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Specimen cleaning, Tips and techniques
Denise
post Sep 10 2009, 02:07 PM
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We get alot of questions about the do's and dont's when specimen cleaning. So I thought a thread with some good tips and links would be handy here in the forums. Knowledge is power right?
After a good day of prospecting and digging in the dirt, we have these flats filled with muddy/clay specimens, some even with Iron deposits all over them. Now what?!


Picture of Anita with a flat of fresh Fluorite and Smokey Quartz finds.

We like to keep it as safe and simple as possible. We start off with a plastic black tub, filled with water (room tempature). Some minerals are sensative to quick tempature change, so be careful with the water temp! Place some of the specimens into the water. Gently hold one in your hand, and agitate it in the water to remove some of the dirt. You will be supprised how well just a little water works. Repeat several times till you can see If there are more minerals present on the specimen. Colorado is well known for combo specimens, so keep a close eye open! After examining for other minerals present, you can use an old tooth brush to remove more dirt in the crevices. I have even had tiny Fluorites, Goethites and Quartz crystals etc. pop up in those crevices after using the tooth brush and spray bottle!

Sometimes just the water helps to clean, but when you get those iron stains you might want to move on to straight vinegar. It is a very mild acid, and can remove some mild iron stains. Leave sit in the vinegar for several days as needed, and gently agitate the vinegar every once in a while to help remove the stain. If the vinegar fails to remove all the stain, you might want to try "SuperIronout" stain remover. This product is used for removing iron stains in sinks, tubs, toilets etc., and is easy to find at your local hardware store or any where they sell plumbing chemicals like drain cleaners.

Always read all instructions and warnings for use, before attempting to clean any specimens!
It's best to use a small sample for testing first, before cleaning the better pieces.


For mineral cleaning with SuperIronOut (SIO), we mix up enough SIO powder in the water to completely saturate the mixture with as much SIO as the water will dissolve (or close to that). This is a strong mixture and depending on your stains to be remove, soak time will vary from a few hours to a few days or a week. The mixture does not always need to be this strong. Use in a well ventilated area, we put lids on our soak containers to keep down the fumes/smell. Use containers just big enough for your specimens to be cleaned.

Always use distilled water with this soak process as the SIO will leach any minerals out of the tap water and cause a crusting on your specimen.

After soaking you will need to rinse off the specimens. If you have a pressure wash gun (textile cleaning gun) you can use this with tap water. Very carefully rinse off the specimens with the pressure wash gun. Depending on the specimens and delicacy, you will want to adjust that gun's output and distance used from specimen while rinsing. If you do not have the textile pressure gun, go to the rinse soaking step.

Next you will need to rinse soak (distilled water again) for at least the same time as the SIO soak or longer. Some pieces with heavy staining (iron deposits) may need to have clean rinse water about half way through the soak period. After the soak period, some pieces may need a repeat of the whole process, some may just need sprayed off after one process for the desired effects.

Here are a few before and after pictures of a Smokey Quartz crystal we cleaned using SuperIronOut.


Picture of Smokey Quartz with only water cleaning.


Picture of Smokey Quartz after cleaned with SuperIronOut.

Rock Currier at Mindat.org did an excellent article on cleaning Quartz that goes into alot more details and methods if needed. Very good reading and an awesome write up!
http://www.mindat.org/article.php/403/Cleaning+Quartz

We hope this info will help you some when cleaning your mineral specimens.
Good luck with all your finds, and remember to stay safe out there!
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swizz
post Sep 10 2009, 03:59 PM
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Yowsa!! The before/after images of the Smokey Quartz piece are incredible, very interesting.


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Denise
post Sep 17 2009, 07:10 AM
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Thanks swizz! We thought it cleaned up nicely also. happy.gif The white part under the quartz is Microcline.

Here is a Goethite that was soaked and agitated in water, and then blasted carefully with the textile pressure gun.
We use the pressure gun for lots of different kinds of mineral cleaning!!
It started off looking like a small muddy clay ball. Wish I had before pics of this one but I dont. sad.gif
Guess we were too excited to see it after it was cleaned.
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CP
post Nov 6 2009, 08:43 AM
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The goethites are very delicate and just full of mud when you find them. Tough ones to clean for sure.
With the textile cleaning gun they turn out very well though. You do need to use caution with distance from the nozzle though, too close and the pressure itself can tear off or cut through some materials.

For those who might be looking for one of these, just search "textile cleaning guns". Ours is an Arrow brand from overseas and works really well for many kinds of cleaning specimens or flat lapped stones between grit stages.

Here's a picture of ours in use blasting out a thunderegg between grits for the flat lap process. Always remember to use safety goggles when cleaning minerals or specimens with these pressurized water guns, they can back splash alot and it's best to do outdoors if possible.
What's everyone else been cleaning from their finds this year? emoticon-misc-004.gif anyone.gif

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swizz
post Nov 6 2009, 05:29 PM
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I have some stuff to clean.
The pressure gun you pictured looks like a great tool! It gives me an idea... I have a couple of 3 gallon high-pressure spray canisters that I occasionally use for my biz. They have three different tips. I can pump the canister with as much pressure as I want. I'm going to fill one with water and give it a go with the smallest tip (one of these days when I have a few minutes and the sun is shining, that is).


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Denise
post Nov 8 2009, 04:12 PM
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Sounds like a great idea Swizz, and no power needed! I love the textile cleaning gun for cleaning specimens.
I nick named ours "Master Blaster". biggrin.gif

It means it when it says to keep your fingers clear of the stream too!
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Coalbunny
post Nov 13 2009, 01:52 AM
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I have a few specimens of pyrite that have a limonite film on them, just took a tooth brush and dishsoap to them. Leaves a neat red tarnish on them.


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Denise
post Nov 15 2009, 06:51 AM
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An old toothbrush works great for helping the cleaning process. biggrin.gif
We would love to see pics of some of the specimens you guys are cleaning. Maybe some before or after pics.....
Or maybe both.
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ScottKS
post Nov 15 2009, 11:01 PM
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Here is something cool i got a couple years ago and will be useing it to clean the rocks in between grits (I also use it to clean coins and other items after metal detecting and i just used it today to clean a ring for a customer after repairing prongs).....Power Toothbrush....lol smiley-laughing021.gif.....need to get more brushes like the one that's on it....seeings i won't be able to use it for anything else but cleaning grit off of rocks....lol....I got this at Wal-Mart for $20 total....$10 for the tool and $10 for the replacement brushes.....good deal.

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Denise
post Nov 16 2009, 12:01 PM
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Very cool tool Scott. I have used one of those kids battery opperated ones bofore, but those look like they have a little more oomph in them.
biggrin.gif

Here is a before and after pic of a Thunderegg that was a bit scrambled when cut.
Sure is cool looking, but there is no way we could polish this egg with this soft center.

Attached Image

Here is the same egg half after I used the pressure washer gun on it and polished it. happy088.gif
It ended up with these velvety looking red crystal walls. Pretty cool, and polished out great!

Attached Image

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swizz
post Apr 5 2010, 08:37 AM
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Denise, thanks for this tutorial. I am going to attempt your techniques. I have everything except SIO, so hopefully vinegar will do the trick if it comes to that. I'm on step 1 today.... warm water and toothbrush. Next.. vinegar if necessary.
This pic is my first batch - prior to doing anything. From the top left going right, Stromatolite fossilization (druzy pocket on other side), next to the right is (what I believe to be) Marine Breccia, and the rest are unknown crystallized clusters. These are from my stash of rocks hounded from various fishing trips in CO and WY. Most are extremely dirty. The center one on the bottom didn't photograph well but it's an interesting cluster of small crystals on both sides with a possible metallic or oxidized matrix running through the center. The bottom left piece looks to be 90% or more quartz crystal of some kind but it's really dirty... almost black. Should be interesting, wish me luck!


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swizz
post Apr 5 2010, 09:37 AM
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Interesting. I placed the upper right stone in vinegar and it's fizzing like Alka-Seltzer.
Should I run? smiley-shocked003.gif


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CP
post Apr 5 2010, 09:49 AM
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QUOTE (swizz @ Apr 5 2010, 10:37 AM) *
Interesting. I placed the upper right stone in vinegar and it's fizzing like Alka-Seltzer.
Should I run? smiley-shocked003.gif


Yes! Run back to pull it out right away.....and rinse it. Denise said ACK hurry and post a reply Dan smiley-shocked003.gif Then frowned because she told me to do 20 minutes ago. smiley-laughing021.gif
Fossils many times will do this because of the calcium carbonate I believe.
Always test a small part or sacrificial piece when testing for reaction with an acid used to clean specimens. Hopefully that piece will still be okay after the rinse if it wasn't a tester piece.

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swizz
post Apr 5 2010, 10:22 AM
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I pulled it. No biggie there, that one looks more like a piece of standard white Quartz after cleaning.
The fossilized Stromatolite is coming along well. I'm going to give it a light cleaning with the textile gun and call 'er good.
I'm going to soak the crystal on the far lower right in vinegar, it has greenish stain or tarnish of some kind and it's not fizzing. This one might look nice.


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Denise
post Apr 7 2010, 03:30 PM
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Hows the specimen cleanig coming Swizz? Inquiring minds want to know. biggrin.gif
Dont forget to wear goggles when using the pressure gun or toothbrush cleaning. They send pieces of loose rock flying.
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