Selenite is a very beautiful crystal, but it’s also soft and water-soluble. This means you need to take a gentle hand when cleaning it up, or you can end up destroying your specimen. There are a few approaches, but the one I’ve outlined below is the one I’ve had the most success with. I’ll also discuss what not to do afterward, to help you avoid making any costly errors.
So, let’s take a look at how to clean selenite crystals, and what to avoid when doing so.
What You Need To Get Started
You’ll only need a few things to handle this task. The list of what not to do has a far larger list of ingredients in this case.
You should have most of these around the house:
- Wooden or Plastic Wedge- I carve the tips of craft dowels with a pocket knife. It just needs to remain thick enough to be sturdy.
- Nylon Brush- Just the ones similar to a toothbrush are fine. A toothbrush will also make a fine substitute if you have an old one around.
- Microfiber Cloth- A cloth like those for glasses instead of a rag is the best choice for this, but a rag will work. I use old polishing cloths for silver instead sometimes.
- Rag or Shop Towel- Anything works, just make sure it can absorb a little bit of water.
For once we’ve got no real need for PPE or any safety discussions. If you’re going to go off script here I really recommend reading the section on what not to do beforehand.
How To Clean Selenite Crystals
1. Clear Large Debris With a Wooden Wedge
Selenite often has larger particles attached to it when it’s pulled from the ground. You can’t just charge ahead with a dental probe or other steel pokey thing like normal, however, since gypsum (the mineral which forms selenite) is extremely soft.
This large debris still needs to be removed for the selenite to be properly cleaned. Whether it’s pebbles or clay packed in crevices, however, we can get it out.
My go-to is a ¼” craft dowel whittled down to an appropriate wedge. Plastic wedges, like those found in clay-forming kits, can also work.
Be careful when pulling anything from cavities or hollows. Often the material trapped there is much harder than the selenite. The best policy is simply to “bump” most debris away from the edges of the crystal.
Cavities may require a finer point to get into. You can whittle a finer point onto a dowel to get in there, but remember that even clay particles are harder than selenite. Don’t worry about finer dust at this point, just use this to knock off the bigger stuff.
2. Use a Nylon Brush and Microfiber for the Surface
You’ll now want to use an old toothbrush or nylon shop brush to go over the surface. Lightly dust anywhere you can see particles, brushing down and away from yourself to scatter them. The dry particles should remove themselves quickly.
After that, you’ll want to go over the entire crystal with a microfiber cloth. I’ve found that the ones used for glasses or for polishing cloths are the best for removing fine dust, but even a rag like those used for cleaning cars will get the job done.
At this point, you need to evaluate whether you want to go any further. Often the crystals will be clean enough here, but if there’s still anything you’re unhappy with we can proceed to the next step.
3. Use a Damp Rag
Damp is the key here, not dripping wet. The problem is that gypsum is soluble in water to some extent, and you don’t want to dissolve the surfaces of the crystal. A damp rag will still help mop up the last bits of stuff that dry cleaning wasn’t able to finish.
Don’t scrub too hard, and try not to get the crystal dripping wet while you’re working on it. Don’t worry if you’ve got hard water, drying it off will keep calcium stains from showing up on the surface of the crystal.
You’ll want another rag as well. Use this one to delicately dry off the crystal once you’ve finished.
I recommend setting the crystals in a cool dry place after washing them, to let the residual water evaporate. At this point you’ll actually have to alter the crystal if you’re trying for a better look, which will require some careful work with sandpaper.
What Not to Do When Cleaning Selenite
The above procedure works for me. There may be some slight differences depending on the person you ask. For instance, bathing them in water for a couple of minutes before using the rag.
That said, there are some things you absolutely don’t want to do if you’re looking to preserve your crystal:
- Cleaning Products- Don’t use anything, even dish soap, when cleaning selenite. The chances of interaction are too high.
- Vinegar or Acid Washing- If you’re tempted… don’t. These will destroy the crystals quickly.
- Steel Brushes and Picks- Avoid both of these when you’re cleaning off debris. Steel brushes are fantastic for jaspers and agates… but they’ll gouge selenite in no time at all.
- Tumble- You can tumble selenite, but if you have crystals worth cleaning individually I recommend against it since they tend to break into smaller chunks.
Conditions matter when you store your selenite as well. Try to find a place with low humidity, no direct sunlight, and generally out of the way.
As long as your plan doesn’t involve any of the above qualities, you can give it a shot.
One last note: be careful not to use too much force when cleaning these crystals. They tend to be brittle and may have internal fractures. Most things will come off with a bit of patience, so just relax and have at it!