Film Photography: How long does fixer last?

This is the first of a series of short posts to dispel some of the myths I have come across when teaching myself film photography and more specifically developing black and white film.

Question:  How long will fixer keep for once it has been diluted?

(I will use Kodak T-max fixer as an example, diluted 1:4 with water, as this is the fixer I use).  I’ve read many different answers to this question but the most common one appears to be dump the developer after each roll of film developed.  I develop my own black and white film partly because it is more economical.  If I was to dump my fixer after every roll of film home developing would soon prove expensive.

Answer: Longer than you think..

(Based on my own experience)

I made up a diluted batch of 1.5L of diluted T-max fixer 4 months ago and have stored it in a dark cupboard in a clear soft drinks bottle.  The bottle is not full to the top so air is in the bottle.  Since making the batch of fixer I think I have developed roughly 25 rolls of B&W film (mostly 120 film but the occasional 135 also).  I tend to leave the film in the fixer for a longer period than suggested to be safe (20 minutes) but I have not observed any problems so far.

Here is an example from the last roll of film developed:

Fashion on FILM

Yulya, Ukraine with ARAX-CM medium format camera & Kodak T-max 400

*I have read that diluted fixer can be used for as long as six months but so far I have not reached that stage.

Fixer shelf life – Conclusion

Even if you want to play it safe and make up a new batch of fixer every month it will still be much cheaper than making a new batch after each roll.

More film myth breakers coming soon..

How to tell if fixer is still good? Quick test.

A quick test to see if your fixer is still good is to put a piece of undeveloped film into the fixer dilution.  Swill the fixer solution around with the piece of film in and the film should go transparent within a few seconds.  If the film stays opaque then the fixer needs replacing.

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3 thoughts on “Film Developing – How long does fixer last?”

  1. Pingback: Film Photography – Xtol & Rodinal, One Shot? | Matthew Osborne Photography

  2. Does fixer even go bad at all? Doesn’t it just get exhausted? I use it as long as it’s not exhausted and haven’t had any problems, yet. Even storing it for months didn’t really matter.

    It’s easy to mix your own test chemicals:

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