This paper describes the physical processes that occur when high-power continuous-wave laser light interacts with absorbing particles on a low-Absorption optical surface. When a particulate-contaminated surface is illuminated by high-power continuous-wave laser light, a short burst of light is emitted from the surface, and the particles rapidly heat over a period of milliseconds to thousands of degrees Celsius, migrating over and evaporating from the surface. The surviving particles tend to coalesce into larger ones and leave a relatively flat residue on the surface. The total volume of the material on the surface has decreased dramatically. The optical surface itself heats substantially during illumination, but the surface temperature can decrease as the material is evaporated. Optical surfaces that survive this process without catastrophic damage are found to be more resistant to laser damage than surfaces that have not undergone the process. The surface temperature of the conditioned surfaces under illumination is lower than that of unconditioned surfaces. These conditioning effects on particles occurred within the first 30 s of laser exposure, with subsequent laser shots not affecting particle distributions. High-speed photography showed the actual removal and agglomeration of individual particles to occur within about 0.7 ms. Elemental changes were measured using time-of-flight secondary ion mass spectroscopy, with conditioned residuals being higher in hydrocarbon content than pristine particles. The tests in this study were conducted on high-reflectivity distributed Bragg reflector coated optics with carbon microparticles in the size range of 20-50 μm, gold particles of size 250 nm, and silica 1 μm in size.