How to clean 35mm film

Written by emily manthei
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How to clean 35mm film
Cleaning film negatives can restore picture quality. (series object on white - negative film image by Aleksandr Ugorenkov from

Cleaning your 35mm film negatives or slides can greatly improve the image quality of new prints, save negatives from damage and preserve memories for years to come. Some film cleaners can remove grease, ink, adhesive, smoke stains, soot, fungus and other oils from your film negatives or slides.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Anti-static cleaning cloth
  • Surgical cotton
  • Compressed gas
  • Alcohol-based film cleaner

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  1. 1

    Purchase a soft, anti-static cleaning cloth. Microfiber cloths, like those used for cleaning lenses, work the best.

  2. 2

    Gently wipe the film negative from one side to the other. Watch for abrasive material, like sand, which should be gently blown off the negative before wiping with the dust cloth. For slides, remove the film from its plastic or cardboard casing before wiping to avoid just brushing dust to the edges of the slide.

  3. 3

    Find an alcohol-based film cleaner and compressed photographic gas at a photography store or online. The film cleaner should have a neutral pH and not contain any water. Cotton pads can be purchased at any drugstore.

  4. 4

    Pour the film cleaner on a cotton pad and spread it on the negative. A light touch and a steady hand will help preserve your film and prevent scratching.

  5. 5

    Use the compressed gas to blow off cotton fibres and dry the film cleaner. The negative should now be free from non-water-based stains.

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