Clearing or cleansing crystals and minerals for magical purposes is an important part of working with stones. The details of timing and methods depend on the stones being used and your intent.
Personally I try to use the more general term “stones” instead of “crystals” because plenty of the things I work with are not crystals (such as mica-bearing schist from my local land base) and some are not even minerals (notably amber and jet). “Crystal” sounds pretty but leads to confusion; I’d rather be earthy and accurate.
The techniques I use to work with stones are determined by my understanding that everything in the world has spirit. Particular stones have particular spirits, more or less personalities, if you will, and I work with those spirits on a metaphysical level. The unique qualities of a stone, based on both its type and the particulars of this specimen, interact with my intentions for particular purposes.
Because I work with stones through intent, I think they need to be cleared regularly. Some sources disagree and say that there are certain stones which never need to be cleaned. From my perspective, it’s not necessarily the stone which needs to be cleared, it’s my intention and the way I used the stone the last time.
As a result, I clear stones when I first get them and after every time I use them. Then when I go to use them again, I’ve cleared the last working from my own mind as well, so I’m not still thinking about the last use and getting my intentions muddled up.
The only stones I can think of that I haven’t cleared are the stones which I collected from a particular land base and which I use to connect me to that land base.
I’m going to discuss multiple ways for cleansing and clearing stones, including which ones should NOT be used for particular stones. Please also do your own research to avoid damaging a specimen about which you care deeply.
Probably the easiest and safest way to clear a stone is to waft incense smoke (or fan clean air) over it. Personally, smudging stones just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me; Air and Fire are such mutable, even flighty Elements that it seems hard to put them to work on Earth, especially parts of Earth that are as fixed and stable as minerals and crystals. That said, if this works for you, or you need something to do quickly, or for a particularly fragile item, go for it.
Washing with water can damage a surprising number of stones, including (but not limited to!) salt crystals (obviously), selenite (including its form as gypsum rose or desert rose), and to a lesser extent calcite, aragonite, and angelite. Even stones that don’t dissolve can be damaged by contaminants in your water or start to have a chemical reaction with the materials of the container you put them in. In particular, if you are going to ‘wash’ stones, do NOT soak them in salt water in a reactive (metal) basin. All three parts of that – soaking, salt, and metal – have their own risks of damaging stones.
Space and time
My preferred method of cleansing stones is to use location and time. I have a designated place where I put things to be cleared for at least 24 hours. For me, this is my windowsill, so it functions as a place away from my usual work spaces and closer to the outside environment, where stones are exposed to at least one sun and moon cycle. I think of this as almost returning them to the the outdoors to ‘rest,’ or at least be separated from the specific intents that I had for them. When I interact with them again, I find that all I sense is the material’s innate qualities.
Exposing stones to direct sunlight does have its own risks. Some stones can fade in the sun, especially colored quartz varieties (such as amethyst and citrine), and also celestite, fluorite, and some topaz, among others. Personally, I don’t worry about this for short periods of time, and I make sure that my long-term storage of stones is out of direct sunlight. It’s also worth mentioning that some high-quality quartz crystals or crystal balls can act as lenses to focus sunlight, and could theoretically create enough heat to start a fire just as a magnifying glass would. Position these crystals out of direct light.
Stones that are exposed to the weather (and my windows are not particularly well insulated) can be damaged by being heated or cooled. Again, this is less of a concern over the short periods I’m talking about, but be mindful not to take a stone from right next to your Yule fire and put it outside in the snow to clear.
Another suggestion I have heard is placing stones on a bed of salt crystals to be cleansed. That makes good sense to me – it’s using Earth to clear Earth – as long as you are gentle enough not to create scratches on your softer minerals, such as selenite. If I had the right space, I might consider making a dedicated place outside where I could put my stones and leave them for a little while. I’d want them to be safe while being symbolically returned to the Earth in this way, so maybe something like a little covered space in the north corner of a yard would work, but it would depend on the details.
Obviously every method has its benefits and risks, and your preferences will depend on your personal understanding of how you work with your stones. These are my methods – what are yours?