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In general, infinite-age contamination can make a sample considerably older while modern contamination can make the sample significantly younger than its true age.
Regardless of the carbon dating methodology employed, be it radiometric dating or the accelerator mass spectrometry (AMS) method, a process must be done before analysis to get rid of all possible contaminants. Radiocarbon dating labs receive various materials for analysis but not all portions of the samples can be used.
There is no standard method for pretreatment applicable to all samples for radiocarbon dating.The pretreatment method employed depends on the type of sample and the possible contaminants.Radiocarbon dating labs must therefore be informed of the environmental conditions and preservation techniques done to the sample before carbon-14 analysis.It must be noted that radiocarbon dating is only applicable to materials that were once part of a living organism.Bones, shells, wood, charcoal, peat, linen, wool, and parchment are the common materials submitted for radiocarbon testing.
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There are two types of pretreatment usually applied to samples for carbon dating—physical and chemical.