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Specimen cleaning, Tips and techniques
post Sep 10 2009, 02:07 PM
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Master Mucker!

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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 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!

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!

Education is the key to the future,
and participation opens the door to opportunity.

Discover your prospecting independence & success!

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post Nov 13 2009, 01:52 AM
Post #2

Master Mucker

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Member No.: 98

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.

Today's socio-political climate is rock solid proof that Adam and Eve weren't prospectors.
If they were they'd have eaten the snake instead of the apple and we'd still be in heaven....
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Posts in this topic
- Mrs.CP   Specimen cleaning   Sep 10 2009, 02:07 PM
- - swizz   Yowsa!! The before/after images of the Smo...   Sep 10 2009, 03:59 PM
- - Mrs.CP   Thanks swizz! We thought it cleaned up nicely ...   Sep 17 2009, 07:10 AM
- - ColoradoProspector   The goethites are very delicate and just full of m...   Nov 6 2009, 08:43 AM
- - swizz   I have some stuff to clean. The pressure gun you ...   Nov 6 2009, 05:29 PM
- - Mrs.CP   Sounds like a great idea Swizz, and no power neede...   Nov 8 2009, 04:12 PM
- - Coalbunny   I have a few specimens of pyrite that have a limon...   Nov 13 2009, 01:52 AM
- - Mrs.CP   An old toothbrush works great for helping the clea...   Nov 15 2009, 06:51 AM
- - ScottKS   Here is something cool i got a couple years ago an...   Nov 15 2009, 11:01 PM
- - Mrs.CP   Very cool tool Scott. I have used one of those kid...   Nov 16 2009, 12:01 PM
- - swizz   Denise, thanks for this tutorial. I am going to at...   Apr 5 2010, 08:37 AM
- - swizz   Interesting. I placed the upper right stone in vin...   Apr 5 2010, 09:37 AM
|- - ColoradoProspector   QUOTE (swizz @ Apr 5 2010, 10:37 AM) Inte...   Apr 5 2010, 09:49 AM
- - swizz   I pulled it. No biggie there, that one looks more ...   Apr 5 2010, 10:22 AM
- - Mrs.CP   Hows the specimen cleanig coming Swizz? Inquiring ...   Apr 7 2010, 03:30 PM
- - swizz   It's coming along great! The Stromatolite...   Apr 7 2010, 03:46 PM
- - jim   Swizz have you checked with home depot for the sio...   Apr 8 2010, 12:17 PM
|- - swizz   QUOTE (jim @ Apr 8 2010, 02:17 PM) Swizz ...   Apr 8 2010, 12:36 PM
- - Mrs.CP   Dont forget If your using Super Iron Out, to use d...   Apr 9 2010, 04:12 AM
- - swizz   I have two specimens soaking in SIO + distilled wa...   Apr 9 2010, 12:45 PM
- - swizz   Here are the before/after results: BEFORE AFTER...   Apr 13 2010, 12:22 PM
- - Mrs.CP   Great job Chris!! I especially like how we...   Apr 13 2010, 01:40 PM
- - swizz   hmmmm, interesting regarding the possibility of Ru...   Apr 13 2010, 02:07 PM
- - Mrs.CP   Rutilated Quartz link to Mindats database. They ha...   Apr 13 2010, 02:13 PM
- - swizz   Well... I'm not sure that it's Rutilated. ...   Apr 13 2010, 02:25 PM
- - Mrs.CP   "I don't know how you could cut that and ...   Apr 14 2010, 06:14 AM
- - swizz   yeah, I don't think that I can cut it... maybe...   Apr 14 2010, 04:57 PM
- - ColoradoProspector   Nice job on the clean up Swizz, those turned out n...   Apr 15 2010, 03:11 PM
|- - Coalbunny   QUOTE (ColoradoProspector @ Apr 15 2010, 04...   May 20 2010, 12:51 AM
- - swizz   GB & I have been doing a little rockhounding u...   May 14 2010, 09:35 AM
- - ColoradoProspector   the Colorado rutilated quartz cabochons are way to...   May 22 2010, 01:38 PM
- - swizz   Here's an interesting piece I found and will s...   Nov 20 2010, 09:09 AM
- - ColoradoProspector   Nice find Swizz, I'll bet that will have a nic...   Nov 20 2010, 03:44 PM
- - swizz   ... and here are two shots of the specimen 'af...   Nov 23 2010, 01:56 PM
|- - dickb   Hi Swizz: Really cleaned up great. Now to figure ...   Nov 23 2010, 02:08 PM
- - swizz   Thanks dickb! Yup.... I don't own any lap ...   Nov 23 2010, 02:39 PM
- - Mrs.CP   Cool piece of Agate Swizz, and it cleaned up nicel...   Nov 24 2010, 07:11 AM
- - yotafly   Hi every one new guy here, awesome specimens. I us...   Nov 6 2013, 10:37 AM
|- - Crusty   QUOTE (yotafly @ Nov 6 2013, 10:07 PM) Hi...   Nov 6 2013, 10:49 AM
- - Wisher   QUOTE (Mrs.CP @ Sep 10 2009, 03:07 PM) We...   Mar 5 2014, 10:30 AM
- - MikeS   I was able to use my textile gun for the first tim...   Nov 23 2014, 11:19 AM
- - Mrs.CP   Sweet specimens Mike! I'm glad to hear the...   Nov 23 2014, 11:43 AM
- - swizz   Really nice Mike! Can I ask which brand of tex...   Nov 23 2014, 02:16 PM
|- - MikeS   QUOTE (swizz @ Nov 23 2014, 02:16 PM) Can...   Nov 23 2014, 03:44 PM
- - jfresh   What's a textile cleaner? Is that just a fanc...   Feb 9 2016, 05:51 PM
- - jfresh   Feb 9 2016, 05:54 PM
- - Greenday401   I know the hard part is finding a mineral specimen...   Jan 23 2017, 06:32 PM
- - Denise   Good question! Yes there are local companies t...   Jan 24 2017, 09:23 PM

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