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How can I clean dirty wavellites?

Posted by Robert Simonoff  
Robert Simonoff June 17, 2009 11:11PM
Hi everyone,
We recently went to the National Limestone Quarry in Miflin, Pennsylvania with a rock club. While there, we picked up some nice big wavellite balls on matrix. We found the pieces by digging in sand, so when they came out they were covered with sand. We washed them shortly at the quarry right after picking them up by dipping them into a bucket of water and scrubbing with our fingertip. Some sand came off, but a lot still remained. We thought, Oh well, the rest will come off when we soak them for a couple of days in water and scrub them with toothbrushes. But the sand won't come off!
Does anyone have any suggestions for removing the sand that is so stuck?
Thank you!
Rock Currier June 18, 2009 08:33AM
Usually the first step in cleaning something is to look at it carefully, and by that I mean with a good ten power magnifying glass or much better yet, a good binocular microscope that you can crank up to fifty or sixty power. The reason you want to do this is to learn about the nature of the "dirt" you want to remove from your specimen. When confronted with a cleaning problem the first thing I do is to put it under the scope and use a needle or the point of a pocket knife to probe at the "dirt". If the "dirt" is embedded in the surface of the crystals you are trying to clean or just below the surface of the crystals, your job of cleaning is going to hard or perhaps impossible to achieve. If it is not embedded in or below the surface of the crystals you are trying to clean, then a lot depends on how tenaciously it is bound to them. Sometimes, the binding agent can be attacked chemically or mechanically depending on what it is and the hardness or durability of the crystals you are trying to clean. Usually the first step is to give them a good scrub, providing of course they won't be damaged by washing them or the scrub brush. If that fails, in most cases you can try high pressure water ideally generated by one of the little hand held fabric guns to see if you can blast the offending material off the specimen. If that does not work, they you really must take a close look at the specimen under a microscope to see if you can find out what is going on and them make plans accordingly. Most often that means a lot of fooling around with chemicals, the use of an air abrasive tool or with a shrug, consigning the specimens to a box in your garage to await the invention of new tools or chemical reagents that might be able to clean them.

Rock Currier
Crystals not pistols.
Robert Simonoff June 21, 2009 04:40PM
Thank you Rock for replying so quickly! I will look at the wavellite under my micromount microscope when I can.
Jasun D. McAvoy June 21, 2009 05:48PM
From what I understand, many of these wavellites are cleaned with acid...

If no one else here can provide more insights into what kind of acid, how its done, etc. etc. I will contact the person who told me about it and get back to you.

Can anyone shed some light on this?
NH June 21, 2009 06:53PM
Hydrogen peroxide might help as well - I think another thread here discussed its ability to remove clay minerals. Many minerals can catalyze its decomposition into oxygen gas and water, and the bubbles that form can help scrub off dirt. Be sure to test any chemical on a small, broken piece first to make sure the wavellite doesn't get damaged.
Mark J. Sigouin September 28, 2009 07:48PM
I've been to the National Quarry and got Wavellite there. I washed off the surface sand and clays, and then soaked them in Wood Bleach/deck cleaner/ Oxylic Acid for about a day. They came out clean and looking ok.
onesickfreak July 08, 2012 09:43AM
NEVER use oxilic acid... i tried on a tiny piece and it dissolved
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