Introduction: Home Made Rodinal Developer From Tylenol, Drain Opener and Sodium Sulfite

As time goes by markets change and suppliers may go out of business or discontinue a favored product. One only has to look at Kodak filing for bankruptcy and the inavailability of old products like Microdol X etc. Rodinal is a very old formula dating back to the late 1800's from Agfa of Germany. Agfa folded the photo division but thankfully other vendors have kept the old formula going--but what if they too stop making it? We are going to make our own.

Ingredients Needed:

Liquid childrens tylenol (acetaminophen) 30ml bottle with 1ml=100mg dosage (3000mg total content)

Sodium Sulfite 10 grams --commonly used in wine making and canning fruit as a preservative. Available on Amazon inexpensively

Lye Drain Opener (Sodium Hydroxide) 4 grams. Available at Ace Hardware inexpensively. Use caution in handling and avoid contact with skin/eyes. This is getting harder to find at normal stores as shady characters use it to make street drugs like meth

UPDATE: If 100% Lye Drain opener is unavailable OR you want something less nasty to work with you can substitute liquid drain openers that contain Sodium & Potassium Hydroxide. They can vary in strength from 30% to 50% so you adjust quatities. If you use 30% then insted of 4gr of the powdered lye you use 12ML of the liquid and less water for the 50ml total. If you use the 50% variety you use 8ML and less water for the 50ML total. The 2nd picture on this step is the alternative liquid drain opener and this brand is 30% according to the makers website MSDS that are published. Check to make sure there is no Sodium Hypochlorite (bleach) in the brand you are using.

Equipment Needed:

50ml capacity amber glass bottle with tight cap

small metal or plastic funnel

Digital scale ( a few dollars on Amazon)

small disposable plastic condiment cup-grab an extra one from a salad bar or other fast food restaurant you might visit

Microwave safe glass measuring cup-- get a used one from Goodwill/ Salvation Army

stirring spoon- get a cheap metal spoon from Goodwill/ Salvation army

access to a microwave oven


Sodium Hydorxide (lye drain opener) is extremely caustic and can react violently with hot water. Always let solutions cool down before adding this chemical. Eye protection probably wouldn't be a bad idea. Add it at an arms length--dont put your face directly over the cup when adding it.

Also, it's generally a good idea to buy separate "lab equipment" from your food utensils--get your spoons & cups from a thrift store and only use them for photo chemicals.

Step 1: Add the Sodium Sulfite to the Childrens Tylenol

In this photo I have opened the childrens tylenol/ acetaminophen and poured the contents into the glass measuring cup. I used the plastic knife to add the sodium sulfite to the little condiment cup and as you can see the scale is showing the 10 grams needed. Place the empty plastic cup on the scale BEFORE you turn it on and it will "zero" factoring in the weight of the cup as a tare weight. This way it's less math subtracting the cup weight etc.

Before adding the sodium sulfite, place the cup with the tylenol/acetaminophen in the microwave and give it 20 seconds on high. Add the sodium sulfite and stir for a few minutes--it won't all dissolve. The next step will help with that.

Footnote on the childrens tylenol/acetaminophen : There does not seem to be any concern that small traces of grape/cherry flavoring causing an undesired effect or "contamination". I noticed that ascorbic acid was used in the brand I bought and that is also a developing agent in larger quantities.

Step 2: Add the Lye Drain Opener

Here the condiment cup is back on the scale and we have the 4 grams of Lye Drain Opener(sodium hydroxide) needed (I removed the extra .1 gram after taking the photo). Add this to the still warm tylenol and sodium sulfite in the microwave safe glass measuring cup. Add slowly and stir while adding--keep your face away from the top of the cup. The solution should have cooled down some from the stirring you gave it before adding the lye and the reaction from the lye will raise the temp back up a bit. NEVER add lye to a solution that is already hot and be extremely cautious not to get any on your eyes & skin. Top off with a tiny bit of distilled or purified drinking water to bring the volume to 50ml on the measuring cup.

Continue to stir for a few minutes. There will be some undissolved precipitate from the sodium sulfite but thats ok.

Step 3: Decant the Mixture Into the Amber Glass Storage Bottle

Here we have the little funnel in place and the mixture ready to pour. You may want to do this in a sink or lay down a paper plate or paper towel to protect sensitive surfaces. The bottle & funnel are also available on Amazon often used for perfume or essential oils.

Make sure the solution has cooled sufficiently before pouring into the glass bottle

Step 4: Cap & Label--save the Measuring Dropper From the Tylenol Box

After tightly capping the bottle make a suitable label for safety. Retain the measuring syringe to measure out the developer.

Let the freshly mixed solution set for 3 days to stabilize before 1st use.

For a 250ml tank & reel for a 35mm roll I often use a 1:100 dilution so that would require 2.5ml of the mix. This means I get 20 rolls of 35mm out of that 50ml vial.

Before using shake the bottle and extract the mix with some of the undissolved sodium sulfite. When you add it to the water for the tank & reel it will then all dissolve. Use immediately once you add it to the water. The solution will have a reddish "straw" color to it. Some will say it looks like cider or a fire-brewed red beer--this is normal and it is actually what real rodinal looks like.

Step 5: First Raw Test

Some 25 year old Plus X souped 1:100 for 10 minutes.Negs are thin & under-developed. Will go 20 minutes on next roll. I'm sharing the good & the bad here folks. No sugar coating or selective results. We learn from our mistakes.

Step 6: 2nd Test 20 Min Dev Time 1:100

Getting there. I'm thinking 5 more minutes and agitation at 30 sec intervals. Again, this is 25 year old surplus Eastman 5231 Plus X cinematic film originally rated at 80asa. But for home made developer from childrens tylenol , lye drain opener and sodium sulfite results can be had.

Note: Other sites have posted similar formulas using tylenol caplets/tablets. While these are usable you will have a LOT more undissolved buffering agent from the tablets. There is much less sludge using an already liquified acetaminophen solution/suspension.

Cost Ananlysis : The liquid childrens tylenol was the most expensive chemical at $2.00 for the 30ml bottle--it was in the clearance bin at the dollar store. The lye and sodium sulfite were a few more pennies worth. Let's say it was $2.25 all said & done. This works out to .11 cents a roll.

For developing time & dilution references please refer to the Massive Dev Chart loctaed here :

Keep in mind these are generally good starting points but some tweaking may be needed for an unlisted film or for fine tuned results

Step 7: 1 Hour "semi-stand" Process 1:100

5ml of the juice to 500ml water. Agitation for the first minute then 10 seconds every 15 minutes. better tones and overall a tighter look to it. These 3 were shot with a 1957 Kiev3 russian rangefinder with a Jupiter8 lens

Step 8: Alternative Formula Using Goody Headache Powder

If high dose liquid acetominophen is hard to source you can use Goody Headache Powder. I got a box in the clearance bin at my local Frys (kroger) grocery store for $2. It contains 50 packets. You take 12 packets to 50ml of water and add the sodium sulfite (10 grams) and the Lye drain opener (4 grams) same as above steps. After bottling the solution let it set for 3 days before use. Sample shot of my co-worker was color ECN-II motion picture film cross processed as B&W in the goody version . 2 hours stand process. 2nd B&W sample of my wife was shot on Arista EDU B&W film 1 hour stand process

Step 9: Another Variation to Keep Residual Powder to a Minimum

I spotted these little "One Shot" 60ml 1000mg doses at the bargain bin of my local grocery store for $ .79 cents. We need 3000mg of acetominophen for the batch so to make up the shortfall we add 4-500mg tablets. Crush the tablets up--I have a mortar & pestle made of aluminum that makes quick work of this. Some wax parchment paper and a hammer will do just as well. Heat up the liquid Goody One Shot in the pyrex, add the crushed tablets followed by the 10gr of sodium sulfite and then the 4 gr of the Lye Drain Opener. The clock picture was very old Plus X 5231 cinematic film that would have been used to shoot movies like Raging Bull and Schindlers List. In excess of 25 years of age or so. Also at 1:100 1 hour stand processing