An Easy Way To Clean Negative Film Before Scanning

How to clean negative film before scanning using alcohol

If Your Negatives Scans Are Full Of Finger Prints, Dust, Yellow Or Green Dots, Here's How To Clean Them So You Don't Ruin The Film

In this article, you're going to learn...

  • How to use Isopropyl alcohol to clean negative film before scanning
  • What NOT to do when cleaning your negatives so you don't destroy the film
  • What doesn't work when cleaning negatives -- so you're not wasting time
  • How to speed up this process so you're not spending all day cleaning negatives

In most cases compressed air and a lint free cloth will work. But iff this didn't work for you, then here's what you need to do...

The only way to clean negatives that are this bad is with Isopropyl alcohol. But if you do this wrong, you will ruin your negative – worse than it was before.

Ready? I'll show you how...

1. You've Tried Using Compressed Air And Cloth – And It Didn't Work

Sometimes compressed air will “pit” more dust and debris onto the negative film. What I mean is, compressed air will have it's own dust that can land on the film surface. It will land in cracks and the oils... leaving more dust and debris on the film surface.

What about a lint-free cloth? This works if your negative isn't greasy. If it's full or oils and finger prints, a lint-free cloth will just smudge that around.

This is when Isopropyl alcohol can help.

Here's how to properly use it so you don't ruin your negative film...

2. Use 98% Isopropyl Alcohol – Lower % Will Leave Streaks

Why 98% or more? Because when the alcohol dries, it won't leave streaks, spots, or stains. If you use a lower percentage, water will remain, and you'll end up with streaks, spots, stains.

Even worse, the water that didn't dry or evaporate will react with the “emulsion” of your film. Emulsion is what is used to “print” your negative. If emulation mixes with water, it will smudge.

3. DO NOT Dip Your Film In The Alcohol

Tempting, right? Just dip the negative strip in the alcohol and let it sit!

Except what you'll do is, the alcohol will burn into the emulsion. This will destroy your negative film. Here's what to do instead...

4. Apply Alcohol On A Lint-Free Cloth Or Cotton Swab

DO NOT saturate the cloth or swab. Just a small dab will do.

Then gently apply the cloth or swab on your negative. And clean small surface first.

Also, wear lint-free gloves. You can get these at photography stores. Nothing worse than getting a finger print on a negative after you cleaned it!

5. Leave Your Negatives To Dry In A Well Ventilated, Clean Room

Make sure you have positive air-flow. But don't leave your negatives by a window... you'll just end up attracting dust from outside.

This step is simple, but very important. You want the alcohol to evaporate naturally. This will loosen any oils, dust, debris off the emulsion.

6. Gently Wipe Your Dried Negative With A Different Lint-Free Cloth Or Cotton Swab

The alcohol did it's job – it loosened the oils, debris, dust.

So the last step is to use a different cloth or swab and gently wipe the film. Make sure the cloth or swab is dry.

Usually what I do is take a roll of 24 negatives. Clean them. Then get another roll. Clean them. Then go back to the first roll. By then they should be dry.

7. Your 10 Action Steps – Do This Right Now

Here are the steps again...

  • Make sure your work area is clean and well ventilated
  • Use Isopropyl alcohol that's 98% or more
  • Use lint-free cloth or cotton swabs
  • Handle your negatives with lint-free gloves
  • Don't dip the negative film in the alcohol
  • Dab a little alcohol on the cloth or swab
  • Don't saturate the cloth or swab
  • Clean a small area at a time
  • Leave negative so alcohol evaporates
  • Use a different cloth or swab to remove any loosened oils, dust, debris

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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.

The reason I'm telling you this is because no matter what challenge or frustration you're having, I know exactly what you're going through. So, to help you RIGHT NOW, I've put together a super simple scanning guide to get you started.

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