How To Keep Your Audio Equipment Clean And Sanitized
One of the most neglected parts of running a recording studio is keeping your audio equipment clean and sanitized. Over time dust, dirt and sometimes more unsavory materials start building up on our equipment and components. The importance of keeping them clean goes beyond aesthetics. There are a few other benefits you may not be aware of.
We take a look at some common studio equipment and how to safely and effectively clean them, and also detail some of the unique benefits of cleaning certain components. We will start with the "worst offenders" and work our way down from there.
As a home recording studio owner, this may not be so obvious to you, as only you and maybe a few other people work with your equipment, specifically your microphones. Things are very different in the commercial industry where microphones are used on a daily basis by dozens of people, in the studio and on stage.
With so many hands and mouths in close proximity to the microphone, combined with the variety of surfaces they are directly placed on, the microphones get very dirty and unhygienic over time. I don't need to go into graphic detail. You get the idea.
Things may happen a lot more slowly over time in your home studio, but the dirt and particles build up in the same way on your home microphone, so you still need to keep it clean.
Lets look at the bare microphone itself first. Most microphone sections are protected by a metal grill, with the rest of the casing normally made from a solid metal or brushed aluminium.
As the metal grill houses the more sensitive parts of the microphone, don't use just any kind of material or moisture to clean it. If the microphone is fairly new and only some dust or a little dirt is present on it, you can use a lint-free cloth or good quality micro fiber towel to clean it.
Sometimes the dirt get stuck in between the grill. A very good solution for this and many other cleaning tasks, is to buy a good quality small soft brush. I don't recommend using a commercial paint brush. Rather visit your local art dealer and invest in soft brush about 1-2 inches wide. This can easily reach those dirty spaces in between the grill and clean it without damaging the surface of the grill itself.
Unfortunately some unsavory particles and and dirt can find its way into the microphone, potentially producing an unpleasant odor and even decrease performance. It's not always possible to remove the grill, nor is it advisable to work directly with the sensitive inner parts of a microphone.
In this case a dedicated product will be the safest and most practical way of cleaning this dirt. Using a antimicrobial cleaning fluid like Microphome works really well. The fluid in the bottles form a foam that can be applied with a cloth or your hand and rubbed over the grill. This cleans the inside and outside of the grill and dissipates by itself within minute. It also sanitize the microphone at the same time without touching or damaging the sensitive electronics located inside the mic.
The rest of the microphone, like the handle, can also be cleaned with a lint-free cloth or micro fiber towel as well. Since no sensitive electronics are present on this surface as is the case with the grill, you can be a little more aggressive with stubborn dirt. A gentle but more thorough cleaner like Method All-Purpose Cleaner is perfect for these and any many other surfaces (This natural cleaner is ideal and safe for most surfaces, but any safe ammonia-free multi-purpose cleaner can be used.)
This takes care of the microphone, the dirtiest and trickiest piece of equipment in your audio setup to keep clean. As you will see in the following sections, basically all of the treatments that can be applied to your audio equipment were just covered in the microphone section.
Studio monitors come in a variety of casings, from woods to plastics. The drivers are normally made of Kevlar or some other synthetic material. Most speakers com with a protective covering made of a thin grill mesh fabric.
The speaker drivers should be handled with extreme care. Use a very light feather duster or the same brush I described in the previous section to clean the dust or light dirt from the surface. The small openings and gaps present on the surface, can also effectively be cleaned with the brush. I will not recommend using any kind of moisture on these very sensitive parts of a speaker.
The cabinet housing itself can be cleaned with the recommended cloths already described, and the more stubborn dirt with a good multi-purpose cleaner like Method All-Purpose Cleaner (or similar product).
Very important: Do not use ANY household cleaner containing ammonia for any form of audio equipment cleaning, no matter what the surface. You can do irreversible damage to your equipment!
The mesh fabric of the grill should also be handled with care. Apart from a feather duster, a vacuum cleaner with a light suction power can also be used to clean and remove the dirt from the surface. For this purpose, first remove the grill before gently running the pipe with proper plastic extension across the mesh surface. Do not use the hard bushes that is used on a vacuum cleaner!
Most high-quality audio interfaces (and amplifiers mixing consoles) have metal, specifically brushed aluminium surfaces. You do get more budget orientated ones with plastic housings.
For dust and loose dirt, use the recommended cloths already described. For more stubborn dirt, Original Spray Cleaner & Polish cleaner can be used on metallic surfaces. For plastic surfaces, rather use Method All-Purpose or a similar cleaner. (Again, stay away from any products containing ammonia.)
The openings and gabs in between the knobs and sliders on the front panel can very effectively be cleaned using the fine brush you already used for your microphone grill.
One can go into further detail and describe the cleaning of the electronics inside the audio interface. I don't feel its advisable to do this on your own without any previous experience, as the circuit boards and components inside an interface are very sensitive and can easily be damaged. (If you would like me to address this issue, please leave a message in the comment section, and I will add this to the article.)
Cleaning of computer screens are pretty straight forward. Using the cloths and brush for the casing and all the gaps in between them can very easily be done. For more stubborn dirt, use a gentle all-purpose surface cleaner (like Method All-Purpose Cleaner). (Again, no ammonia containing products please.)
For the screen itself, use a dedicated screen cleaner, like the Endust Gel LCD & Plasma Screen Cleaner. Apply it gently with a lint-free cloth, and make sure not to apply too much pressure.
LCD and glass screens are not as sensitive as those of a decade ago but care should still be taken.
By keeping your equipment clean, you are not just able to work in an environment that looks new and neat, but also keep it sanitized, something that should not be taken lightly.
The recommended cleaning products have proven themselves to the safest and most effective ones I can recommend. They are not the only good products out there and you may even be able to find some more effective ones. Just do your research and make sure they are safe to use before applying them to your equipment.
I may expand the article in the future to include cables and connections, as well as the electronics inside devices. Let me know in the comment section, I will address this in the near future.
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Catch you in the next article and happy recording!