Cleaning Calcite with Vinegar: Beginners-Read This First

If you are planning on dropping your calcite into a solution of vinegar, please stop and read this article first.

When you first start getting serious about collecting rocks (meaning you start cleaning them up to make them look awesome), you have a lot of choices about what to use on them. Most serious rock collectors gain their knowledge and skills through experience, mainly, just try it out and see what happens.

If you have a stone in hand that you want to clean up, you might consider tumbling it, scrubbing it, soaking it in a solution. You might be looking at using Iron Out, citric acid, vinegar, bleach, baking soda, the list goes on.

As a newer rockhounder, you may still be developing experience with identifying your material.

As a hobby rockhounder, in most cases it won’t matter too much if you don’t know what specific rock you’ve brought home. If you take general precautions to avoid ingesting the rock or its particulate while handling it or cleaning it, for the most part there isn’t a worry.

But when it comes to using chemicals to try and clean up, smooth out, or shine up a stone, the material does matter. If you drop a stone into a chemical solution without knowing much about what you’ve put together, you could either cause a bad reaction or destroy your stone.

Can You Clean Calcite with Vinegar?

In general, we don’t recommend it.

Calcite is generally a white or colorless mineral made of us calcium carbonate. It is found around the world, and comes in various crystal shapes as well as in other colors. It’s chemical makeup is such that when it is bathed in a solution of vinegar, a chemical reaction results.

The chemical reaction is beyond the scope of this article. But the takeaway is that vinegar (especially a strong concentration of it) can dissolve the calcite material.

In other instances, the vinegar might not have time to dissolve the entire calcite piece, but it can dissolve the outer edges of the stone, potentially leaving the surface of the piece irregular or even cloudy.

But Why Do People Post Positive Results About Cleaning Calcite With Vinegar?

Like we said above, most of rock collecting is experience. People try all kinds of things and then report back about their results. People often use vinegar to soak a piece of material without telling you how strong the vinegar was, or for how long they soaked it.

The other thing that probably happens is that newbie collectors have not correctly identified the stone.

Or perhaps the solution used was extremely diluted with water.

You could probably get away with soaking calcite in a very mild solution of vinegar and water without any significant effects or damage. Heck, you could probably drop a piece of calcite into a strong solution of vinegar and get some results if you pull it out quickly.

You might even come away with a good looking piece of calcite if the vinegar takes off the outer layers of organic matter or stubborn dirt.

But knowing what vinegar could do to an honest piece of calcite means that we won’t use it to clean calcite.

The same is true for Lime Away and CLR. We see the recommendation that you use CLR as a dip for calcite to remove outer layers of the stone. But given what it could do to the stone, we choose to steer away from these products.

What Is The Best Way To Clean Calcite?

The first step in this process is to make sure that the material you have is, in fact, calcite.

After you’ve identified your stone, let’s talk about cleaning up that piece of calcite.

Clean the Stone Really Well

In general, the first thing we recommend is that you soak the stone in water, then scrub it with regular dish soap or even laundry soap and a medium stiffness brush. Rinse and repeat. Then see what is left or what remains to be addressed.

Cleaning Off Organic Matter

Sometimes stones have really stubborn lichen, algae deposits, other organic matter, or even mold on the stones. If cleaning the stones with soap doesn’t work, you can try soaking them for a few days in water diluted bleach. This should kill any lingering mold, and loosen up anything clinging to the stone so you can scrub it off.

Soaking the stones in grocery store strength hydrogen peroxide could also do the job of cleaning off the organic material for good.

Cleaning Off Iron Stains

While bleach will tackle the organic matter, bleach will do little for the dark brown/red iron stains.

Instead, it is pretty common to see folks use Iron Out (or Super Iron Out) to take care of those stubborn stains.

A really good tip we’ve seen and agree with is that you should pull the rocks out of the Iron Out solution periodically and scrub at the stains, especially in the cracks, to help prevent stubborn deposits from staying behind.

Another thing we recommend is that you soak the stones in water before and after you soak them in Iron Out to help prevent the residue from the Iron Out reaction from accumulating in the cracks in your stone.

See, Cleaning Stones with Iron Out: A Beginner’s Guide

Tumbling Calcite to Clean It Up

Calcite is a really soft stone. As a result, it is not necessarily an ideal stone to tumble, as the tumbling process can destroy the material.

If you want to try tumbling your calcite, here’s what we recommend:

  • tumble calcite with calcite, and don’t mix in any other harder stones
  • check the material on a daily basis
  • tumble without water

When All Else Fails

You could always just grind off or cut off the section of the rock with the stains that won’t come off.

Wrap Up

As we said in the beginning of this article, the best way to figure out what works best for you and your materials is to test the proposed strategy with a piece of your own. Try out your cleaning solution (whatever it is) with a piece of material that does not matter to you. See what happens with it.

Makes notes.

Then try again.

Over time, you’ll develop your own experience and you’ll know what works for your stones and what you need to avoid.

Still looking at other ideas for cleaning up your stones:

You can also head over to the YesDirt Rockhounding Knowledge Vault.