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topic 3910

Silver extraction from photographic fixer


Q. I am looking for info on how to extract the silver from used fixer from a photographic process. Just something simple I play with at home. What type of electrodes should I use? What voltage and current should I apply? I have found a lot of information on this site but could not find what I need.

thank you in advance

Joe d [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- welland Ontario Canada

"Recovering Silver from
Photographic Materials"

by Eastman Kodak Co.
from Abe Books


A. Last I heard, the former owner or manager of Film Recovery Systems in Chicago was serving a life term for first degree murder because an employees died while recovering silver from X-ray film.

The point being that until you've had training in the safe operation of a silver recovery operation, I don't think you should attempt it.

Ted Mooney, Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live "Aloha"


Q. I won't ask for instructions again but will you tell me what the hazard is. Is it poison gas, poison liquid or an explosion hazard?

Joe d [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
- welland Ontario Canada


A. The basic issue there was cyanide-based chemistry. Cyanide is a poison as a liquid, of course, but more importantly it releases deadly hydrogen cyanide gas if accidentally acidified. It needs special care. Regards,

Ted Mooney,
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live "Aloha"


A. You will find that companies, like mine, contract out silver reclamation services in order to avoid problems with employee exposures and related liabilities. We use Safety-Kleen's recovery service and we are currently evaluating a larger (10 gallons fixer per day) recovery unit. These devices are self-contained and due an excellent job of recovering silver from fixer for a nominal cost to us. Industry, of course, needs to invest in these devices in order to comply with wastewater discharge limits.

Rick Alexander
engravers - Gaffney, South Carolina


A. Slow down, pals! No cyanide has been used in photographic fixing or (colour) bleach-fixing solutions for decades. I have been doing silver recovery in Finland for 21 years and only read of cyanide in photography in history books.

What you need is a simple carbon plate from a large dry battery for an anode (graphite would be better, but maybe more difficult to find), a stainless steel sheet for cathode, and a voltage of 2 to 5 volts depending on electrode distance. Stirring of the solution helps. You will get ca. 90 to 98 per cent pure silver on cathode. The longer you continue this, the blacker and more dirty silver you get. Normally the end-point is around 100 mg/liter of silver, after that you will get silver sulfide sludge.

Bleach-fixing solutions need higher voltage and more than 500 mg/liter silver will probably stay in the solution. The chemical hazards include formation of hydrogen sulfide on high current density, or ammonia, if you mixed fixer with developer. This method will still leave too much silver in the solution so that you cannot discard the remaining solution into sewer.

Arsi Saukkola
- Espoo, Finland


A. You are correct. The dude in jail was recovering silver from negatives and the film. The picture that I say of the shop, it was a true slop shop.

There are silver recovery devices sold that are really mini plating cells. For industry, these are cost effective because of quantity and the dollars to afford the proper disposal of the residue from the fixer recovery.

At what silver is worth today, you will spend about as much as you will get for the silver. When you take it off site, as in home, you are technically guilty of operating a waste disposal site. Fine is up to 25,000 per day per violation.

All it takes is the wrong person talking somewhere and the badges will show up. They take a very dim view of it.

James Watts
- Navarre, Florida


I apologize for the confusion. Silver can be recovered from fixing solutions without cyanide; Film Recovery Systems was recovering silver from the X-Ray film itself rather than from fixing solutions.

But I still feel that safety training should be hands-on, not just pieces of this and that gleaned from the internet.

Good luck.

Ted Mooney,
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live "Aloha"


Q. Kindly give me ways to Proper disposal of chemical waste from silver extraction.

Ganyfer [last name deleted for privacy by Editor]
student - Laguna, Philippines


A. As a student, you may want to know what is done chemically, of course, Ganyfer. And if wish to take the time to review one of the longest threads on, there are some answers in letter 15559.

But another thing a student may wish to learn is that, just as most factories don't make their own pencils or build their own forklifts, most modern factories avoid certain types of chemical treatment and instead send the wastes to specialists as Mr. Alexander noted earlier in the thread. Good luck,

Ted Mooney,
Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Pine Beach, New Jersey
Striving to live "Aloha"

January 14, 2008


Good Day Sir/Ma'am

I am a student from the Philippines whose thesis/study ventures on the recovery of silver from spent fixer. However, I have a problem on this method since I don't have detailed information to end up with metallic silver.

May you assist me in my study for this would mean a lot for the success of my study as a requirement for graduation.

Thank you.

Van Galarpe
Student Researcher - Cagayan de Oro City, Philippines

February 19, 2009

Q. Hello,

My business partner and I have recently delved into the e-waste and recycling business and we have old x-ray film and we would like to subcontract out to a silver reclamation business. How does this process work and what are the profits after paying the company? We are located in Toledo, Ohio and there is nobody around here that does it.

Charles Satchwell
seller - Toledo, Ohio

April 18, 2009

Q. Sir, I'm in jewelry business.I'm to purchase fixer solution from a news paper house. Please advise how I can check the percentage of silver in concentrate and how can I get total silver easily and much cheaper at my home.

Neeraj Passi
goldsmith - Ferozeopur,Punjab, India

September 6, 2011

Q. Dear sir, how can I recover silver from fixer by the chemical treatment only?

Israr Mitra
- Pilibhit, Uttar Predesh, India

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