Fresh microcline, albite, and almandine, along with soil grains, were treated with various traditional pretreatments prior to observation with scanning electron microscopy (SEM). The grains were observed with SEM and given ratings for each of several surface properties to determine which pretreatments produced clean surfaces on soil grains without laboratory-induced damage on the fresh mineral grains.
Gentle overnight shaking in 2% sodium bicarbonate at pH 9.5 produced the most effective cleaning of soil grains with the least amount of induced damage to fresh mineral samples. This pretreatment was equivalent to that given the control samples (shaken overnight in distilled water) for observations of etch pits on fresh mineral samples within a 25% equivalence (or negligible difference) interval. Ultrasonification, hydrogen peroxide, and boiling hydrochloric acid caused the most damage to mineral samples, mainly in the form of 0.5-µm etch pits. Boiling hydrochloric acid, boiling nitric acid, and stannous chloride resulted in increased coated surfaces on soil grains.