A method using atomic hydrogen for removing carbon contamination from optical surfaces. The method is particularly useful for removing carbon and hydrocarbon contamination in-situ from the surface of the multilayer optics used for extreme ultraviolet lithography (EUVL) without degrading the quality of the optical surface. Atomic hydrogen at pressures in the range of about 10.sup.-3 and 10.sup.-4 Torr without the potentially detrimental heating of the optic is used to provide cleaning rates of about 6-60 .ANG./hr.
 This invention was made with Government support under contract no. DE-AC04-94AL85000 awarded by the U.S. Department of Energy to Sandia Corporation. The Government has certain rights in the invention.