Mask fabrication process, transportation, storage, and handling contribute to contamination of 157nm reticles and modified fused silica substrates, resulting in transmission loss. A stable VUV cleaning procedure for contaminated binary, alternating, and attenuated phase shift reticles has been developed. This cleaning procedure was verified by lithographic imaging on the 157nm ASML MS-VII exposure scanner. A point-to-point steady state dose transmission uniformity range across a batch of 25 wafers (the exposure conditions of which were equivalent to that of a 300 mm wafer, 26mm×33mm fields, 50mJ/cm2) that were exposed with a modified fused silica substrate, was found to be <0.24% for a reticle that was cleaned prior to exposure using this VUV cleaning process. In-situ laser cleaning of contaminated mask substrates during exposure in the MS-VII resulted in 1% change in transmission at doses of up to 20 J/cm2, above which transmission remains stable (<0.24% variation). The cleaning procedure involves exposing the contaminated reticle in the UVO Reticle Cleaning Station for 30 minutes, using a cleaning gas mixture of N2/O2=99%/1%. Transmission loss due to contamination within the clean room is limited to 1 - 2 % and is reversible upon VUV cleaning. Flare levels of 3% were measured on contaminated reticle relative to a clean state of the same reticle. VUV cleaning is not only good for improving and maintaining stable mask transmission, but it is also good for preventing reticle contamination-induced flare. Contamination rate and contaminant type appear to be dependent on the storage environment of mask substrates and reticles. Typical contaminants included molecular acids (halogens, sulfur, sulfates), molecular bases (ammonia, amines), molecular condensables (hydrocarbons, alcohols, ketones, fatty acids, siloxanes, phthalate), molecular dopant (boron) and molecular metals (Ca, Mg, Al, Cu). Contamination of mask substrates appears to be through a competitive adsorption phenomenon, whereby low molecular weight species with high vapor pressure and low adsorption energies are over time replaced by large molecular weight ones with low vapor pressure and high adsorption energies.