Microscopes are highly sophisticated and often expensive pieces of equipment that have the potential to last many years. However, even though the structure of microscopes is typical very robust and constructed from metal, they can become dirty.
Additionally, the optics are the most delicate parts of the microscope and by far the most difficult to clean and maintain, that’s why it’s so important to know exactly how to clean and protect microscope lenses, as without a functional lens it is practically useless.
First things first, as we’ve all heard prevention is better than cure, and in the case of cleaning microscopes, this is very true.
Dust is the number one enemy of microscopes, particularly of the lenses and other glass components, that’s why it’s always advised that you should avoid contamination, to begin with. This is best achieved by using a dust cover, a lot of microscopes come with these upon purchase, however, if not they are generally inexpensive to buy.
Locating the Impurities
Next, if you notice any impurities within your field of view when looking down your microscope, you want to determine the cause. Before considering cleaning your microscope optics, it’s a good idea to double check if it’s not caused by something less obvious, such as an incorrect diaphragm setting. If after checking the components, you are sure there are impurities, you will want to proceed to clean your microscope.
It’s not always simple to pinpoint the exact location of the dirt or impurity, to determine if the dirt is on your camera lenses you can simply begin turning your lenses. If the position of the dirt changes when you rotate the camera, then it is located elsewhere.
To examine other components of your microscope, it’s a wise idea to isolate each of them so you can investigate carefully and rule them out one by one without confusion.
Removing the Dirt
Dirt is a very generic term, yet when cleaning your microscope you need to be aware of the different types of dirt or impurities. There are non-permanent impurities such as dust, dead skin cells and other tiny fragments.
More persistent impurities include water-soluble and solvent-soluble types, you can also discover combinations of the two.
So, how do you remove different types of dirt from your microscope? Well after determining the type of dirt you’re dealing with you should opt for compressed air to remove non-permanent dirt while cleaning liquids should be reserved for more stubborn impurities.
Compressed air is ideal because it removes dirt easily, without the need for harsh rubbing which has the potential to scratch or spread dirt on your optics.
If the dirt is ore stubborn, you will need to use a cleaning liquid and an appropriate cloth, always use a gentle cloth that won’t cause damage. Next, it’s vital that you don’t use the cloth alone, as rubbing away at stubborn, caked on dirt can cause scratches and damage your lens.
Additionally, you should only use water and 100% solvents, no mixtures, and avoid solvents containing ammonia and acetone. A good technique is to apply water using your breath, then gently rubbing using soft cotton wool, then if appropriate apply a small amount of solvent, this should do the job well.