If you have recently started working a job in a medical or research laboratory and have a background in mass spectrometry, then you may be in charge of the mass spectrometer in the facility. This may mean that your job involves calibrating and cleaning the machine properly and effectively. Typical cleaning likely does not involve the inside of the machine. However, the inside does need to be cleaned on occasion, and this may mean clearing the source of all debris. The source produces the ions for the device. While it does not come into direct contact with gas-phase molecules during the testing process, dirt from the laboratory as well as gasses from chemical reactions can deposit and react with the materials across the source. If you notice the mass spectrometer losing sensitivity, then it is time to clean the source. Keep reading to learn about some supplies you may need to get rid of tough and stuck-on debris.

Spun Fiberglass Brushes

If the mass spectrometer in your laboratory has not been cleaned in some time, then you may actually see rust, corrosion, and burrs starting to form on some of the surfaces that make up the source. You will need to retain the ionization function of the source, and this means staying away from common types of sandpaper that may alter the electrical properties of the part. To help with the removal of rust and corrosion debris, purchase some spun fiberglass brushes. 

Fiberglass is a material that is made up of a variety of glass fibers. These fibers are often woven together to create a rigid material for insulation or molding purposes. However, the fibers are sometimes kept separate to form filaments. In the case of spun fiberglass brushes, the fiber is wound or spun to create specific strands of the material. The strands are then gathered and bound to create the bristles of a brush. The bristles are typically held in a plastic holder or handle.

The fiber bristles are flexible but also strong enough to remove built-up debris seen on the metal pieces of the source. Gently work the bristles of the brush over any corrosion that you see. As the corrosion releases, use disposable lint-free wipes. Varieties meant for lab use that are made out of polycellulose are a good choice to reduce contamination concerns. These wipes also may be mandatory if your lab facility is considered a clean room.


If you notice stains on the front or the sides of the metal that make up the source base, then the stains may be difficult to remove with regular solvents. However, you should try to remove debris with an approved solvent that includes a mixture of water and alcohol. Solvents with active additives like acetic acid, formic acid, or ammonium hydroxide will work well to remove debris as opposed to plain water and alcohol mixtures. 

If the solvent does not release stains, then you can use mild abrasion to try to work them off the part. For any stainless-steel areas, purchase a micro-mesh made from silicone carbide. Choose a fine-grade mesh and opt for a pad product instead of a paper one with a thin backing. This will make it easier to grip the micro-mesh while cleaning.

You also should purchase some cleaning abrasive or abrasive paste to use with the pads. Choose an aluminum-oxide paste. You can also find some micro-mesh products that have the aluminum oxide built into the pads. If you choose to use the paste, then add a very small amount to the metal of the source and gently rub the area with the micro-mesh. As the stains come off, move to another small section of the part. Use your lint-free wipes to release the paste and buff the source afterward.