Activated gaseous species generated adjacent a carbon contaminated surface affords in-situ cleaning. A device for removing carbon contamination from a surface of the substrate includes (a) a housing defining a vacuum chamber in which the substrate is located; (b) a source of gaseous species; and (c) a source of electrons that are emitted to activate the gaseous species into activated gaseous species. The source of electrons preferably includes (i) a filament made of a material that generates thermionic electron emissions; (ii) a source of energy that is connected to the filament; and (iii) an electrode to which the emitted electrons are attracted. The device is particularly suited for photolithography systems with optic surfaces, e.g., mirrors, that are otherwise inaccessible unless the system is dismantled. A method of removing carbon contaminants from a substrate surface that is housed within a vacuum chamber is also disclosed. The method employs activated gaseous species that react with the carbon contaminants to form carbon containing gaseous byproducts.