How to Clean your Microscope: Tips & Tricks

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how to clean your microscope

Image credit: Seaman Bill M. Sanders, Navy Live

Microscopes attract a lot of traffic, especially in an educational setting.  The more hands and eyes that come in contact with your microscope, the more likely it is to suffer from smudges, dust, and residue, which will begin to impact your image quality over time.  But there’s a right and wrong way to clean a microscope, so be sure to read carefully before you attempt any scrubbing.

Related reads: Here’s our guide on finding a microscope you’ll love

The Dos and Don’ts

Don’t use your fingers or random cloths to wipe off your microscope’s lenses. Any foreign particulates sitting on the glass can be ground into the lens, scratching the lens coatings and destroying your device’s performance.  Do unplug the microscope before you attempt any cleaning to avoid injury to yourself or the microscope.  Don’t clean the scope too often.  The less contact you make with your lenses, the longer life you can expect from them.  Do read your owner’s manual so you know your machine’s ins and outs and any manufacturer cleaning recommendations.  Do keep a cover over your microscope when it’s not in use, and keep it away from direct sunlight, moist air, and vibration.

a microscope

Credit: Picturepest, Flickr

5 Steps for Proper Cleaning

You can keep your microscope in good shape if you follow a proper cleaning regimen.  The area around your eyepiece, the knobs, and the stage are most likely to attract oils and other contaminants.  But to keep those images sharp, you’ll want your lenses sparkling, too.  Below are 5 steps to follow to keep your microscope in peak condition.

  1. Remove dirt. You may be inclined to blow on the lenses and wipe them off with your T-shirt, but these are the worst things you can do.  The moisture from your breath will cling to any surface particles, trapping them on the glass and ensuring you’ll grind them in when you go to wipe the glass clean.  Microscope lenses are delicate things, and they require delicate cleaning.  Purchase a lens cleaning kit to make sure you have the best tools.  Most come with a squeeze blower and a gentle camel hair brush, both of which you can use to remove surface dust while protecting your lenses.
  2. Wash the lenses. Use care with cleaning solutions.  Never use solvents like ammonia or acetone, or you’ll erode the coating on your lenses.  Distilled water is a gentle option (regular water will leave mineral deposits behind), or a 90% alcohol solution.  Apply your solution with a fresh lens tissue by resting it on the lens to dissolve any oils, then gently clean in a circular motion to cover the lens surface.
  3. Dry gently, using a soft microfiber cloth. Keep the cloth clean and store it in a plastic bag between uses.  Never use paper towels or facial tissue on your microscope.  They will leave fibers on your glass, which will cause scratching.
  4. Clean the body and stage. You can use your squeeze blower to remove any surface dust from the rest of the microscope, and then use a damp cloth (a gentle soap is okay here) to give everything a final wipe down.  Don’t allow dripping water to run down the microscope, as it can soak in and damage internal parts.
  5. Store your microscope safely. As mentioned above, it’s imperative to protect your device between uses by keeping the cover slipped over it, avoiding extreme temperatures and humidity, and keeping your scope away from vibrations.
microscope on laboratory

Image credit: Zephyris, Wikimedia     

Protecting Your Investment

After a thorough cleaning, you might still notice particles when you look through your lenses.  If this is the case, your microscope may need some internal cleaning.  Never try to take your microscope apart by yourself.  Consult the manufacturer first for recommendations or seek out an optics specialist who can disassemble your microscope without damaging it.  A microscope is a rewarding device.  Keep it in great shape, and you’ll be magnifying the world for years to come.

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