Shelf life of XTOL : LUSENET : B&W Photo - Film & Processing : One Thread

If one happens to get a good batch of XTOL (tested with a piece of film leader before trying to develop a roll of film), how long should the partially used stock solution remain "good" (presuming 75 degree dark storage)?

-- Bill Mitchell (, January 21, 2001


I have had Xtol stay good in a partially filled distilled water jug for 3 months. I have also run into the mysterious 'Xtol Failure' problem of developing just fine and then the next roll, from the same batch, within a day, producing the thinnest negatives possible. NO change in anything. Same distilled water for mixing, same procedures, same everything except time. I have also had brand new Xtol produce these same extremely thin negatives right out of the package. No discoloration of chemistry, either dry or wet. No caked powder. No warning. Just failure.

Kodak has now discontinued recommending Xtol at dilutions greater than 1:1. No more times published for 1:2, 1:3 or greater. Partly due to Xtol performing poorly AT TIMES in higher dilutions with crappy water such as we have here in Utah. Distilled is supposed to take care of any problems, but when you get the dreaded 'Xtol Failure', you have to wonder.

Couple that with EK having problems with the 5 litre packaging, where nice little piles of white powder from Part A end up on the sales & display counters of the camera stores even before you buy it, and The Yellow Peril looks pretty stupid. Xtol can be one of the finest developers made. But with quality control like this, Kodak could be taking notes from the Soviet Army.

So, how long the solution will remain 'good' is anyones guess at this time.

-- Dan Smith (, January 21, 2001.

Thanks, Dan. I nearly had talked myself into trying the stuff.

-- Bill Mitchell (, January 21, 2001.

IMHO, XTOL seems to be most unreliable with t-grain films. With conventional films, particulary FP4+ and 1:3, the stuff is magic. I've never had inconsistancy, much less outright thin negs. I store it in clear 16 oz plastic soda (water, actually) bottles and use it as a one shot. Even at 3 or 4 months, with stuff starting to grow in it, the results have been fine! You really should give it a try, but not with t-grain and especially not with TMX.

-- Conrad Hoffman (, January 22, 2001.

I keep my XTOL stock solution no more than 2 months. I mix with filtered water and have never had the dreaded XTOL failure. However, the XTOL dies very abruptly after 2 months in one of those accordion type containers. I'm using the glass bottle & marbles system now & I'm hoping that I can coax an additional month out of the stuff. I have used tmx & tmy in Xtol with good results. The best results are with 400 Delta in XTOL. 1:1 dilution btw.

-- Robert Orofino (, January 22, 2001.

I've been intrigued by the actual mechanism of Vitamin C as a developing agent ever since I first read about it.
I asked my local pharmacy for some pure Ascorbic acid (vitamin C) powder, and was told that it wasn't kept in stock because of it's poor keeping qualities. I had to get it to special order. The pharmacist reckoned that 3 months was the limit for unopened brown glass bottles of the powder. Presumably the solution suffers the same problem.
I still don't know exactly how it works (when it does work), and to be honest, apart from its low cost and low toxicity, I can't really see any advantage over more conventional developers.

-- Pete Andrews (, January 22, 2001.


I use XTOL quite a bit, but only in the 5L sizes. The problems that I've heard always related to the 1L sizes and was a packaging problem.

Once mixed, I store it in used soda pop bottles for more than 9 months with all air remover. (If you use these, be sure to use the plastic bottles intended for carbonated beverages, as they have a laminated vapor barrier.) The negs developed in fresh vs. 9 month old XTOL had identical density readings.


-- Pete Caluori (, January 22, 2001.

I kept Xtol as long as 9 months in 16oz glass bottles. Partly filled bottles get a "wine saver" cork, which comes with a hand vacuum pump, available at kitchen supply stores. I mix 5l at a time.

-- Tim Brown (, January 23, 2001.

I go through five litres of Xtol every two weeks. you guys aren't out enough. to address the 'why use Xtol' query, there is a rather significant improvement in tonal scale and grain reduction with TMax films using Xtol. other developers pale, with Xtol clearly rising to the top. Ilford's HP5+ pushes gloriously in Xtol, and I prefer Xtol to DDX for D3200. results with HP5+ were so good, I find little use for the faster films.

the dreaded failure mode is a curse. it is unpredictable, and as Dan mentioned, even a robust, well-working batch is prone to failure with no indication. having said that, my last four packages of the 5 litre samples have behaved in grand fashion. I use it only as a single-shot developer.

-- daniel taylor (, January 23, 2001.


Indeed, if 5L is lasting 9 months, one is probably not shooting enough. The 5L I had sitting around was for testing purposes only; it actually lasted a year before any density changes were noted. The other noteworthy caveat with XTOL is discard it if any of the packaged powder is caked. Better yet, don't discard it, get a refund.

Regards, Pete

-- Pete Caluori (, January 23, 2001.

After further thought, I might have an inkling of an answer to Xtol's sudden failure.
I've heard Ascorbic acid referred to as a 'reducing sugar'. Now, if it really is a member of the sugar group, then it's ideal food for bacteria and natural yeasts.
Perhaps Xtol dies because of microbial attack? Seems like a reasonable explanation for sudden death.
Anyone fancy adding some penicillin to a batch to see if it extends the working life?

-- Pete Andrews (, January 24, 2001.

Hmmm... I read somewhere that ascorbic acid acts as a preservative, inhibiting bacteria.

-- Tim Brown (, January 24, 2001.

Xtol and its 'sudden failure' is a problem that some of us hit. Some don't & there seems to be no rational explanation to date. It hit me in the form of negatives so underexposed as to be ghost images on the film. This from freshly mixed Xtol, using distilled water, with two 5 litre packets in a 2 1/2 gallon holding tank. The developer was used the day after mixing, which is what I have found works best for me. Put in the negs after diluting 1:1 and... failure. The old line of "it can't really happen if it didn't happen to me" doesn't work here. I have never been bitten by a shark but that doesn't mean it doesn't happen to others. Even careful swimmers, divers & surfers get bit. So do careful darkroom workers... by Xtol. It can be a marvelous developer but there is a problem somewhere and it strikes without any discernable pattern. It happens in both 1 litre and 5 litre packages. I don't know about the bigger sizes as I don't mix them. I do suspect, and this is ONLY a W-A-G on my part, that somehow in the mixing, some of the chemical components don't get into the packaging in the right proportions. It is the only explanation I can come up with. I do like the developer but there is no way I can use it freshly mixed without a test development neg before committing my real negs to it. As to how long it keeps? I don't really know either, but if Sylvia is reading this maybe she can come into the discussion. Xtol is her baby and if The Yellow Peril can get its act together it should be around forever, if not a bit longer. It is an excellent product that is suffering from The Yellow Godfathers lack of attention to detail.

-- Dan Smith (, January 24, 2001.

I have used one shot XTOL for 2 years in the one 1itre packets. Out of 10 - 15 litres only one roll of film was thin. For medium format in FP-4, Tri-X, or Verichrome, 1:2 dilution produces a 1/2 stop speed increase, full tonality and improved sharpness. I mix a batch with distilled water every 3 months so I can't comment on long term storage. Skin tones in TX-135 may look better in D-76 or straight XTOL vs XTOL diluted 1:2 or 1:1. FP-4 however is very nice in XTOL 1:1.

-- Richard Jepsen (, February 05, 2001.

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