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Hunting for rocks at the seaside is a pleasurable pastime, and there are many treasures to be found. If you find a remarkable specimen you want to take home, it may require some cleaning before its beauty can be fully appreciated. Some beach rocks could be encrusted with broken shells, mud, or other deposits.
The best way to clean rocks from the beach is with a scrubbing brush, warm water, and dish soap. If that doesn’t work, you could try various acid solutions to remove stubborn stains. For delicate rocks, you can use an ultrasonic cleaner. You could also use a sandblaster, pressure cleaner, or water gun.
Running water alone is usually not enough to clean these rocks, although a lot of flaky crustiness can be broken off by hand. However, revealing their true color and texture takes a bit more work. You can use several methods to clean rocks from the beach, depending on how much time and money you are prepared to spend.
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How To Clean Rocks From The Beach?
There are a number of methods for cleaning rocks from the beach. Below you will find 7 simple and frequently used methods of how to do it so let’s take a look at them!
If the rock is hard and unlikely to crumble, your first resort should be scrubbing it. However, some rock types are very soft and can be irreparably damaged by scrubbing, so you need to know about different rock types.
Rocks commonly found on beaches include jasper, petrified wood, rhyolite, quartz, dolomite, agates, and geodes. These are generally hard enough to scrub safely. Conglomerate, limestone, calcite, and fluorite are not that tough, so you must sort your specimens beforehand.
You should put your rocks in a bucket or tub of lukewarm water to which you have added a bit of dishwashing liquid. Use a regular scrubbing brush with nylon bristles, some rubber gloves, and have at it.
Scrub as hard as you can and try to get the bristles into all the crevices and holes. For small rocks or rocks with hard-to-reach indentations, an old toothbrush is helpful. You can also use tools like dental picks, tweezers, or large pins to reach into small pits and cavities.
For hard, larger rocks, you can use a wire brush with brass bristles, but these are best avoided if you think there’s a possibility of scratching or damaging the smooth surface.
Cleaning with chemicals should only be considered if you can’t clean the rocks by soaking and scrubbing them.
If your rocks still aren’t clean after scrubbing, you can try soaking them in cleaning vinegar, a mild acid.
If you want to free your rock from shallow limestone deposits, this should dissolve them. You will have to soak the stone in the vinegar solution for a few days, and if you see bubbles rising, it is working.
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Some cleaning products contain oxalic acid, or it can be purchased as a powder, which can be used to remove iron oxide stains and clay deposits from your rock.
Oxalic acid is one of the safest acids for cleaning stones apart from vinegar. It will clean many minerals, including quartz, with brown iron oxide staining, but you should always mix it with water before soaking your rocks in it.
You can re-use the oxalic acid many times before it becomes too contaminated. Oxalic acid is toxic to pets and humans, so don’t use it on surfaces where food is prepared or in ceramic dishes, and don’t let it get onto your skin or into your eyes.
TIP: If you are interested in buying oxalic acid for cleaning rocks and minerals, I recommend you buy this one (Amazon link).
Muriatic acid is another name for hydrochloric acid that you can buy in hardware stores, but it is a dangerous chemical that you should try to avoid.
However, it can be used to remove carbonates and resistant iron oxide stains from your rocks. Before trying any acid, you should always wash your specimens with water and mild dishwashing soap and get them as clean as possible.
When the muriatic acid has turned yellow, brown, or green, put the rocks in a bucket of warm water with added household baking soda to neutralize the acid.
Then wash the rocks repeatedly in clean water for a few hours or days, depending on how long it was exposed to the acid. You should do your research before using hydrochloric acid so that you know how to dispose of it safely.
Always use chemically resistant gloves and safety goggles when working with any type of acid.
TIP: If you are interested in buying muriatic acid for cleaning rocks and minerals, I recommend you buy this one (Amazon link).
TIP: Beach rocks are great for tumbling. If you are interested in tumbling rocks but do not know how much the tumbling cost check out the article below:
Ultrasonic cleaners can be used for more delicate rocks like zeolites and crystals, but they are expensive. They consist of a stainless-steel basin with piezoelectric drivers that cause the solution in which you are soaking the rocks to vibrate at ultrasonic frequencies. They usually have heaters and timers built-in and come in different sizes.
The vibration causes bubbles to form and then collapse, quickly scrubbing off dirt and soluble mineral deposits. You can use an oxalic acid solution in the cleaner to significant effect if they come with a heater that keeps the liquid just below boiling point.
TIP: If you are interested in buying a non-expensive ultrasonic cleaner for cleaning small rocks and minerals, I recommend you buy this one (Amazon link).
Sandblasting is another way to clean beach rocks. The blaster itself is relatively inexpensive, but you have to use it with a compressor which can cost a fair bit. You can use it to blast your rock with grains of table salt or tiny glass beads with different hardnesses.
It may be a sound investment for an avid rockhound, but the expense of the compressor is not worth it for casual collectors. Also, you need to know what you are doing to avoid damaging your rock.
BTW: Do you want to know more about rock and mineral identification? The books listed below are the best ones you can find on the internet (Amazon links):
- Smithsonian Handbooks: Rocks & Minerals
- Gemstone & Crystal Properties (Quick Study Home)
- Ultimate Explorer Field Guide: Rocks and Minerals (National Geographic Kids)
You can also buy a small water gun used by dry cleaners to spot clean fabric, which creates a high-powered water jet of fine droplets that can loosen hardened clay and mud. They are relatively inexpensive and worth the price if you clean rocks often.
TIP: Do you know how funny activity dyeing rocks can be? It is a great activity for doing with kids. Find out more about dyeing rocks with food coloring in the article below:
How Do You Remove Sand From Rocks?
Sand consists of fine, loose particles that can be rinsed off under running water reasonably easily. You can put your rocks on a sieve or screen and spray them with a pressure washer or high-pressure garden hose or for a while.
If your stones are pitted or cracked, the pressurized water can reach in and rinse out most of the sand.
You could also take the rocks to a car wash and use their pressure washer. You may have to let the rocks dry out and repeat the process several times. A pen-knife blade can be used to prise out bigger sand particles from cracks and crevices.
You can also use toothpicks and toothbrushes to scrape off fine sand. If you have an air compressor, you use the compressed air to blast the sand off your rock. You will have to attach a nozzle to the hose so that you can direct the air in bursts around the rock.
Brushing your rock with a nylon scrubbing brush can also be used to remove sand. Although beach sand is very fine and gets in everywhere, brushing and washing should remove just about all of it.
The little fabric guns mentioned previously work very well at removing sand from fine cracks in the rock.
There are several ways to clean beach rocks with varying levels of intensity. Always protect your skin and eyes from chemicals and flying grit and be very careful with acids. Your first resort should always be dish soap, water, and a nylon scrubbing brush before moving on to any of the other methods.
TIP: You weren’t so lucky and didn’t find any sea glass on the beach? Don’t be sad, you can make your own sea glass! Check out the step-by-step guide in the article below: