The same recommendation for your personal health applies to microscopes: clean regularly. Not only can the surface areas of microscopes become contaminated from frequent use, but you should also consider the possibility of contamination from the specimens involved. Because of this, the user contact points, such as the eyepieces, focus knob, and microscope body, plus the computer keyboard and mouse, should be decontaminated regularly.
Not all infectious agents are created equal, and as a result, different cleaning agents should be used in different scenarios. Infectious agents can come in a variety of forms. From most resistant to least resistant, they can be grouped as follows: bacterial spores, mycobacteria, non-enveloped viruses, fungi, vegetative bacteria, and enveloped viruses. Be sure to research if your selected disinfectant is effective against your selected specimen in the case of contamination.
A special consideration to make with microscopes is the sensitivity of the optics lenses and body. Keep in mind that not all components and materials of your microscope can resist chemicals, and rough or abrasive cleaning agents can easily damage your microscope’s build. Rubbers, glues, plastic components, or surface coatings of optical components could be adversely affected by certain disinfectants. Consult your microscope’s manual for proper cleaning techniques or contact your microscope technician if you’re unsure. Always ask first to avoid an expensive mistake!
In a lab setting, disinfecting tools with heat is a common practice. For example, you may be used to disinfecting certain lab equipment under a flame or in boiling water. However, microscopes are extremely sensitive to extreme temperatures, so never disinfect any microscope components with heat. Handle microscope components with care and use gentle cleaning techniques.
Similarly, you may be quite familiar with disinfecting your workstation with approved chemicals. However, keep in mind that not all components of your microscope can resist chemicals. Softer components such as rubber, plastic, or adhesives can easily be damaged by the wrong chemical. What works for your lab station may not work for your microscope, so check with your microscope sales representative or sales technician first before cleaning with any chemicals.
While keeping your microscope clean and protected is a high priority, the top priority is your own safety! Only handle chemicals with your bare hands if it is explicitly stated to be safe. Otherwise, use proper cleaning tools and protective equipment such as cotton swabs, optical cloths, lens cleaning paper, and/or latex gloves.
In some instances, it may be more convenient to avoid cleaning the microscope itself and instead use removable components. In high-touch areas that are prone to contamination, you may be able to use a disposable or reusable plastic film to protect the microscope. Just be sure to frequently dispose of or disinfect these components as they are still prone to the same types of contamination that the microscope would otherwise be susceptible to.
It’s ok to not know everything about microscope cleaning and maintenance. That’s what our friendly customer service representatives here at Nuhsbaum are here for! Taking the time to consult with an expert is always worth avoiding an expensive and sometimes irreversible mistake.
Your microscope is only as clean as your workstation. Avoid a situation where contaminants from your workstation are spread to your microscope by regularly cleaning your workstation with proper chemicals and techniques. It’s both good for your health and the longevity of your microscope!