n.decay of acetate film resulting in the release of acetic acidSchüller 1989, 29During the Joint Technical Symposium in Berlin, May 1987, Karel Brems in his paper “The Archival Quality of Film Bases” reported about the so-called “Vinegar Syndrome” that had recently been discovered by film archivists. Several safety films with triacetate cellulose bases have been found in various film archives which had become limp and soft, and, if allowed to dry, very brittle at a later stage. This phenomenon takes place under the evaporation of acetic acid, the smell of which gave this self-destruction process its name.Haynes, Kaid, and Rand 1996, 52One of the problems with the PCA film, which is cellulose acetate stock, is the breakdown of the acetate film base, known as “vinegar syndrome,” that causes an increase in the rate of dye fading.Paton 1998, 194–195Tapes exhibiting signs of vinegar syndrome (identified by an odor of vinegar about the tape) should receive particular attention.Capell 2010, 34Acetate film is subject to deterioration, which manifests itself in several distinct, but interrelated ways. The first noticeable sign is typically a vinegar odor, leading to the name often attributed to the deterioration: “vinegar syndrome.” As the acetate in the negative begins to break down, it produces acetic acid. This autocatalytic process progresses slowly at first and then accelerates as more acid accumulates in the negative.Ritzenthaler 2010, 253Many cellulose acetate films shrink as they age, causing distortion and buckling of the emulsion, and acetic acid is emitted as a byproduct of their deterioration. Since acetic acid has an odor very like vinegar, this deterioration process is also referred to as “vinegar syndrome.”Ritzenthaler 2010, 380Vinegar syndrome: Term used to describe the vinegary smell of acetic acid that is emitted as unstable cellulose acetate films deteriorate. The effects of vinegar syndrome on film include brittleness and shrinking of the film, “channeling,” and related physical distortion as the emulsion and film separate.Cocciolo 2017, 123The problem with acetate is that it is prone to vinegar syndrome, or acetate decay, which is accelerated by heat and high humidity. The beginnings of vinegar syndrome can be detected when the film starts to smell like vinegar.Joffrion and Cloonan 2020, 113–114However, acetate-based film is prone to “vinegar syndrome,” when acetic acid is emitted from the base of the film as it begins to deteriorate. Partially degraded CTA [cellulose triacetate] is common. Acetic acid is a component of vinegar, thus the smell produced by this deteriorating film is somewhat vinegar-like.
This deterioration process is called vinegar syndrome because acetic acid has an odor very like vinegar. It occurs on cellulose acetate based film used in photographic and motion pictures. The effects of vinegar syndrome include brittleness, shrinking, and a harsh, acidic odor; channeling may also be visible.