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The principle of this washer is simple. In any print washing action, fixer goes into solution.[1] When a certain amount of fixer is in solution, a water exchange removes it. When sufficient water is exchanged, the prints are washed. At the inlet chamber, this washer has 8 fill ports per print; it drains from the bottom into an exit chamber on the other side, and empties from a top spillway. This allows the most efficient exchange of water possible. Bottom feed washers keep hypo in solution longer. (Also, in bottom-feeding washers the feed hose can pop off and drain the washer.)


To wash acid fixed prints, you need time and water. You don’t need bubbles, risers, high pressure, a tangle of hoses, or even water flow. You need something that allows fixer to go into solution, and that will then exchange the water. That’s what this Tide washer does.


A Tide flows in and then out. That’s the principle behind this washer. Load it, let it still wash, exchange the water; still wash again, then exchange the water again. Like a tide coming in or going out, the action is intermittent, not continuous. Print washer action needn’t be like a waterfall.


Before I started at RIT in 1979, I bought a Zone VI print washer. It was a gigantic thing, but it worked. I had to keep it outside the darkroom sink because it was so huge. I soon realized that it was possible to wash prints with much less water. So in my NJ basement I built my own washer using a hacksaw and some store bought parts. Cumbersome to use, it was smaller and did the same job. I sold the Zone VI washer to a guy on 14th street in New York.


David Vestal and I would talk and write to each other regularly back in those days. He was very generous, and very critical of dogma.. He disputed Fred Picker’s claims about nearly everything, and print washing particularly. I was surprised when Vestal flatly told me that the Zone VI washers were badly designed, inefficient, and far too big.


In his “Black and White Enlarging” book, Vestal toned down his criticism a bit -


I [] prefer small washers because large ones require big sinks in large darkrooms if they are not to crowd the photographer out. In my 8-foot sink, some large washers make print washing inconvenient because they must be moved before and after every wash, but are too heavy and fragile to be moved easily.[2]


In an 8 foot sink, if a print washer is too big, then something’s wrong, yeah?




The Tide washer uses the simplest principle possible: after a hypo clearing agent bath and agitation in 2 changes of clean water, load the washer. After 1 hour, run the washer for 20 minutes. After another hour in a still wash, run it again for 20 minutes. The prints are washed.[3] Tests may show that you may not even need the second cycle. This washer is so efficient that you can just let the prints soak for about 2-1/2 to 3 hours with no water flow at all to achieve a complete wash.


Vestal said this about water exchange: “Once the surface hypo is gone . . . [a]trickle [of water] will do; still water can do a lot. And Niagara would not speed up the wash much.”[4]


Like the Sessiu sheet film washer, this print washer uses slotted styrene separators. Unlike solid Plexiglas, prints or negatives don’t stick to slotted styrene. And the hold-down grid for the Tide washer is made of 1/4” Plexiglas – so it absolutely holds the prints down (unlike the old Zone VI or Darkroom Aids hold-downs, which floated - useless).


You can also wash 8x10 or 5x7 negatives in this washer. Like the Sessui washer, load the washer[5] and let the negatives sit for 3 minutes. Then run the water for 3 - 4 minutes. Repeat this. (4 cycles overall.) Depending on your water and other methods, you may need more or less time.


For alkaline fixed prints you need continuous water flow, but the time is much shorter – about 10 to 20 minutes for prints and 6 to 10 minutes for negatives.




The Tide print washer holds 13 liters of water – that’s a little more than 3 gallons. It’s very easy to use. Fill it, add the prints, still wash, exchange the water, repeat. In my darkroom, after fixing twice, toning, hypo clear, and 2 rinses in clean water; an unexposed sheet of 8x10 paper shows zero stain from HT-2 after the procedures described above. Like our other washers, this washer saves a lot of water. A complete wash cycle uses only about 24 liters of water (6 gallons). The Zone VI washer required 12 gallons to fill, with a flow rate using 60 gallons of water in an hour. Other washers used more! - terribly wasteful and unnecessary.


It’s compact. Like the sheet film washer, I store mine under the sink. It doesn’t sit there in the sink taking up space when I don’t need it. And you don’t have all that water weight bearing down in the sink either (full of water, the Zone VI washer weighed over 100 pounds).[6]


I designed this washer for economy, ease of use, and durability. It measures about 13” x 9” x 9”, and holds 14 8x10 prints or 28 5x7s. Size is a key factor. This washer doesn’t “crowd the photographer out.” And it’s easy to drain, store under the sink, and to clean.


The longer you use this Tide washer the more you’ll appreciate it. Like any good piece of equipment, it does everything you need it to do, and nothing you don’t. Order one and wash prints with it. You’ll find, as I do, that it makes print washing infinitely simpler and easier.


TPW - $640.


If you make larger prints, other sizes can be special ordered - email us.











[1] Fixer – hypo - is not heavier than water. That’s a myth. There’s no more fixer in the bottom of a fixer bottle than at the top. Like any chemical (or laundry detergent), hypo goes into solution.

[2] Emphasis mine.

[3] For acid hardening fixers. And you may not need 2 cycles. Test to be sure.

[4] Vestal, Art of Black and White Enlarging (emphasis mine).

[5] After hypo clearing agent and agitations in 2 changes of clean water for acid hardened films.

[6] Vestal again: “Recently I saw a large-tank washer that had fallen apart under use: the great weight of water had bulged its sides and burst its seams.” (Privately he told me that the washer he referred to was the Zone VI.)


TIDE 8x10 Print and Film Washer

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