Silver Nitrate – Heavy Maintenance Boiling

My original silver nitrate bath dates from the beginning of my collodion time; 2009. I filter the bath before and after every use, every time. A proper taking care of the bath is crucial for your images. And it’s expensive enough to want to take proper care of it. Every now and then it gets so polluted by ‘radicals’ that just filtering won’t do it anymore. I put the flask in the sunlight, cover it with a sheet of toilet paper and let all the nasty things evaporate. Measure pH and density, adjust where needed and it’s good to go. However, after having used this bath for 4 years (issues started last year) it gets so contaminated that sunning won’t do the trick as well. I got these really tiny specks on my plates which I couldn’t trace back to anything else than a heavily polluted silver bath. A conversation with Jeroen confirmed that. So, it was time for some drastic measures ๐Ÿ™‚

Boiling! Yeah! Soโ€ฆwhen you have a solution of silver nitrate of 1 litre, you add distilled water until you have 1.5 litres. Then you boil it back to its original amount, filter, measure, adjust where needed and done! As simple as that ๐Ÿ™‚ Well, it is really that simple! Only, where to put it in when boiling? I ordered a 2 litre erlenmeyer flask. I bought a (cheap) cooking plate with too little power. Heating up the solution took more than one hour. I’m easily bored so no thank you ๐Ÿ™‚

Next I bought an induction plate with a little bit more balls ๐Ÿ™‚ But induction needs inox to function, so no glass. I bought a stainless steel pot and boiled it in that. Went incredibly fast but I simply do not really trust a stainless steel pot for this. So, I decided to fill up the pot with distilled water and place the erlenmeyer holding the silver nitrate solution in it, au bain marie style, so to speak. Two good things: if the glass breaks the pot will keep it from going bye-bye. And by using distilled water for cooking the solution is preserved and not mixed with nasty tap water. It worked very well, except that the erlenmeyer had too small an opening so the boiling went really slow. Next time I will use a wide-mouth erlenmeyer or just a glass beaker that can take some heating. And the baths are perfect again- and the images speck-free!


(oh for the paranoia onesโ€ฆI removed the cables in the background during the boiling ๐Ÿ™‚ )


  1. Excellent info………..I had read about this elsewhere but it didn’t seem as simple. Thanks Indra for that. Also the reminder that I can have my bath as a lifelong friend if I care for it……..had got a whispher of that too………..again, I so appreciate your sharing in a community that can be confusing and a little bit shrouded in mystery, and sometimes it it intentionally confusing perhaps. I am nearly ready to have a go at the dry collodion………tanic acid is cheaper at winemaking amnd brewer shops. Thankyou again.

    1. You’re welcome ๐Ÿ˜‰ I often refer back to my blog if I want to know how I did a specific thing; it’s a handy notebook. It’s really nice that with proper care the silver bath will enjoy a long life. At first I felt a bit reluctant to boil the bath but when impact of the polution became so obvious I had no other choice. I guess what scared me the most is the heating itself. The first round I never left the solution too afraid it would cause a fire or otherwise haha! But it’s a really easy and pretty fast way and best of all…it works!

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