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  1. Is vinegar syndrome potentially a health issue? Should I use masks and gloves when handling film with moderate to severe damage? I have approximately 65 16mm films to restore with a wide range of damage. I'll be processing these with a frame by frame telecine unit and I'm wondering if I should move the operation to my garage.

    Also, I've read that isopropyl alcohol can be effective in cleaning film. And I've read that Pledge can be used as a lubricant. I really want to stay away from hazardous materials as much as possible but I certainly don't want to risk damage to the film.
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  2. Vinegar Syndrome (VS) is the breakdown into acetic acid of the film's acetate backing. Acetic acid is a compound similar in smell to vinegar. AFIK, it is not particularly hazardous. If it was, I'd be long dead (I'm 63) from inhaling it in darkrooms for many years (acetic acid was added to the "stop bath" that you soaked prints in between the developing and fixing trays when printing B&W film).

    I've tried to transfer VS film, but I will no longer do it. The problem is that it will "infect" everything it touches, and then when you later transfer untainted film using the same device, the residue will adhere to the good film, and will promote the same reaction.

    To halt or slow VS, you can buy a canister of something called a "molecular sieve." This is a substance that Kodak used to produce to prevent or halt the VS process. I have some and use it in film that I want to preserve and which has begun to smell a little bit like vinegar. So far, it has worked.

    As far as isopropyl alcohol, as I'm sure you know, it is not the greatest film cleaner, but it does have the advantage of being readily available and cheap. I don't know about Pledge, but that sounds really, really dicey. I'd stay away from that one.

    The two biggest issues with VS film, besides the potential contamination of your equipment, are shrinkage and brittleness. Because the acetate backing which holds the emulsion is deteriorating, it shrinks. This means that the sprocket holes are no longer the same distance apart. As a result, you cannot use any sort of transfer system that uses a pulldown mechanism, and instead must use something which advances the film with rollers, and uses some sort of other technique (besides a pulldown claw) for aligning each frame in the gate. I don't own such a machine, but perhaps you do.

    If I were to once again attempt to transfer VS film, I would first look into treating it with one of these products: Filmrenew, Filmguard, or Vitafilm. They are each quite different, and are intended for a different purpose. The last one is sometimes advertised as a "cure" for VS, but that is totally false. It isn't even clear if it helps with the brittleness. The key thing you want to do is the make the film a little more pliable and flexible so that it doesn't crumble or break, and so it relaxes a little so that it can be held flat in the gate. Most VS film develops a pretty nasty curl that is tough to deal with.

    I'll leave it up to you to research those three chemical treatments. They are all a little hazardous, and like all film cleaning agents (including isopropyl alcohol), you should definitely have an open window nearby, and if you are really concerned, wear a good 3M Respirator, with the appropriate cartridge attached (they make special cartridges designed for different hazardous material).
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  3. It's the acetic acid in vinegar that makes it vinegar, not wine. So acetic acid isn't toxic. I don't know if there are any other breakdown compounds of old film that might be toxic.
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  4. Never use large quantities of isopropanol in a confined space, it's a fire hazard, poisonous when ingested, and slightly toxic when inhaled. It will make you dizzy and prone to make mistakes.
    http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/npg/npgd0359.html
    To clean a film you would need 99% isopropanol, don't use anything less. Stick to the recommended dedicated products it seems safer. The manuals for these products probably have health safety recommendations.
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  5. And isopropanol is hygroscopic -- it will suck water out of the air. So a while after you've opened the bottle it's no longer 99 percent.
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  6. Originally Posted by johnmeyer View Post
    Vinegar Syndrome (VS) is the breakdown into acetic acid of the film's acetate backing. Acetic acid is a compound similar in smell to vinegar. AFIK, it is not particularly hazardous. If it was, I'd be long dead (I'm 63) from inhaling it in darkrooms for many years (acetic acid was added to the "stop bath" that you soaked prints in between the developing and fixing trays when printing B&W film).

    I've tried to transfer VS film, but I will no longer do it. The problem is that it will "infect" everything it touches, and then when you later transfer untainted film using the same device, the residue will adhere to the good film, and will promote the same reaction.

    To halt or slow VS, you can buy a canister of something called a "molecular sieve." This is a substance that Kodak used to produce to prevent or halt the VS process. I have some and use it in film that I want to preserve and which has begun to smell a little bit like vinegar. So far, it has worked.

    As far as isopropyl alcohol, as I'm sure you know, it is not the greatest film cleaner, but it does have the advantage of being readily available and cheap. I don't know about Pledge, but that sounds really, really dicey. I'd stay away from that one.

    The two biggest issues with VS film, besides the potential contamination of your equipment, are shrinkage and brittleness. Because the acetate backing which holds the emulsion is deteriorating, it shrinks. This means that the sprocket holes are no longer the same distance apart. As a result, you cannot use any sort of transfer system that uses a pulldown mechanism, and instead must use something which advances the film with rollers, and uses some sort of other technique (besides a pulldown claw) for aligning each frame in the gate. I don't own such a machine, but perhaps you do.

    If I were to once again attempt to transfer VS film, I would first look into treating it with one of these products: Filmrenew, Filmguard, or Vitafilm. They are each quite different, and are intended for a different purpose. The last one is sometimes advertised as a "cure" for VS, but that is totally false. It isn't even clear if it helps with the brittleness. The key thing you want to do is the make the film a little more pliable and flexible so that it doesn't crumble or break, and so it relaxes a little so that it can be held flat in the gate. Most VS film develops a pretty nasty curl that is tough to deal with.

    I'll leave it up to you to research those three chemical treatments. They are all a little hazardous, and like all film cleaning agents (including isopropyl alcohol), you should definitely have an open window nearby, and if you are really concerned, wear a good 3M Respirator, with the appropriate cartridge attached (they make special cartridges designed for different hazardous material).
    Really appreciate the detailed response.

    I'm definitely looking into FilmGuard and FilmRenew. I've already been to the Urbanski site. As far as equipment is concerned, I have the Retro Scan Universal ordered which advances the film using rollers only. I hadn't thought about the contamination issue on equipment though. Maybe there's a way to sanitize the equipment after transferring films with VS.

    Your mention of the darkroom fixing solution took me back to the 70's when I worked in a print shop while attending college. We would photograph copy using a huge camera and then manually develop the film. I had forgotten the vinegar smell I would get on my hands. My wife would complain when I got home. Probably not entirely safe but at the age of 20, we all think we're gonna live forever.

    One of my first projects is a batch of 65 16mm films which contain important historical footage. Some are severely damaged to the point of being unusable. Some have a slight vinegar odor but the film appears to be fine. The majority is somewhere in between.

    Looks like my plan will be to purchase both FilmGuard and FilmRenew, buy a respirator, purchase gloves, and either open the window in my home office or do the transfers in my garage.

    Again, thanks for the advice and hopefully, I will have some interesting footage to share with the group.


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  7. Originally Posted by jagabo View Post
    It's the acetic acid in vinegar that makes it vinegar, not wine. So acetic acid isn't toxic. I don't know if there are any other breakdown compounds of old film that might be toxic.
    I've had an allergic response to VS which included scratchy throat and nasal passages. Benadryl seems to help but I think I'll use a respirator going forward. (I've become a little neurotic as I've gotten older).


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  8. Originally Posted by ackboo View Post
    Never use large quantities of isopropanol in a confined space, it's a fire hazard, poisonous when ingested, and slightly toxic when inhaled. It will make you dizzy and prone to make mistakes.
    http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/npg/npgd0359.html
    To clean a film you would need 99% isopropanol, don't use anything less. Stick to the recommended dedicated products it seems safer. The manuals for these products probably have health safety recommendations.
    I've been looking for 99% isopropyl but no luck so far. Thought I might try it on some test film purchased on eBay. In any case, I would recap the bottle immediately after each use. Thanks for the warning though.


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  9. Originally Posted by OneIron View Post
    Originally Posted by jagabo View Post
    It's the acetic acid in vinegar that makes it vinegar, not wine. So acetic acid isn't toxic. I don't know if there are any other breakdown compounds of old film that might be toxic.
    I've had an allergic response to VS which included scratchy throat and nasal passages. Benadryl seems to help but I think I'll use a respirator going forward. (I've become a little neurotic as I've gotten older).
    But it's almost certainly not from the acetic acid. Have you ever eaten a salad with oil and vinegar dressing? A sandwich with mayonnaise? Both of those contain vinegar in far larger amounts than you'll get handling old film*. It's some other breakdown product that's causing your symptoms. It's just that you can smell the acetic acid so it gets blamed.

    * Though, obviously, it's an acid so prolonged exposure at high levels could cause irritation. So don't snort your salad dressing.
    Last edited by jagabo; 31st Jan 2016 at 10:29.
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    I haven't done film and print work since my high school days
    This was a refresher course, with some new to me info
    Very interesting, thanks all
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  11. [QUOTE=jagabo;2430603][QUOTE=OneIron;2430599]
    Originally Posted by jagabo View Post

    ...

    * Though, obviously, it's an acid so prolonged exposure at high levels could cause irritation. So don't snort your salad dressing.
    Just laughed out loud!
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  12. Looks like my plan will be to purchase both FilmGuard and FilmRenew, buy a respirator, purchase gloves, and either open the window in my home office or do the transfers in my garage.
    Take a look at nitrile gloves (infi touch...), it's what works best with SOME chemicals. For delicate works you can get the single use ones without powder. I don't know enough about films to really recommend anything so make your homework ^^.
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  13. Originally Posted by ackboo View Post
    Looks like my plan will be to purchase both FilmGuard and FilmRenew, buy a respirator, purchase gloves, and either open the window in my home office or do the transfers in my garage.
    Take a look at nitrile gloves (infi touch...), it's what works best with SOME chemicals. For delicate works you can get the single use ones without powder. I don't know enough about films to really recommend anything so make your homework ^^.
    Just purchased a box last night. Thanks!


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  14. Any dust, even something that is totally inert, can cause respiratory irritation, simply from the mechanical irritation of the lungs. Also, many things we eat will cause huge problems if inhaled. Look up "Aspiration Pneumonia" for more information.
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    Originally Posted by johnmeyer View Post
    I've tried to transfer VS film, but I will no longer do it. The problem is that it will "infect" everything it touches, and then when you later transfer untainted film using the same device, the residue will adhere to the good film, and will promote the same reaction.
    The obvious answer is to clean the transfer machine after running vinegary film through it. Acetic acid is a volatile organic and the syndrome spreads mainly by air.

    Originally Posted by OneIron View Post
    I've been looking for 99% isopropyl but no luck so far.
    Here in California, you can find 99 percent isopropanol at Safeway stores. I usually use Edwal Film Cleaner, which contains tetrachloroethylene in addition to the alcohol. Does a little better cleaning job and reduces static attraction of dust. Of course, it's nasty to breathe and you must take precautions.
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  16. I too use Edwal Film Cleaner, and it is very nasty to breath. However, it does a great job cleaning.

    However, for VS, it won't do a thing. I still recommend you look into some of those other solvents and restoratives I listed earlier. You want something that will make the film more supple. In the old days (1930s) camphor (mothball stuff) was used to keep the film pliable.
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  17. Originally Posted by JVRaines View Post
    Originally Posted by johnmeyer View Post
    I've tried to transfer VS film, but I will no longer do it. The problem is that it will "infect" everything it touches, and then when you later transfer untainted film using the same device, the residue will adhere to the good film, and will promote the same reaction.
    The obvious answer is to clean the transfer machine after running vinegary film through it. Acetic acid is a volatile organic and the syndrome spreads mainly by air.

    Originally Posted by OneIron View Post
    I've been looking for 99% isopropyl but no luck so far.
    Here in California, you can find 99 percent isopropanol at Safeway stores. I usually use Edwal Film Cleaner, which contains tetrachloroethylene in addition to the alcohol. Does a little better cleaning job and reduces static attraction of dust. Of course, it's nasty to breathe and you must take precautions.
    So you clean your equipment with Edwal also?


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  18. [QUOTE=OneIron;2430764]
    Originally Posted by JVRaines View Post
    So you clean your equipment with Edwal also?
    No, for that I use isopropyl alcohol (99%). The Edwal is expensive and very difficult to get. The last time I purchased it I had to get a full quart, and it was $80. The good news is that should last me the rest of my life (I'm old, and only do film transfers once a month). There is no point in using it on the equipment because the alcohol works just as well. For film, alcohol doesn't do as good a job, dries more slowly than Edwal, and may not be as "friendly" to the film, so that's why it is better to use something made for the job.

    However, to state the same thing for the third time: your issue with VS film is NOT cleaning, but instead is figuring out how to make the film more pliable so it will flatten out in your transfer machine, and so it will not break. All of your efforts should be focused on that.
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  19. [QUOTE=johnmeyer;2430827]
    Originally Posted by OneIron View Post
    Originally Posted by JVRaines View Post
    So you clean your equipment with Edwal also?
    No, for that I use isopropyl alcohol (99%). The Edwal is expensive and very difficult to get. The last time I purchased it I had to get a full quart, and it was $80. The good news is that should last me the rest of my life (I'm old, and only do film transfers once a month). There is no point in using it on the equipment because the alcohol works just as well. For film, alcohol doesn't do as good a job, dries more slowly than Edwal, and may not be as "friendly" to the film, so that's why it is better to use something made for the job.

    However, to state the same thing for the third time: your issue with VS film is NOT cleaning, but instead is figuring out how to make the film more pliable so it will flatten out in your transfer machine, and so it will not break. All of your efforts should be focused on that.
    Thanks, John. I cherry picked 4 reels of 16mm for testing. The film has a noticeable vinegar smell but feels pliable and lays relatively flat. I'm hoping the RetroScan handles it. Worst case, I should be able to transfer 15-20 reels without a lot of prep. That will get me some experience and confidence in the new equipment.

    My plan is to work from the best to the worst. Unfortunately, I'm sure there'll be many rolls that are a total loss.

    And I appreciate the advice on cleaning the equipment. That makes me feel better.


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    I've successfully run VS film through the Retro-8, which uses a friction clamp to keep the film taut over the gate. I only cleaned it with Edwal. It didn't break and only the worst stretches showed geometric distortion; a bigger problem was artifacts caused by air getting between the emulsion and base. By the way, it was a 1940 film produced by the Long Beach Cinema Club, starring DeForest Kelley (Star Trek's Dr. McCoy) in his screen debut!
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  21. Originally Posted by JVRaines View Post
    I've successfully run VS film through the Retro-8, which uses a friction clamp to keep the film taut over the gate. I only cleaned it with Edwal. It didn't break and only the worst stretches showed geometric distortion; a bigger problem was artifacts caused by air getting between the emulsion and base. By the way, it was a 1940 film produced by the Long Beach Cinema Club, starring DeForest Kelley (Star Trek's Dr. McCoy) in his screen debut!
    Excellent!


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  22. Originally Posted by OneIron View Post
    Originally Posted by ackboo View Post
    Never use large quantities of isopropanol in a confined space, it's a fire hazard, poisonous when ingested, and slightly toxic when inhaled. It will make you dizzy and prone to make mistakes.
    http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/npg/npgd0359.html
    To clean a film you would need 99% isopropanol, don't use anything less. Stick to the recommended dedicated products it seems safer. The manuals for these products probably have health safety recommendations.
    I've been looking for 99% isopropyl but no luck so far. Thought I might try it on some test film purchased on eBay. In any case, I would recap the bottle immediately after each use. Thanks for the warning though.


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    IPA is not more toxic than few bears or vodka shots - IPA is common impurity in moonshine... acetic acid is very common even in our body (for example it is responsible for "next day syndrome" as direct effect of the ethyl alcohol burning by our liver.
    Pure IPA 99.99% or better is easily available for laboratory use - twice more expensive than technical or industry grade IPA - even more clean is IPA for analytical use - impurities are somewhere around 0.0001% - obviously it then more expensive.
    Search for a laboratory chemistry dealer - for example someone selling products from for example Merck - this is well known chemistry company specializing in all this stuff.
    And yes, IPA is hygroscopic (i.e. absorb water) but not as ethanol and normally used this is very minimum absorption (normal bottle used to store IPA have very low surface where air may have contact with IPA and IPA vapour is more dense than air and as such humidity is not capable to really affect IPA - real life - IPA bottle can be open by months without significant change.

    General safety rules should be applied, area where you work should be well vented, go for Air Quality Indicator - they usually support CO2, CO, Methane and VOC (Volatile Organic Compound) detection - etc.

    Nowadays IPA or acetic acid are almost harmless things when compared to other risks we are exposed on daily basis.
    Good luck.

    btw
    Perhaps you should build some quasi isolated cabinet or at least cooking hood (recirculating?) to work with all this - then you can use carbon active filter (common in cooking hoods with recirculation).
    There are also specialized fume hoods - perhaps used laboratory equipment will be not expensive also usually they are equipped with very good lighting (shadowless).
    Glows (powderless, latex free maybe) are recommended to avoid destroying materials - sadly to say our hands are very dangerous to almost everything (grease, sweat, fungi, bacteria etc.).
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  23. IPA is not more toxic than few bears or vodka shots - IPA is common impurity in moonshine...
    The key here is large quantity in confined space. This is something people should be aware of :
    http://babec.org/files/MSDS/isopropanol.pdf

    edit : the main risk for the quantities at stake here is probably to get unwillingly drunk from the vapours while handling fragile historical footage.
    Last edited by ackboo; 2nd Feb 2016 at 11:03.
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  24. I ordered 99% IPA from Amazon.

    I appreciate the info, especially fume hoods. I have a friend who sells used X-Ray equipment so he frequents auctions of medical and laboratory equipment. Sounds like I need to go with him.

    Thanks!


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    In professional labs, they use evacuation hoses placed over the work area to whisk away fumes. Wish I had money for that! I just open a few windows and turn on a fan.
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  26. Originally Posted by ackboo View Post
    IPA is not more toxic than few bears or vodka shots - IPA is common impurity in moonshine...
    The key here is large quantity in confined space. This is something people should be aware of :
    http://babec.org/files/MSDS/isopropanol.pdf
    Just curious. Is the 99% IPA more flammable because it contains less water? My college chemistry days are long past...


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  27. Originally Posted by OneIron View Post
    Just curious. Is the 99% IPA more flammable because it contains less water? My college chemistry days are long past...
    Yes.
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  28. Originally Posted by johnmeyer View Post
    Originally Posted by OneIron View Post
    Just curious. Is the 99% IPA more flammable because it contains less water? My college chemistry days are long past...
    Yes.
    Thanks! I'd better learn quickly.

    Since I announced on FB that I had ordered a new telecine unit, I've been hammered with film restoration jobs. I picked up 65 16mm films last week and another 70 8mm films this evening. Plus I have about 50 personal 8mm films from the 50's.

    Not complaining though. Gotta pay for the RetroScan unit...

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  29. Originally Posted by ackboo View Post
    IPA is not more toxic than few bears or vodka shots - IPA is common impurity in moonshine...
    The key here is large quantity in confined space. This is something people should be aware of :
    http://babec.org/files/MSDS/isopropanol.pdf

    edit : the main risk for the quantities at stake here is probably to get unwillingly drunk from the vapours while handling fragile historical footage.

    Similar toxicity for ethanol and most of us drinking it every Friday or weekend - even to much oxygen will kill you.
    We are grown adults - there no substitution for sane mind.
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  30. Originally Posted by johnmeyer View Post
    Originally Posted by OneIron View Post
    Just curious. Is the 99% IPA more flammable because it contains less water? My college chemistry days are long past...
    Yes.
    Boiling point is very important - to lazy for comparing ethanol vs IPA but AFAIR IPA should less flammable than ethanol (even 70%).
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