessing, as i just hate long flights! im a qualified Quality Assurance guy (you know...ISO 9000, auditing, documentation etc) ....99% of my skill-set is transferable so i can handle any admin or documentation-related roles....see you in BC! otherwise, i specialise in ISO 9000 auditing and documentation. my dream? to have my own thriving camera shop in Vancouver BC, whilst living in the mountains somewhere.....the best of both worlds!
This entry was posted in chemicals & film, Classic film cameras and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Dont want to use darkroom chemicals to process your film? Ok, here’s an easier way!

  1. limr says:

    And this is just one more reason why decaf is just wrong, wrong, wrong. 😉

    Even in the U.S. where photo chemicals are readily available, I’ve still been developing in Caffenol for a while. Can’t throw photo developers down into a private septic system. There are recipes that include Vitamin C powder and iodized salt to help control contrast and base fog, but yes, the instant coffee and washing powder are the two core ingredients. Still have to fix it, though.

    • hey, limr! thanks for reading! yeah…i agree totally…natural coffee is fine..once u start meddling with natural stuff, the trouble begins!
      as for fixer…yes, u still have to use that! but, as u no doubt may have heard, vaious people seem to have tried urine (!), common salt or sea water etc…but no proof it works as a fixer.
      one other thing before i leave, wud u mind if i used ur comment in my blog at all, pls? i’ll give ur blog a mention and link it to as well?

  2. Lottie Nevin says:

    I’ve bookmarked this page and am excited to start experimenting! Thanks for sharing this gem 😀

Comments are closed.