How To Clean Your Negative Film Before Scanning

Cleaning your negatives and scanner will remove almost all the dust giving you better quality scans...

...But you need to do this properly so uou don't damage your negatives or scanner.

In this article you'll learn that when you clean your negative before you scan it, will remove most of the dust. But be careful! You need to do this properly so you don't damage the negative. Here's how...

1. Do NOT Use Any Liquids On Your Negatives

Using any sort of liquid directly on your negative will damage the emulsion. Emulsion is the "ink" that makes up the image on your slide. If you get water, oils from a finger print, spray from a cleaning product, etc., on your negative, you'll remove the emulsion -- and ruin your image.

As for your your scanner's window, you can use eye-glass cleaner. BUT DO NOT spray directly on the window.

2. What To Use When Cleaning Your Slide And Scanner

tools to clean negatives before scanning

I wear lint-free gloves to handle negatives. Even if you're careful your finger or palm might accidentally touch the film. You can find these gloves in any photography store.

For the actual cleaning, I use a lint-free cloth. You know the ones used to clean eye-glasses? Those are perfect.

You can also use one of those ear-wax removal tool (not sure what it is called, but it is sort shaped like a tear drop). Or you may also try using compressed air. But after 200 slides it will run out.

For cleaning the scanner's glass, I use eye-glass cleaner. But remember, do NOT spray directly on to the glass.

3. How To Clean Negative Film Safely

Using your lint-free cloth, GENTLY swipe your negative. Do not press hard, as you might leave smears. You might not see these smears, but your scanner will.

You can also use the puffer or compressed air. But the lint-free cloth does a better job.

4. How To Clean The Scanner's Flat-Bed Window

The first thing I do is use the puffer or compressed air on the window. Then using eye-glass cleaner, spray a different lint-free cloth -- again, NOT the scanner's window.

how to to clean flatbed scanner window

Spray the cloth not the scanner's glass!

Do NOT press hard. I've scratched windows before because somehow a grain of sand got on it. This is why I use the puffer first. If there happens to be any hard debris on the window, the puffer will hopefully get it off. Then gently wipe the window with the lint-free cloth.

I usually clean the window after 100 scans or so. But it's important to wipe and clean each photo before you load it on the scanner bed.

That's it!


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Which of these scanning troubles do you want to overcome?

  • What's the best resolution / DPI to scan your slides, negatives, and photos -- so you don't lose details
  • Best method to digitize slides, negatives, photos using your regular flatbed or film scanner
  • How to clean your negatives, slides, and photos before you scan them -- so you don't scratch them
  • What side should you scan a slide or negative -- so they're not backwards or facing the wrong way
  • How to setup your scanner to get higher quality digital images -- 24bit JPEG? 48bit TIFF?
  • How to fix your digital images using Digital ICE, GIMP, or Photoshop and make them look new
  • How to improve your scan workflow so you can double your productivity and finish your project twice as fast
  • Understand the technical stuff of a digital image so you can make sideshow videos, reprints, and more!

Hey, my name is Konrad. I've been scanning professionally since 2005. I've helped multi-billion dollar companies, pro sports teams, pro photographers, artists, museums, book publishers, etc. I've scanned over 930,000 slides, negatives, photos.

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