Slides are particularly vulnerable to dust, as the color is contained in a gel on one side of the film. Dust that has been in contact with the gel for years sometimes is absorbed into the gel and cannot be removed without taking the gel with it.
As much as we would like to say that we keep our photos away from dust and dirt, it still finds its way in. And let’s be honest, a lot of older slides are probably from an attic, garage or basement somewhere as we may have inherited them from someone else in our family.
So why is slide cleaning so important before scanning? Our slide scanners are high quality to capture every little detail, including dust and dirt that may be on your slides. When scanning a tiny slide, we may generate a 600% enlargement of it—so you can imagine how much dirt and dusty particles could show up. Manually correcting for this in Photoshop takes more time than just cleaning the slides from the get-go. Your slides should always be properly cleaned anyway to preserve them.
As it has been said, “the right tools for the right job” can make all the difference. Before one starts slide cleaning, it is best to put on white gloves and have all needed materials ready. Then one should take the slides into a well-ventilated area. One tip is to always scan the slides before cleaning, just in case anything happens during the cleaning process.
Some slide cleaning methods involve a lint-free cloth or compressed air. If one presses too hard with the cloth, the slide may be scratched. DpsDave can provide some recommendations of brands or types of cloths that have been used by other professionals. For example, Kinetronics ASC-BP is an anti-static microfiber cloth designed for cleaning photographic films. A quick compressed air blast of 40-50 psi clears away most debris. An oil-free studio compressor set at 4 Ato seems to work well for many people. If the air is too dry, it might be hard to remove dust, but a damp cloth over the radiator can raise humidity. One can also put HEPA air filters in a darkroom to help.
Some people use photographic emulsion cleaner (PEC) pads to remove ink pen or any particles during slide cleaning. PEC-12 is a waterless blend of organic hydrocarbon solvents with a neutral pH and is free from chlorofluorocarbons and chlorinated hydrocarbons. After a roll of slides, it is usually good to replace the PEC-PAD strip, as it may have acquired a yellowish tint. Cleaning one bottom takes only a few drops at a time, and each swipe is usually good for 10 slides. The benefit of this option is that it will not adversely affect short- or long-term dye stability or image permanence. On the other hand, it may not be the best option for use on albumen or non-hardened gelatin emulsions.
In some cases, the emulsion might be cracking or peeling, and trying to clean the slide may make matters worse.
This is why you should probably let our professional DpsDave slide cleaning team handle the task! It isn’t worth saving a little money to risk damaging your precious memories in the only original copies you have of a slide or image!
Other slide cleaners prefer to use brushes (particularly for mounted slides) to clean. One has to be very careful to brush lightly and use smooth, fine bristles to prevent harm to the slides. An invisible dust sensor cleaning brush that is used for DSLR seems to be a popular slide cleaning product choice.
It is important that no liquids be used, or slides could be smeared and ruined. If you have negatives, liquids can damage the emulsion or ink that makes up the image on the slide. Definitely don’t use alcohol or water; use approved products specifically for cleaning slides. It might seem like blowing on film is a good route to go, but tiny liquid saliva droplets, even if unseen, may get on the slide.
In more extensive slide cleaning processes, the slide may be so dirty that the slide cardboard or plastic carrier needs to be removed, and there are certain ways to do this without ruining the film.
Using 10,000 volts of ionized air and an air knife, we clean each slide before scanning. We have found that this method works the best across the board. To see examples of before and after shots while we are using this method, just ask us. We want you to rest assured that your slides are not being harmed through the cleaning process.
There are a lot of similarities in cleaning methods across different types of slides, but there might be some minor tweaks to the process as well. Also, in some cases, cleaning by any of these methods may not work, especially if the emulsion is damaged from fungus. In this case, the best bet may be to use a dust removal function in a digital photo editing software program.
DpsDave will know when cleaning by any of these methods is warranted and will be successful for your particular slide cleaning situation.
We don’t just clean your slides; we also clean the slide scanner window. We usually clean after 100 scans or so, just to make sure dust and grime are not present. Dust and grime may not always be easily recognizable by the eye, but the scanner will pick it up. And, beyond particles, you want to clean up any fingerprints on the glass.
Some slides may be more prone to scanning issues if not cleaned. Kodachrome slides, for instance, have a tendency to produce a blue cast. Scanners’ long-wave infrared radiation to detect defects passes through a slide, but not dirt particles. DpsDave, therefore, made sure our scanners have an “optimize for Kodachrome” option to avoid this.
One can always do a test scan first to see if the scanner has infrared detection (ICE), but it is probably better just to have a professional with the right equipment make sure that nothing is getting missed and the slides are getting cleaned the best that they can be. You don’t want to end up just moving the dirt around; you want it actually removed.
Call slide cleaning specialists DpsDave at 866-935-1631 to get your slides cleaned today!