Although in the 1950s nitrate film was discontinued, however, if by any chance it’s still left in your collection, it could destroy your whole family legacy.
The stories are not myths – the oldest film can burst into dangerous flames under the right conditions. Nitrate film reels sparked the 1937 Fox vault fire and were also responsible for fueling the MGM vault blaze of 1967. These fires were massively destructive, fatal, and erased huge chunks of U.S. film history stored and in the process.
This old film is a deadly fire hazard and gives off harmful nitrate gas that can set your entire house on fire damaging movies, photos, and basically everything else.
In this post, we are going to help you identify nitrate film in your memories archive. As we provide scan photo services in Jackson, Mississippi, we will explain to you the best course of action if you happen to find any.
Why is nitrate film so dangerous?Nitrate film is made from nitrate cellulose, which is a chemical used in military-grade explosives. It’s so flammable that it even explodes underwater, and improper storage ignites the fire risk even worse.
Nitrate cellulose releases a toxic gas that eats away any film stored without proper ventilation. Decayed nitrate film is even prone to catching fire, and can self-ignite at high temperatures (over 100 degrees Fahrenheit.) Even if the film doesn’t catch fire, the continuous decay can ruin the photos it stores.
If you’re feeling concerned or anxious thinking about your old photos, calm down! Most films since the 1950s were made from either acetate-based safety film or polyester, both of which are way less flammable than nitrate. Still, there’s always more room for safety; we will guide you on how to safely store, handle and even digitize any old nitrate film.
Stages of nitrate film decayThe three main stages of nitrate film decomposition are:
Stage 1: Fading images and orange film discoloration
Stage 2: The film becomes sticky, smelly, and appears foamy and bubbly
Stage 3: The film turns into crumbs of bad-smelling brownish powder
Identifying nitrate filmIt’s not likely that your old film stash will have any nitrate film, but it never hurts to make sure that it doesn’t. At Scan South - Photo Scan Jackson in Mississippi, we suggest you look for the following signs to find out if you have any:
Deterioration: If you notice film in any of the three stages of decay mentioned above, assume its nitrate film. But if the film smells like vinegar or is wrinkled, it’s most likely safety film.
Labels: Check to see if ‘Nitrate’ is printed or embossed on the edge of the film. Some nitrate films have been copied onto safety film, which might have the words ‘Safety’ or ‘Nitrate’ printed on them.
How to store aging filmsDon’t have the emotional energy to give up on your vintage film? You can undertake the following steps to safely store nitrate film while minimizing the risks of fire and deterioration before you encounter any loss.
Don’t wait for too long!On our blog, you will often find us writing about the short shelf life of your photos and home movies, but the risks of nitrate film weight a greater sense of urgency. We hope that you’re ready to store these vintage aging memories properly, even if you haven’t made up your mind for digitization yet.
Once you have decided to finally go for a film to digital transfer or negative scanning in Jackson, don’t forget to keep Scan South in mind for all of your digitization needs. Feel free to contact us with all your questions about the vintage movie film. We’d be more than happy to help!