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How to Clean Minerals
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How to Clean Minerals

If you've collected your rocks and minerals in the field, you may need to clean them. To do this, you'll need a few simple tools.


An awl
Pointed scrapers
A nailbrush (for hard minerals and rocks)
A soft brush, like a toothbrush (for delicate or soft specimens)
A sable brush, like a craft paint brush (for delicate or soft specimens)
Distilled water (does not contain reactive chemicals)
Cotton swabs (for reaching into cavities)
Paper towels

Use care when cleaning a specimen. Hold it in your hand while cleaning it. You may be tempted to place your specimen in a vise, but don't because you may damage your sample.

Metal tools like an awl and pointed scrapers are used to remove loose debris. Use tweezers to examine small samples or pick debris out of crevices in large samples. Once you've cleaned away most of the dirt and other debris, you can use brushes to continue and, perhaps, water or alcohol.

Caution: Before using any kind of liquid, even water, you should find out what mineral group your sample belongs to. A mineral's group is determined by its chemical composition.

Here are samples of minerals that can be safely cleaned in water with a sturdy brush: quartz, garnet, topaz, beryl, tourmaline, and spodumene.

More delicate minerals, like calcite, should be cleaned with distilled water and a sable brush.

Alcohol can be used to clean sulfates, like gypsum, and borates, like borax.

After cleaning your specimens, it's time to organize them!


Mineral Matters | Kids' Habitat

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