Where an immediate stop of development is desired, a stop bath will usually consist of some concentration of acetic acid, commonly around 1 to 2%. By neutralizing the alkalinity of the developer, stop bath halt the development process almost instantly and thus provides more precise control of the development time. It also cuts overall processing time, because the required immersion time in the stop bath—typically fifteen to thirty seconds—is much shorter than the time required for an adequate plain-water rinse. As well, by neutralizing the alkalinity of basic developers, it can help to preserve the strength of the fixer, making it last longer.
Stop bath accounts for the characteristic vinegar-like odor of the traditional darkroom, and in its concentrated form can cause chemical burns. For indicator stop bath -- a stop bath that changes colours to indicate when the stop bath is exhausted and no longer effective -- the pH indicator bromothymol violet is used to determine when the solution has become too alkaline to use. Low-odour stop baths use citric acid or sodium bisulfite in place of acetic acid.