How should you store and handle a microscope?

Microscopes are precision optical instruments that allow users to visualize very small objects by magnifying them. Proper storage and handling procedures are crucial for keeping microscopes in peak operating condition. Following best practices will extend the life of your microscope and optimize its performance.

Quick Tips for Proper Microscope Care

Here are some quick tips to keep in mind for caring for your microscope:

  • Always cover the microscope with the dust cover when not in use.
  • Store the microscope in a clean, dry, dust-free area.
  • Avoid exposing the microscope to rapid temperature changes or direct sunlight.
  • Only transport the microscope with the arm locked and the head facing up.
  • Clean lenses frequently with lens paper or a soft cloth.
  • Never disassemble the microscope unless you are specifically trained to do so.
  • Have the microscope serviced annually by a qualified technician.

Choosing a Storage Location

Selecting an appropriate storage location is the first step in properly caring for your microscope. The ideal storage location has these characteristics:

  • Stable temperature – Avoid hot or cold temperature extremes. Fluctuating temperatures can cause condensation inside the microscope body which leads to corrosion.
  • Low humidity – High humidity encourages mold growth on the lenses and in the microscope body.
  • Minimal dust – Dust can scratch optics and interfere with mechanical components.
  • Away from chemical fumes – Chemical vapors from solvents or disinfectants corrode metal components.
  • Vibration-free – Excessive vibrations from equipment in the area can knock microscopes out of alignment.
  • Secure storage – Store in a locked cabinet or laboratory with controlled access.

Typical storage locations that meet these criteria include laboratory cabinets, dedicated storage rooms, or offices. Avoid unattended public areas, damp basements, unheated warehouses, or poorly ventilated storage closets.

Daily Storage Best Practices

Follow these best practices for storing your microscope at the end of each use:

  1. Turn off the illumination source.
  2. Remove slides and all specimens from the stage.
  3. Clean all lenses and other glass components with lens paper.
  4. Return the objective to the lowest magnification setting.
  5. Wrap the power cord neatly around the base.
  6. Cover the microscope with the dust cover.
  7. Store the microscope upright in a secure, temperature-controlled location.

Developing a routine of proper daily storage procedures will maintain your microscope in peak condition over years of use.

Long-Term Storage Considerations

For long-term storage exceeding one month, a few additional steps should be taken:

  • The microscope should be thoroughly cleaned and dried before storage.
  • Place desiccant packs inside the body to prevent internal moisture buildup.
  • Loosen tension on springs and moving components to prevent loss of tension.
  • Remove batteries from battery-powered models.
  • Store the microscope in its original packaging if possible.
  • The storage temperature should be reasonably consistent between 10-20°C.

After extended storage, microscopes should be professionally serviced and recalibrated before use. Optics and mechanics can drift out of alignment over time in storage.

Transportation Guidelines

Microscopes are delicate instruments with precision alignment that can easily be knocked out of adjustment through shock or vibration. Follow these guidelines when transporting your microscope:

  • Always lock the rotating arm in the upright position.
  • Secure the head in its storage position facing upwards.
  • Remove the eyepieces and objectives, storing them separately.
  • Detach accessory components like lamp housings or cameras.
  • Use the original packaging and foam inserts if possible.
  • Avoid extremes in temperature and humidity.
  • Keep the microscope upright at all times.
  • Cushion the microscope against vibrations using foam or padding.
  • Inform carriers that the package contains fragile instrumentation.

For in-house transport over short distances, keep one hand under the base and use the other hand to hold the arm in the vertical position. Avoid tilting or jarring the microscope during transport.

Routine Microscope Maintenance

Like any fine optical instrument, microscopes require regular maintenance to keep them performing optimally. Here are some routine maintenance tasks that users can perform:

  • Cleaning – Lenses should be cleaned before each use with lens paper. The body can be wiped down with a damp cloth.
  • Lubrication – Moving parts can be lubricated with light oil as directed in the user manual.
  • Adjustment – Verify proper adjustment of focusing mechanisms, stage, and illumination.
  • Component inspection – Check the condition of accessories like eyepieces, bulbs, cables.
  • Documentation – Record all maintenance activities to spot trends.

Any issues noted during routine maintenance should be addressed immediately to prevent further damage. Serious issues requiring disassembly or repair should only be performed by qualified professionals.

Cleaning Optics

Keeping optics clean is essential for proper microscope functionality. Follow these lens cleaning steps:

  1. Use compressed air to blow away dust particles.
  2. Gently brush remaining debris away with a camel hair brush.
  3. Breathe lightly on the lens to create moisture.
  4. Wipe the lens gently with lens paper using a circular motion.
  5. Repeat with dry lens paper until completely clean.
  6. Clean oil immersion lenses with lens cleaner solvent only.

Avoid using regular facial tissues, paper towels, or caustic cleaning solutions which can all damage the precision optical coatings.

Lubricating Components

Microscopes have many moving parts that require occasional lubrication. However, over-lubricating can attract excessive dust and debris. Typical components needing lubrication are:

  • Stage adjustment mechanisms
  • Focus gears and adjustment knobs
  • Fine and coarse focusing mechanisms
  • Slides and rotating component bearings

Use only lubricants specifically designed for optics. Light mineral oil or grease is suitable for most microscopes. Apply only a tiny amount to each component following directions in the user manual.

Professional Service and Repairs

While users can perform basic microscope maintenance themselves, professional servicing and repairs should be left to qualified technicians. Typical maintenance tasks performed during professional service include:

  • Complete disassembly, cleaning, and rebuild of the microscope body
  • Replacement of worn parts like bulb sockets or fuses
  • Precision alignment and calibration of optics
  • Electrical safety checks and rewiring as needed
  • Testing and replacement of lenses
  • Troubleshooting and repairing electronic or mechanical issues
  • Updating software on digital microscopes
  • Full functional testing and quality assurance

Most microscope manufacturers recommend annual professional service to keep instruments in top shape. For heavily-used microscopes in clinical or industrial settings, biannual servicing is ideal.

Warning Signs to Seek Service

Here are some warning signs that your microscope needs professional attention:

  • Blurry, distorted, or dim images
  • Abrupt changes in image quality
  • Sticking, grinding, or loose mechanical components
  • Failure to maintain calibration or focus
  • Electrical shorts, burning smells, or smoke
  • Optics that cannot be cleaned adequately
  • Cracked or damaged microscope body, lenses, or electronics

Do not continue using a damaged microscope in the hope that the issues will correct themselves. Seek professional servicing immediately before further damage occurs.

Safety Tips for Microscope Use

In addition to proper storage and maintenance, following safe practices when using your microscope will prevent accidents or injuries:

  • Always turn the illumination off when not viewing specimens.
  • Ensure electrical cords and plugs are not damaged before use.
  • Do not overload electrical circuits which can cause overheating.
  • Keep flammable chemicals away from illumination sources.
  • Wear eye protection when using UV fluorescence microscopes.
  • Secure volatile specimens in sealed specimen holders.
  • Clean up spills immediately to avoid stains or corrosion.
  • Follow all biological, chemical, or radiation safety protocols for specimens.

Teach all microscope users proper operating procedures and safety. Do not allow access to untrained personnel.


Microscopes represent a significant investment for any laboratory or clinical setting. Following these best practices for storage, maintenance, transport, cleaning, and safe usage will maximize the lifetime and performance of your microscope. Protect valuable equipment by keeping microscopes stored securely in a clean, stable environment. Perform regular precision cleaning of optics and components. Seek annual servicing from qualified technicians to prevent breakdowns. With proper care and handling, a high-quality microscope will provide many years of trouble-free operation.

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