How to keep your microphone clean and germ-free
The pandemic has cast a spotlight on our hygiene habits, and it’s safe to say that many of us were lacking in this area, more than we care to admit. If you’re a musician, podcaster, live streamer, or anyone who uses a microphone regularly, this article is for you.
Microphones are a breeding ground for dangerous bacteria and viruses, and if you share this equipment with others or carry it around, you pose a risk of cross-contamination. Pandemic or not, if it’s something you touch and breathe, it needs to be sterilized frequently. We have prepared this guide for those who need help doing so.
What you will need
You can always buy a microphone cleaning kit, but chances are you already have most of these tools at home. Different types of microphones will require different cleaning routines, so depending on the microphone you have, you may not need all of these.
- A soft toothbrush.
- A microfiber cloth.
- Liquid soap; the dish soap is perfectly fine.
- Clean containers or bowls.
- Napkins or paper towels.
- Isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol). This can be in the form of liquid or wet wipes.
- Demineralized Water. This water has gone through a process where salt ions are removed, so there are no atoms that will conduct electricity. It’s affordable and easy to find online.
Before we move on, let’s quickly run through the things you should avoid:
- Products containing bleach.
- Products containing hydrogen peroxide.
- Hydroalcoholic gel.
- Abrasive cleaning tools, such as scouring pads or stiff bristle brushes.
- Hot water. Warm water will suffice.
- Do not use isopropyl alcohol on plastic or acrylic parts; it can damage the material by creating small cracks and holes, and germs love small cracks and holes.
You may have heard of putting your microphone in the oven on low heat to kill bacteria. While this can be effective, do so with caution and be aware that your mic’s lifespan will take a hit. We don’t recommend it; Instead, clean it by hand yourself or send it to a professional.
We’ll start with the simplest: the dynamic microphone. These pickups are the most durable of the lot, so you can afford to be more thorough when cleaning them.
Step 1: Remove the grid
Depending on the model, you will either have to unscrew the grille or remove certain types of screws. Once it’s off, try not to touch the cartridge, and whatever you do, don’t let any liquids or moisture come in contact with the cartridge.
Step 2: Clean the grid
Wipe the grille with a damp cloth to remove surface dirt. Fill a clean bowl with warm water and a drop of soap; you can use regular tap water for this, but if you want to be extra careful, demineralised water is also excellent. Dip into the grid and start scrubbing. Be gentle and make sure to get into all the little gaps. Rinse off the soap thoroughly.
Shake off excess water and place the grill on a dry towel, away from damp and dusty areas. It’s crucial that the grill is completely dry before you put it back, so leave it outside for a full day or two.
Step 3: Clean the windshield
Depending on the model, your mic may or may not have a windscreen. Windshields are foamy, which makes them extremely porous. Their job is to absorb gusts of air that can create strong jolts in the audio signal, and these gusts are accompanied by a host of bacteria and dust particles. As you can imagine, these things will get very dirty.
If the windshield is attached to the grille, do not attempt to detach it and simply follow the first two steps. If not, go ahead and remove the windscreen from the mic. This step also applies to windshields purchased separately and placed on the outer part of the grille.
Fill a clean bowl with warm water and soap, and submerge the windshield in it. The water may turn brown, but don’t be too shocked, it could happen if you’ve never cleaned your mic after years of use. Wash and rinse thoroughly until water runs clear; you may need to rinse it several times. Let dry overnight.
Step 4: Cleanse the body
For this step, you can either use isopropyl alcohol or diluted soapy water. Dampen a microfiber cloth with the solution and begin wiping it over the mic’s grip. Try to get into all the little nooks and crannies, but don’t let the liquid touch the electrical components. Better yet, cover the top with a sock or something.
Condensers are a bit different from dynamics. They are very sensitive and often do not have the same constitution. If your condenser grid can come loose (not all can), you can follow the same steps above as for the dynamic. But be careful, everything must be handled with extreme sensitivity – the slightest bump or droplet of moisture on the diaphragm can destroy it.
If we’re being honest, you better send your condenser to a professional to have it cleaned. This also applies to other types of sensitive microphones, such as the ribbon microphone. There is, however, a way to keep it relatively clean without risking too much.
Step 1: Clean the grid upside down
We do not detach the grid for this, and no water or cleaning fluid is included in this step.
Hold the mic upside down, take a dry toothbrush and gently scrub the grille; if you hold it upright, dirt particles can get into the mic. And don’t apply any pressure with the toothbrush, we want to loosen the dirt, not push it. You can give it a final wipe with a dry microfiber cloth.
Step 2: Cleanse the body
You can clean a condenser body the same way you clean a dynamic; with a microfiber cloth, isopropyl alcohol or diluted soap, and a very soft hand.
Lavalier and headset microphones
Lavalier microphones and headset microphones are sensitive, but there is a way to clean them thoroughly; the secret ingredient is deionized water. Headsets, in particular, come very close to the mouth, so we recommend that you clean them regularly.
Step 1: Remove and clean the cap
Depending on the type of mic you are working with, it will have either a plastic grille or a foam cover, or both. Remove it, wash it in warm soapy water and rinse it thoroughly. Let it dry completely.
Step 2: Clean electrical components with deionized water
For this step, we only use demineralized water and nothing else; no soap, alcohol or detergents. Fill a small cup with the liquid, again, taking care not to mix cleaning liquid with it. Dip the microphone and start spinning it for a few minutes. You can repeat this step with a new filling of water.
Gently shake off excess water and place on a dry towel. Let it dry for at least a few days to make sure every drop of water evaporates before reassembling the mic.
Step 3: Cleanse the body
Use an alcohol wipe or a soapy microfiber cloth to wipe down the rest of the mic, which will be either a cable or a headset. If you’re working with a helmet, be sure to give it a good wipe, as the oils on our hair and skin like to cling to anything they touch.
Keep your microphone clean and germ-free
After reading this guide, there’s no longer any reason to let your microphone harbor dirt and bacteria. Cleaning them only takes part of your day, and working with a clean mic is not only good for your health and safety, but also for your mic’s. That’s your cue to grab some cleaning supplies and get to work!
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