Microscope Maintenance: Everything You Need to Know

A microscope is a complex piece of equipment made with dozens of small but important components. With regular use, these parts can become dirty, damaged or worn down, affecting the quality of the image and the performance of the device as a whole. And since your microscope was probably a reasonably large investment, it’s important that you keep it in great shape so that it serves you for many years to come. Luckily, cleaning your scope and addressing routine repairs are easy ways to ensure that yours remains functional well into the future.

Follow the instructions in this guide for more information on how to keep your equipment in great shape through proper cleaning that gets your scope back to a like-new state. You may also need to perform the occasional part swap out, replacing microscope parts and components like the light bulb, eyepiece, lens or head to keep the device operating like new even if it’s a decade old. Read on to learn the basics of these important routine tasks.

Knowing When It’s Time for Maintenance

The first sign that your microscope is dirty or broken is poor image quality. You may see a blurry, obscured or weak picture as a result of dirt, dust or a scratch on the camera or lens. An imperfect picture could also be caused by the slide or specimen, so you want to rule that out before diving into any deep cleaning or repairs. If you’ve made all the necessary adjustments, as well as experimented with illumination, zoom and other settings but you still don’t see a clear picture, it’s probably time to consider doing a bit of microscope maintenance starting with cleaning.

Cleaning Microscopes 101: Keeping Lenses Crystal Clear

Microscope cleaning should be done in two parts: regular wipe downs (performed after each use) and occasional deep cleans. If you use your microscope every day and tend to work around messy oils and specimens (or let’s be honest kids or students), you will want to consider giving your device a thorough clean once a week. Clean, careful labs can get away with deep cleaning monthly or biweekly.

What You Need

There are a few simple things you should have on hand to keep your scope sparkling at all times. These essentials can be used for day-to-day touch-ups and wipe downs after each use as well as occasional deep cleans. For the very best results, you want to purchase a microscope cleaning kit that includes everything you need to safely clear away dirt, dust or impurities affecting the quality of the scope.

  • Use a microscope cleaning kit or make your own with:

    • Non-aerosol optical lens cleaner

    • Compressed air cleaner

    • A gentle cleaning brush

    • Anti-static, anti-lint lens wipes (we recommend KimWipes)

    • Lens cleaning solution (we recommend Sparkle)

    • Cotton-tipped applicators

Cleaning Your Scope

The easily accessible glass components including the eyepiece lenses, objective front lenses and condenser lenses can occasionally attract dust, dirt and oil, creating obscured images. Naturally, these are some of the most fragile parts of the scope, so meticulous care and attention to detail are required. The other pieces and parts of your microscope can be carefully deep cleaned without such a light hand.

  1. You can clean these parts first by rotating or disassembling any parts and components, so you have easier access to specific parts. Do not leave the microscope disassembled for too long, as this could introduce additional contaminants.

  2. Wipe down glass pieces with a soft, microfiber cloth or microscope wipes, which are made specifically for clearing away imperfections on the glass. Use a loupe to get a better view of the surface debris.

  3. To clear away any impurities on the objectives, eyepieces and Barlow lenses, use a special microscope optical lens cleaner, and carefully follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Apply using a soft cotton-tipped applicator working in the solution in a spiral motion.

  4. For deeper cleans, employ your gentle cleaning brush to get rid of any dirt or dust that may have settled deep into the small spaces between parts. You can use your compressed air to dislodge dirt and debris as long as you don’t use it on any glass components.

  5. To clean the stand or the specimen holder, moisten your cleaning cloth with diluted water and gentle, diluted soap and wipe down the parts as needed.

  6. Allow all components to completely dry.

General Cleaning Tips

In addition to the instructions above, you’ll want to keep the following tips in mind as you clean, care for and maintain your microscope.

  • Thoroughly Clean Immersion Oil—One of the biggest culprits of a dirty microscope is immersion oil debris, which can attract dirt and debris that can compromise image quality and, if left untreated, scratch the surface of the lens. Always use your KimWipes to clean off excess oil after use. Occasionally, you can use an oil-soluble solvent (naphtha, xylene or turpentine) to get rid of stubborn immersion oil buildup.

  • Use the Right Tools—This one’s especially important when cleaning lenses, optics and any glass components on the microscope. Always avoid any cleaning tools that may scratch the surface of the lens, causing irreparable damage. That includes stiff brushes, toothbrushes, tissue paper and any other abrasive materials that could compromise the surface. Never clean any part of your microscope with regular household cleaners, especially glass cleaner.

  • Wear Gloves and Don’t Touch Glass—You might not realize it, but even if you just washed your hands, your fingertips are loaded with dirt, oils and debris that could leave behind residue on the scope and its parts. Wear soft, cotton gloves and try your best not to let your fingertips or bare skin touch any fragile components of the scope, especially any glass.

  • Follow a Regular Cleaning Schedule—As you know, microscopes are complex scientific tools that cost money. To ensure that your investment lasts as long as possible and that you’re not stuck replacing costly parts, make (and most importantly follow) a regular cleaning schedule. This will vary based on how often you use your scope, but usually once a week or every other week is ideal for a thorough clean.

  • Skip the Compressed Air on the Lens—Some manuals may recommend using compressed air to get into the nooks and crannies of the scope to dislodge any dirt or dust that may have settled within the parts. This is fine as long as you don’t use it to clean the lens, as too much pressure or cold air can cause irreparable damage. Compressed air also tends to leave behind tiny residue or a film that’s very difficult to remove.

Keeping Your Scope in Tip Top Shape: Repairs and Replacements

Occasionally, you’ll need to give your microscope a bit of a tune-up. This is actually good news because it means that—unlike so many other gadgets and devices we use in our day-to-day lives—high-quality scopes can be maintained and repaired rather than replaced, ultimately saving you money over time. You should perform all of the following maintenance items once a year or so or whenever pieces obviously need to be replaced or upgraded.

  • Replacing the Light Bulb—Your microscope light bulb will need to be replaced occasionally, especially if it’s a tungsten, halogen or fluorescent bulb that has a short life. If possible, replace these bulbs with longer-lasting LEDs so you don’t have to swap them out quite as often. Replace your bulb according to the manufacturer’s instructions and reference our microscope bulb replacement guide for tips and info.

  • Tightening Collars and Knobs—With regular use, the collars, knobs and fasteners on your scope may become loose and will need to be tightened. You will occasionally need to tighten these components using a special set of wrenches—including double-sided friction collar wrenches and Allen wrenches—and screwdrivers. Sometimes, the microscope comes with these pieces or calls out the specific tools required in the user manual. You can tighten up the scope’s nose piece and focus knob using the tools.

  • Lubricating Moving Parts—Occasional lubrication is important for virtually any piece of equipment with moving parts, including your microscope. After cleaning, apply a thin layer of grease to any moving or sliding parts to free up the movement, tightening the tension knob to restore some of the tension if needed. Check with your microscope’s manufacturer for more information, but we generally recommend a lithium-based grease for this purpose.

  • When in Doubt, Reference the Manual—AmScope microscopes come with a detailed user manual that you can reference should you come across any specific microscope issues or concerns. Our manuals offer remedies for unclear images, flickering lights, improper coloring, burnt fuses and many other commonly troubleshooted microscope challenges. When in doubt, break out your manual or give us a call.

Storage and Transport

The final crucial component of microscope maintenance is storage. The way you store your scope when it’s not in use will affect how long and how well it performs, so this is certainly not something you want to overlook. Additionally, proper storage helps prevent any serious damage or recurring issues, such as dirty or scratched lenses, therefore helping to cut down on the necessary cleaning and maintenance required by you.

The most important thing you need to remember with regard to storage is to always put your microscope away inside the dust cover. These covers exist for the sole purpose of keeping dust and dirt away from the fragile microscope components, but they also protect against any dangerous solvents, chemicals or gases that tend to be present in lab and research environments. Always replace your microscope dust cover right away if the cover has become ripped, torn or damaged in any way.

If possible, store your scope in a cool, dry area and transport it only inside a purpose-built carrying case with interior padding. If you intend to take your microscope with you while you travel, including on an airplane or in a car, be sure to transport it within an aluminum carrying case. Check with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) about how to transport your microscope if you’re traveling by air. If allowed, carry your scope onto the plane so you know it’s being properly handled at all times.

Keeping Your Scope in Perfect Condition

When you’re formulating a microscope maintenance plan or addressing regular scope-related issues, remember one important fact: Your microscope was an investment that will last with the proper levels of care and attention. As long as you spend some time researching the appropriate way to address regular maintenance, you’ll be able to enjoy your scope for the long run without having to spend money on a brand new model.

If you have any questions at all about cleaning, caring for or maintaining your AmScope microscope, please feel free to reach out to us anytime. You can also use our microscope manual download library to find your scope’s user manual and get more insight on how to care for your specific model.