I have dirty samples of soil that have seeds in them. the soil particles in these samples make the detection of the seeds harder for two reasons. the soil particles are the same shape and size as plant seeds and seeds are covered in the soil making them all one color so it becomes harder to differentiate if the particle is soil or seed covered in soil. is there a chemical that will dissolve all the soil and clean the seeds? I have tried washing with water, which dissolves some of the soil but not all. Please let me know. Thank you all for helping

  • $\begingroup$ Water does not dissolve soil, but create suspension or colloids at the best. // Soil can withstand much more than seeds. It is not dissimilar to trying to separate eggs and stones by a hammer, with intention of breaking the stones. $\endgroup$
    – Poutnik
    Apr 4 at 12:53

1 Answer 1


Instead of a chemical washing, I would test a physical separation (especially if it is at small scale): suspend the soild/seed sample in lukewarm water, fill this in a beaker, and immerse this beaker partially in the basket of an ultrasound bath.

The underlying presumption is the cavitation will separate the solids; some of the soil will dissolve, small stones (with a density greater than water) will fall to the bottom of the beaker, and seeds (with a density less than $\approx \pu{1 g/mL}$) will stay afloat. Don't stand the beaker on the bottom of the ultrasound bath (which is not good for the bath, and equally lowers the efficiency of the ultrasound transmission). Don't expose the seeds for too long to this exposure either (cavitation can create small spots of high temperature, and over time the temperature of an ultrasound bath typically increases, too). For the test, a smallish ultrasound bath (like the ones used by opticians to clean your glasses, or sometimes jewelry) might suffice. Don't add detergents.

  • $\begingroup$ Great idea! One might also use liquids with different densities to help separate the seeds. For example, if exposure to salt water will not cause adverse affects, it could be used to float seeds that are a bit denser than plain water. One might similarly use alcohol or naphtha to float off less dense humus from denser seeds... but not in an ultrasonic bath, lest it all go up in a fireball. $\endgroup$ Apr 2 at 23:14
  • $\begingroup$ @DrMoishePippik Long exposure to water can launch seed's germination, and can be a step in artificial cold stratification of seeds before they are put in bags of soil kept in the fridge for about a month if one missed winter. While agreeing on naphtha, US assisted ether- and esterification finds use both at lab scale and industry in closed reactors (US horns can be even more powerful, than transducer baths; i.e organic sonochemistry). $\endgroup$
    – Buttonwood
    Apr 3 at 20:51

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