I have a lot of filthy film in my archive. The film varies from old to ancient and 95% of it is filthy. The 5% that is not filthy would have come from a film collector that took care of the film, keeping it clean and lubed. But such acquisitions are rare as collectors usually want top dollar which puts the film beyond my budget.
Photo: D.D. Teoli Jr.
My specialty is buying ‘pig in a poke’ films. They are acquired mainly from pickers that have no projector or editor to view them. It is always a gamble with pig in a poke films, but sometimes you find some winners.
Consequently with all this filthy film I do a lot of film cleaning. But, before I use any wipes for film cleaning I always test them for their abrasion qualities. You have to be very careful with cleaning film so you don’t put any more defects on the film that what is already there.
I use super soft Webril pads for the actual cleaning. I saturate them with a slow drying film cleaner / preservative. I give the film a pass to wet it down good, then when I come back to wipe it, the slow drying film cleaner has loosened a lot of the dirt the fast drying film cleaner has missed. You would not believe the difference in cleaning qualities between the two types of cleaners. But that report is for another post.
The problem with a slow drying cleaner is it takes many passes to get the film dry. If you are in a rush, then super fast drying Edwal is for you. Just be aware you will be leaving a lot of dirt on your films when working fast. But there is a good use for fast drying cleaners. If you have lots of tape splices in your film, then a fast drying cleaner won’t loosen the splices as a slow drying cleaner may do.
Glue splices are impervious to film cleaners either way, but finding good glue to splice film is a crapshoot nowadays and Estar based films can’t be glued and have to be tape spliced.
Photo: D.D. Teoli Jr.
WypAll products are good absorbent, non-abrasive wipes (WypAll may be fine now, but the next batch may have issues. ) So I use a CD-R or DVD-R for the abrasion test. Optical media can pick up scratches very easy. I wipe the disc vigorously with the wipe to see if it puts any scratches on the optical media. If no scratches then it passes.
Now, if you have a big budget and handle lots of film, then you don’t have to worry about all this and you can buy an automatic film cleaning machine.
Daniel D.Teoli Jr. Archival Collection
Daniel D.Teoli Jr. Small Gauge Film Archive
Daniel D.Teoli Jr. VHS Video Archive
Daniel D.Teoli Jr. Audio Archive
Daniel D.Teoli Jr. Social Documentary Photography