invested in a high quality vocal microphone and your voice has never
sounded better. Unfortunately, the keyboard player in your band
decides he wants to use your mic during his featured rap. You cringe
as he practically eats the microphone. You can barely watch as he
encourages audience members to scream into the mic. Afterwards he
returns your mic, still operational but considerably wetter and unhygienic.
subject to an inordinate amount of abuse, especially in live music.
Grilles and foam windscreens can become saturated with saliva,
clogged with lipstick, and will absorb the smell of cigarette smoke
prevalent in most clubs. Regular cleaning of your microphone will not
only improve its performance, but is also good hygiene. This document
provides several simple yet effective techniques for cleaning microphones.
The best way to
clean a microphone is to remove the grille. Most vocal microphone
grilles simply unscrew, e.g., SM58, BG3.1. If the grille doesn't
slide off easily, gently rock it back and forth while pulling it away
from the cartridge. Do not pull sharply or with excessive force,
since that could damage the cartridge or separate it from the
microphone housing. Once the grille is removed, it can be thoroughly
cleaned without damaging the mic. Since most of the offensive
material on the grille comes from the human body, plain water should
be a sufficient cleanser. Adding a mild detergent (dishwashing
liquid) to the water will act as a mild disinfectant and remove odors
absorbed by the foam windscreen. To remove lipstick and other
material stuck in the grille, use a toothbrush with soft bristles. In
some models, the foam windscreen can be removed from the grille, but
this is usually not necessary since water will not damage the grille.
Most Shure microphone grilles have a nickel finish that makes them
resistant to rust, and replacing the foam windscreen can also be
difficult and time-consuming.
The most important
thing to remember is: let
the grille dry completely before reattaching it to the microphone! Microphones
don't like water, and although dynamic mics can withstand small
amounts of moisture, a soggy foam windscreen will introduce more than
is acceptable. Air drying is the best way to dry the grille, but a
hair drier on a low-heat setting can be used. Care must be taken not
to get too close to the grille as excessive heat can melt some
Cleaning must be
done more carefully for microphones that do not have removable
grilles, e.g., SM57, 545. Using a damp toothbrush, hold the
microphone upside down and very gently scrub the grille. Holding the
mic upside down will prevent excess moisture from leaking into the
microphone cartridge. This technique is also useful for cleaning the
foam that covers the diaphragm inside an SM58. Again, keep the mic
upside down, and be very gentle.
In live situations
with multiple acts, it may be desirable to clean the microphones
between acts. Use a diluted solution of mouthwash (Listermint, Scope)
with water. Using a toothbrush and holding the microphones upside
down, scrub the grille of the microphone. At the very least, this
technique will make the microphones smell more pleasant to the
performer. Also make certain the sound system is turned off before
the cleaning begins!
Due to the more
delicate nature of condenser microphones, never
use water or any other liquid for cleaning purposes.
Even a small amount of moisture may damage a condenser element. For
microphones with removable grilles like the Beta 87 or BG5.1, the
grille and foam windscreen may be washed as described above. Again,
the grille and windscreen must be completely
before reattaching it to the microphone. To clean a microphone with
a permanently attached grille like the SM81 or BG4.1, use a dry, soft
bristle toothbrush and gently scrub the grille. Keep the microphone
upside down so that loosened particles fall away from it. Take care
not to let stray bristles get caught in the grille. This technique
also works well for lavaliers and miniature gooseneck mics.
microphones that will be subject to harsh conditions, such as vocals
and theater applications, it is advisable to use a removable external
foam windscreen. This will protect the microphone from saliva and
make-up, and can be removed and cleaned with soap and water after the
performance. Remember, never get water near a condenser element!
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