Monday, March 28, 2011

The evils that beset mineral collections: 6. Dust

Is dust evil? It seems omnipresent; but dust can create serious problems for your mineral collection in two ways: by its accumulation and by its removal.

The contents of dust varies with environment. Dust in the outdoors or a garage is rich in finely powdered rock flour, as well as pollen and regional pollutants (diesel exhaust, etc.). Indoor dust also contains fine fibers, and may contain tars from smoking. Vaporized oils from cooking, spider webs, and many other things end up as dust.
  • Exhaust material and oils smudge surfaces, leave stains and may be hard to remove.
  • The quartz in rock flour scratches soft mineral surfaces and soft polished gems.
  • Fibers are hard to dislodge from delicate specimens, and are glaringly obvious in microscopy and micro-photography.
  • Thick coats of dust obscure labels and disguise features.
Mineral specimens themselves can give off dust; some species occur as fine powders, and some specimens are friable. The powders could be radioactive, or asbestiform. Protection of a mineral collection also entails protecting collectors and visitors from the collection, so it is important to store powdery, liquid, and radioactive minerals in appropriate closed containers.

Although dust can be bad, removing dust can also damage specimens and their labels. Use great care when cleaning either of these.

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