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OT: Cleaning Microscope Eye pieces

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  • OT: Cleaning Microscope Eye pieces

    I got a nice Nikon SMZ645 stereo zoom microscope at a recent auction and when I rotate the eye pieces I can see some dirt or maybe a grease smudge around the edges. I was thinking I could try using some Zeiss pre-moistened lens cleaning wipes and maybe a cue-tip to clean them? Well, it didn't do much good, they still seem dirty inside. It's hardly noticeable unless I'm turning the eye-pieces then you can see the small particles move but it would be nice to get them perfectly clean. Any ideas? I also noticed inside the eye piece along the inside wall is grease -- probably factory grease for adjusting the eyepiece focal length and they do turn in/out.

  • #2
    If the dirty marks are right at the edge, you may find using the wipes with new toothpicks is better than q-tips. Is the staining visible when you look through the microscope, or when you examine the eyepieces? The grease is special ultra thick stuff specially made for optical use. All quality eyepieces unscrew, they are probably three element and the lenses may disassemble, remember which way round they are for correct re assembly.

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    • #3
      I kept trying and got them clean enough now. I just needed to apply more pressure. I also balled up a fresh wipe and pressed it against the inside glass and turned it several times and that seemed to do the trick. There are a few ultra tiny specs near the edges that I can't tell are there unless I rotate the eyepiece but I'm happy with them now. Thanks!

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      • #4
        First, the recommended cleaning procedure for precision optics is to first lightly brush them with a clean, camel hair brush to remove any grit. After that you can use your favorite lens cleaning tissue. My favorite is a standard, NO LOTION Kleenex tissue. I roll it up into a rod shape, about 1/4" in diameter. Then I tear it in half, exposing two fuzzy ends. I use the first with a mild soap/detergent solution and the second one to wipe it off. Tearing it in half gives you two clean, brush like ends that are easy to use, even at the edges of the lens assembly. If you need to repeat the cleaning, use a fresh Kleenex. I said "Kleenex", brand name, because I have had good luck with them. I don't know about any brand X products. You do not want something that can scratch the lens or it's coating.

        If an exterior cleaning does not do it, then you will need to disassemble it. This is an area for caution and careful attention to detail. Most such lenses will have their elements hard spaced with some kind of spacers or by the machining of their cells. You must be very careful to note the order of disassembly and the orientation of each lens element in it. You want to put it back together in exactly the same order and relationships to each other. That means both the distance between the elements AND the orientation of those elements must be the same as it was. So DO NOTE the order and orientation of each lens element and spacer in it.

        You will probably need an adjustable spanner wrench for the disassembly. Be sure to use the correct tool as makeshift ones will often damage the retaining rings.

        Once you have the lens elements separate, you can first dust them as described above and then wash them with warm water and a mild (kitchen) detergent. Gently dry them with the above mentioned Kleenex tissues or your favorite CLEAN lens cloth. Then handle them only by the edges or with a tissue or cloth.

        Good luck.
        Paul A.
        SE Texas

        And if you look REAL close at an analog signal,
        You will find that it has discrete steps.

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        • #5
          I seem to recall from my serious camera days that only properly marked lens tissue should be used. No paper towels, toilet paper or nose wipes as they are all far more crudely made with no assurance made concerning a total lack of abrasive dust. Wet lens wipes or properly marked dry lens tissue for me.
          Chilliwack BC, Canada

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          • #6
            Ammonia might cut through some of the gunk that the alcohol on the Zeiss can't cut through.

            I used to deal with a spectrometer service tech that once told me he accidentally had good luck with cigar ash as a polish /abrasive / cleaning agent for stubborn staining on lenses.

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            • #7
              Paul has covered most of it. Not sure I'd use Kleenex though, since some some facial tissue is basically chopped up wood and recycled stuff to make pulp -- every once and a while there's a bit of grit.

              Kimwipes are a slightly higher grade of tissue and still cheap. Proper lens tissue from a recognized source better yet.

              The residue on stereo microscopes is often oily - eyes, hands, shop oils. Even if you have a lens cleaning solution that cuts it, it's common to just move it around. So you may need to use several wipes and reapplications to remove it. All this easier if you have carefully disassembled the eyepiece and can get to the entire glass surface.

              I'll often use foam swabs for application. They go where you want and have controllable pressure. The ones used for optical duty for a few swipes and the tiniest bit of oil and crap on them get saved for future shop use.

              If you have actual fungus on the lens (spot with sort of tendrils), even 99% alcohol won't remove or kill it. For that, a mix of ammonia and hydrogen peroxide.

              Might add that most every shop and room in a home has a lot of crap floating around in the air. This will settle on your lenses almost regardless of how careful you are -- a quick blow before assembly can help. If you have an air cleaner, might let it run for a couple hours and do the work in that room.

              Final point, don't use regular shop air to blow things clean, even dropped down in pressure. Might have a bit of oil and air in the line. I use bulb type blowers and also shop air through the usual filters and into a dedicated air jet with a micro fine filter directly attached.

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              • #8
                Keep away from taco bell and horror for this and get yourself the right stuff. Proper cleaning matters to protecting the optics - like rubbing dust into a fine automobile finish….you might not see scratchs but the surface is degraded. Improper cleaning of scopes damages the optics and degrades image quality. Good news is doing it properly is easy and doesn’t cost much

                I’ve 1/2 a dozen high end microscopes, I've done a fair bit of this and did my homework. Don’t use klennex tissue. As a wood product, wood sucks up abrasive from the soil and no big effort is made to remove it for something meant to blow your nose into.

                Use medical (surgical) cotton. It is the only thing to use, regular cotton has contaminants that might leave a film. A pack a little larger than a football is not much money and will last a lifetime and is pure. A kitchen skewer works well - don't touch the cotton with your hands, put the end of the skewer into the cotton and roll a bunch on it.

                As for a cleaning fluid, Zeiss lenses cleaner in the pump bottle is great stuff and is most often recommended imo by the microscopy chaps. If I ran out I wait for more to arrive; cleans everything I’ve come across (fortunately haven't encountered the dreaded fungus which can be end of optics)

                Edit. I'd add this a good practice and works for any optics - objectives, lenses, mirrors, prisms, cameras etc. Another advantage with cotton on the stick, for the initial clean, is that you can rotate with the fingers when moving across the lens so you're not dragging the dirt across the lens surface
                Last edited by Mcgyver; 03-20-2018, 09:38 AM.
                in Toronto Ontario - where are you?

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                • #9
                  Definately proper lens tissue, I've messed up a lens with a Kleenex, not impressed with myself.
                  Here's a good one, I had a twin lens reflex camera, not a hasselblad or bronica, just a cheap yashica but the large format gave some fantastic prints, let's face it the prints aren't much bigger than the negative, anyway there were spots on the screen so I took it to be serviced, the guy behind the counter said I see them, problem is they are moving!, they were too, my camera had tiny creatures living in it, he reckoned dust mites or something, very tiny monsters wandering round, the leather case was found to be the culprit.
                  Mark

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                  • #10
                    I have no problems with using proper lens tissues. But I am not so sure about Kimwipes. I have used Kimwipes for many years to clean things like video tape recorders. Their primary advantage was that they were lint free. I don't know what they are made from or if they are any better than things like paper towels or Kleenex as far as not scratching is concerned.

                    But I have cleaned a lot of optics with Kleenex and have encountered no problems. I don't know about Mark's experience and I do not doubt his word. Perhaps that was a lens that had a soft coating or some other delicate feature. Or perhaps some other problem caused the damage: grit or harsh cleaning solution or something else. If you are at all in doubt, then forget my suggestion about Kleenex. I suggest that you skip past the Kimwipes and get proper lens tissues and use them. I don't want to be blamed for a ruined lens, particularly an expensive one.

                    My point was that it is better to use whatever tissue that you choose as a brush and not to just wipe with it. I described a method of making that brush from any kind of tissue. This technique is, in my opinion, the best way to clean an optical surface unless you have specific instructions to the contrary from the manufacturer. In that case, follow those instructions.
                    Paul A.
                    SE Texas

                    And if you look REAL close at an analog signal,
                    You will find that it has discrete steps.

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                    • #11
                      Microfibre lens cloth sold by photographic shops is streets ahead of most of the suggestions so far, and it can be washed.

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by old mart View Post
                        Microfibre lens cloth sold by photographic shops is streets ahead of most of the suggestions so far, and it can be washed.
                        the optics sorts will say never use a cloth. The challenge is you don't what micro grit etc its picked up, this is not stuff you can necessarily see or wash away
                        Last edited by Mcgyver; 03-20-2018, 10:55 AM.
                        in Toronto Ontario - where are you?

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                        • #13
                          I gather you could also use urine

                          "Ammonia is also found in urine and the early Europeans often preferred pee to soap when cleaning their homes. In ancient Rome, vessels were placed on streets as urine collectors. After the buckets were full from people passing by to relieve themselves, the vats were taken to a laundry and used to wash dirty clothes."

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                          • #14
                            Being that I do this professionally, the standard is Kimwipes in the black box # 05511, they are specifically made for lenses. I use quality acetone as my main cleaning agent with Kendall brand 6" Q-tips #540500. I have some blue proprietary lens cleaning liquid for organic (fake blood, ha) smudges, but Windex will work as well, with a final swipe of acetone. I have cleaned lenses that date to the 30's and have never harmed a coating with acetone.

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                            • #15
                              She's all clean and ready to inspect whatever needs to be inspected. I can see each bit in a 2708 EPROM so it should be more than good enough for the shop



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