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How to Clean a Microscope. Useful Tips

Last Updated: 08.08.20

 

Because we know that most of you want to find out more ‌about how to take care of your microscopes, we have decided to go into more detail about how to clean one, which is an essential practice that will help extend the optical instrument’s lifespan. After you read this article, you will become a pro in cleaning your microscope and you will not need outside help.

 

What can cause the lack of clarity of my microscope?

What you need to take into account before starting to clean your microscope is that dirt is not always what causes a lack of clarity. Therefore, before beginning the cleaning process, you should check all the other variables that could be responsible for the unclear image, like diaphragm settings, or illumination settings. 

If everything seems to be in order, then you should consider cleaning the microscope, but remember that you have to be very careful during the process because it might be a little bit tricky and you have to make sure that you will not damage it, which can happen very easily.

 

Am I allowed to clean every component of the microscope?

Well, you are allowed to do anything you want in terms of cleaning, but it is recommended that you don’t touch some of its parts and leave those to a specialist. Your microscope comes with a manual and, before you begin the cleaning process, you should read it to find out more about how to do it and what is accessible and what is not.

The parts that you can clean are all the glass pieces that you have access to which include the protective glass of the sensor, the eyepiece lenses, the objective lenses in the front, and also the condenser lenses. Some manufacturers also recommend that you clean the actual surface of the camera sensor.

 

Tips to consider before you start:

  • If you have to move your microscope in order to clean it, you have to be very careful not to bump it or shake it, because it is very possible that you will cause damage to its construction.
  • Avoid touching the lenses with your bare hands and make sure that what you use to clean them is not dirty and does not have dust particles that could damage the lenses.
  • The best choice is to clean it indoors in order to avoid dust, dirt, and exposure to sunlight, which could cause damage.
  • Never forget to unplug the microscope before you start cleaning it because you might get hurt and the microscope could be affected as well.

 

Cleaning gear:

  • Gloves that do not have talc powder
  • Lint-free cloth pieces
  • Smooth detergent
  • Isopropyl alcohol
  • Dusting brush
  • Small vacuum cleaner
  • Lint-free cotton swabs
  • Distilled water

 

Steps to take in order to clean the mechanical parts of the microscope

When you clean your microscope, it is important to remember to clean the mechanical parts as well, not just the optical lenses because the mechanical parts can gather dust which can get stuck on the lenses as well. This is an easy part because you will not have to do much.

  • Step 1: Clean the casing of the microscope with a moist tissue.
  • Step 2: Mix the distilled water with the detergent and clean the mechanical parts.
  • Step 3: Wipe everything down with a dry cloth that is lint-free.

 

Steps to take in order to clean the optical parts of the microscope

Before you start cleaning the optical parts of your microscope, you should take into account some important facts that can influence the process. 

 

  1. Try to avoid solvents

This is a very important aspect that you should consider because your purpose is to clean the lens, not to damage the coating. Most lenses, including the ones you use for your eyeglasses, have coatings in order to improve their performance. The problem is that these coatings are made of chemical substances that can be damaged if you use solvents.

Some manufacturers apply coatings that are not that sensitive when it comes to solvents, but most of them will get damaged. This is why the only liquids you should use are distilled water and isopropyl alcohol. Some people say that using acetone is ok, but we encourage you not to do so because if you don’t know how to use it properly, you might wipe off the coating.

 

  1. Never wipe if there is dust or dirt on the lens

You might ask ‘how to clean the lens then if you are not allowed to wipe the dust and the dirt off?’. Well, wiping the lens if there is still dust on it can be compared to using sandpaper on it. The dust has the same effect because the coatings are very sensitive and the clarity of the lens can be affected by this process.

Therefore, you should first use a vacuum or oil-free compressed gas in order to remove dust, but we are going to talk about that later in this article. 

So, what are the steps that you need to take?

 

  • Step 1: Identify where the dirt is located

Dirt can have a place on the camera or on the other lenses of the microscope. If impurities are located on the camera, when you move the camera the impurities will have the same positioning as before. If they don’t, then the camera is not the location that you are looking for.

 

  • Step 2: Remove dust

We have mentioned before that you are going to need a vacuum in order to properly clean your microscope and now is the time to use it. Before doing anything, you should use the vacuum to remove all dust and impurities. Not every vacuum is appropriate and you will have to buy a vacuum made specially to clean microscopes.

After you have done that, use a compressed gas sprayer in order to make sure that all the dust particles are removed. You can either use a vacuum or a gas sprayer; however, a good practice is to use them both to be sure.

What you have to consider before buying a compressed air sprayer is that it shouldn’t contain any oils or solvents. Many people think that using oil will diminish the chances of scratching the lens but, the truth is, using oil will only leave residue on the lens that will be very difficult to remove without solvents and all you will do is to damage the lens at the end.

 

  • Step 3: Clean the lens using a cotton swab

In order to properly clean the lens, you have to use a cotton swab that is attached to a stick. A wooden stick is preferred and the cotton should be lint-free. You can do this either using distilled water or isopropyl alcohol. The essential thing to remember is that you have to follow this step only if there is solid dirt on the lens. If not, just removing the dust should be enough.

If you want to effectively remove impurities using a cotton swab, you should make circular moves because otherwise, you will not be able to leave the lens dirt-free. Do not use the cotton swab without submerging it in liquid first because you will damage the lens coating. We can not emphasize enough how sensitive to scratching lens coatings are.

 

  • Step 4: Prevention

This is the number one thing that you have to do in order to protect your microscope from getting dirty, increasing its lifespan in this way. You can do this by cleaning the outside parts after every use, which is a great practice if you think about it because it will take less time than doing it only once in a while.

Also, a great practice is to cover the microscope after every use and leave it covered when you are not using it. This will prevent dust from gathering on the lenses inside the microscope which means that you will not have to perform general cleaning that often. This will reduce the chances of you scratching the lenses.

 

Final thoughts

Microscopes are very sensitive optical instruments and you should take care of them if you want to enjoy exploring the microscopic world for a long time from now on. This includes periodically cleaning yours in order to keep its clarity. After reading our article, we are 100 percent sure that you are going to do it effectively if you follow our tips.

 

 

Ioana Moldovan

Ioana’s professional experience in the optics field has helped her understand the value of passing her knowledge forward. Her curious personality helps her gather useful information for her readers and her goal is to make technical information fun and accessible to everyone.

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