Brian's Photo Blog — Article 47
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Reviving Old Slides
Saturday 25 February 2012   —   Category: Miscellaneous
When I came back from my parents' house at Christmas, not only did I bring back a bit over 1,000 new digital photos, I also brought back slightly over 2,000 OLD photos! These 35mm slides date back to my early years of photography, from 1976 through 1986. Now it’s time to clean them and scan them to bring them into the modern digital age!

About 1,500 of the slides were taken with a Pentax Spotmatic F, which, as you can read in Part 2 of My Photographic Journey, is the first SLR I owned, when I was 14 years old. The vast ma­jor­i­ty of these photos were taken during my high school years. Thirty-six of the slides were taken with a Minolta 16 II spy camera my air-force uncle gave me while I was in junior high school, as mentioned Part 1 of My Photographic Journey. This tiny camera took 16mm film which was only 16% the size of standard 35mm film — which makes for tiny slides!

Unfortunately, way back then I decided to store around 1,300 of my slides in plastic sleeves which hold 20 slides each — you can see the stack spread out in the above photo. This was a bad idea because over the decades these plastic sleeves have degenerated and left an oily residue on the slide film. YIKES! The good news is that this apparently does not ruin the slides.

I have found a great product that quickly and easily (although with horrible fumes!) cleans the oil off the film. It’s almost miraculous how well the PEC-12 Archival Photographic Emulsion Cleaner does its job! Together with PEC-PAD Lint-Free Wipes, these awesome products are really the right tools! To the right is a scan of one of the cleaned slides — a self-portrait taken on my Spotmatic F’s first roll of film!

Once a slide has been cleaned, it’s definitely NOT going back into a plastic sleeve! Instead, I've picked up a couple of slide storage boxes — which have their positive and negative points. The good news is that they are made of study metal, and are a compact storage solution. The bad news is that they definitely hold less than the advertised quantity, and the plastic inserts which fit into the metal trays are VERY flimsy — it reminds me of the thin, cheap, flexible plastic trays that Hostess CupCakes come in! You can see one of these storage boxes in the upper-right corner of the photo above.

A bit over 200 of the slides — which I took on a trip to British Columbia, Canada, when I was 18, with my Spotmatic F — were not put in the sleeves, but kept separate in the small, plastic slide boxes you see in the photo above. The same goes for all the 485 slides I took with my Olympus XA camera that I bought especially for my trip to the U.K. and Belgium in 1986, as mentioned in Part 3 of My Photographic Journey.

So, I've really got my work cut out for me! It’s going to take quite a while to clean the oily residue off approximately 1,300 slides — especially with the noxious fumes of the cleaning liquid! It’s going to take even longer to scan these 2,000 or so slides. And it’s going to take way, way longer to revive them all in Photoshop! With all of the photo outings I plan on taking this year, and all the processing those photos will need, this slide-reviving project could easily carry into — and even through — 2013 ... and beyond! But at least I have made a start, and at least I know how to get to the finish line, if I can just persevere and not faint! This is not a project for wimps!

For the rest this story, see Cleaning Old Slides and What I’ve Learned Scanning 2,000 Slides.
Brian's Photo Blog — Article 47
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Reader Comments
On July 1, 2017, Devin wrote:
I used Pec-12 on a slide to test it and it immediately left a permanent white film on the slide!
I did use a Q-tip, but this seemed to be a chemical issue rather than an applicator issue.
How did you avoid this problem? Thanks!
On July 2, 2017, Brian wrote:
In reply to Devin’s comments and question:

I cleaned my slides so long ago that I don’t really remember the issues I faced except for what I wrote in that article. Did you try the cleaning fluid on each side of the slide, or just one side? If just one, the other side might react differently, but I don’t really know, I’m just guessing. How much of the liquid did you put on the slide? One or two drops is enough.

Just to rule out an applicator issue, you might want to use the same PEC-PAD wipes I used. Perhaps you can Google your problem and see if anyone else has had the same issue. You might also want to look through the questions and reviews on the Amazon page for the cleaning fluid. One comments days “Don’t spray directly on slide; dampen wipe with cleaner and clean the slide with wipe.” I think that’s what I did.

Sorry that I can’t be of more help ... I just don’t have the experience to give you a definitive answer. Good luck in your research and cleaning!
Brian's Photo Blog — Article 47
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