How To Clean Your Microphone (Simple 5-Step Guide)

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  • You may not realize it, but your microphones need regular cleaning!
  • But if you’re not cleaning properly, you can do more harm than good.
  • Here’s our 5-step process to cleaning your microphones correctly.

Any singer that has ever performed with a microphone has been there before: you are up on stage, belting your heart out, moving the microphone towards and away from your face – and then you catch a glance of what’s inside of it.

If the microphone hasn’t been cleaned in a while you’re likely going to see a lot of dirt, a lot of gunk, and a lot of grime just beneath the grill and the windscreen. If it hasn’t been cleaned EVER you’re going to see something that looks a lot worse than that!

You’d be amazed at the number of musicians and performers that either don’t know how to clean microphone hardware or just don’t realize how important it is to clean them routinely.

Not only do we cover (almost) everything you need to know about cleaning microphones, but we also go over:

  • What to use to get a deeper clean
  • What not to use (or do) under any circumstances
  • How to really sanitize your microphones – not just clean them

Microphone Sanitization vs Cleaning

First off, we need to stress the importance of sanitization vs cleaning. There’s a distinction between taking the steps to clean a microphone and taking the steps to sanitize them.

Cleaning is (almost always) more of a surface level clean, cleaning mics from dirt and debris, clearing away some of the surface level dust, sweat, and saliva that can accumulate, etc. Just generally making things look a little neater and tidier than they would have otherwise.

Sanitizing, on the other hand, takes it one step further. Sanitizing involves popping the body apart on handheld microphones, pulling off the microphone grill and windscreen, applying some kind of sanitizing agent (quite a bit stronger than just hard water and dishwashing liquid), and then giving your microphone plenty of time to dry.

Whereas cleaning microphones makes them look nice and new, sanitizing kills germs, bugs, and bacteria in a way that’s tough to do otherwise.

A lot of people like to use isopropyl alcohol to get that deeper level of clean when sanitizing.

One quick tip, though, is to avoid using “raw” isopropyl alcohol and instead dilute it with 20% water. Without that dilution, the isopropyl alcohol evaporates far too quickly to be effective. That little bit of extra water helps it to stick around longer and provide that deeper clean.

5-Step Microphone Cleaning Procedure

Below we highlight a couple of quick tips and tricks you’ll want to keep in mind when it’s time to clean a mic going forward.

Remember these core tips and you won’t have any problems whatsoever knocking out this kind of routine maintenance when it’s necessary.

1. Unplug Everything

Straight out of the gate, you’ll want to make sure that when you go to clean a microphone you have unplugged absolutely everything.

We’re not just talking about unplugging your mic from a power source, either – but unplugging your headphones as well.

This can be difficult to do with headset microphones or other products, but for the most part it’s generally pretty straightforward and allows for a much deeper clean at the same time.

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2. Quick Surface Wipe Down

The next thing you want to do (even before you get a little bit of warm water) is to wipe your mic down on all surfaces with a microfiber rag or cloth.

This allows you to pull off any of the surface level bits of dirt and debris, sweat and skin, or anything else that might have been stuck to the mic before you really prep it for a deeper clean.

This is only going to take you a couple of minutes but it will make a world of difference.

3. Pop Off The Grill And Windscreen Components

After the outermost surfaces have been cleaned, it’s time to take off pop filters, windscreens, grills, and other components.

This is going to give you access to the inner part of the mic, the part where everything spewing out of your mouth (depending on mic placement, of course) is going to end up collecting.

Cleaning these parts is really easy, especially if you’re using a foaming cleaner like hydrogen peroxide.

You’ll want to foam windscreen and foam filter components straight out of the gate, and then remove the foam with a bit of compressed air (or a microfiber cloth) to prepare things for the next stage.

(If you’re not sure what kind of microphone you have, take a read of A Quick Guide To Microphone Types, Classifications & Characteristics.)

4. Lightly Spray Your Cleaning Agents

In no circumstances do you ever want to soak your setup with cleaning agents.

Instead, you want to lightly spray it onto the body and other components of your hardware that you are cleaning.

Next, quickly dry it off with a microfiber cloth almost immediately after contact.

5. Sanitize Strategically

The last piece of the puzzle here is to sanitize your components, hitting them with something like isopropyl alcohol (diluted by 20%, as we mentioned earlier) to give you that deeper cleansing that your hardware deserves.

You don’t necessarily have to sanitize every single time you clean your stuff, but you should be sanitizing every couple of weeks – twice a month or so – if you want to stay in the clear and keep your microphones nice and “healthy”.

Flush the sanitizer out with a bit of hot water when you are done and then let everything air dry for between 24 hours to 72 hours.

That extra time to dry is going to make a world of difference, allowing the sanitizing and cleaning agents to do their “heavy lifting” while at the same time letting your setup dry completely so that you don’t plug it in – and send electricity through it – when it is still wet.

FAQ: “Will A Quick Lysol Blast Work?”

If you are in a hurry and need to quickly perform a “miniature sanitization” of your microphone, a blast of Lysol won’t hurt – but it’s not going to do nearly as much as alcohol or other sanitization agents would.

On top of that, you’ll only want to make sure that you are blasting a quick spurt of Lysol on mic grills and not all over the place.

The chemical agents in Lysol can end up weaseling their way into nooks and crannies on your microphone. This actually attracts dirt, dust, and bacteria, and ends up causing more cleaning problems you have to deal with later on.

It’s also important that you remember to avoid bleach whenever you are doing a more hands-on cleaning job of your microphone. Bleach will ruin all of the plastic and metal components, no matter how well you dry things out later down the line.

It’s also a good idea to avoid using hydrogen peroxide, except when you need to foam windscreens a little bit. This is really the only place you want to use hydrogen peroxide, though. With anywhere else, the foaming agent can cause the same kinds of problems that extra sprays of Lysol would.

Steer clear of abrasive pads that can mar the finish of your microphones, particularly around the actual microphone capsule itself. This will not only make your microphone look dirty and dingy, but it also leaves core components susceptible to things like rust, for example.

Isopropyl alcohol should never be applied to any clear plastic components, either.

The alcohol will turn those clear plastic components yellow, giving that same dirty, dingy, worn-out look we just highlighted a second ago.

Closing Thoughts

As long as you keep these key things in mind when you are cleaning different core components of microphones (like the body, the foam windscreen, the filter, etc.) you won’t have a whole lot to worry about.

In fact, you’ll probably get used to the cleaning process a lot faster than you would have thought – making it a big part of your equipment maintenance routine.

Trust me, the next time that you are putting a mic next to your face you’ll be happy that you took the time to focus on its hygiene!

(If you’re podcasting or streaming from home, chances are you need a quality boom stand for your precious mics. We checked out the Rode PSA1 boom arm to see if it really is the best desktop mic stand out there!)