How to Remove the Smell From a Microphone

Boy yelling

They say there are three keys to a beautiful singing voice: resonance, expressivity, and phonation. However, even the best singers are sure to have a spell of bad breath from time to time. In fact, even with the most minty fresh breath on the planet, the proximity of a singer’s microphone to their mouth and the particles expelled during singing is enough to lead to a smelly microphone in no time. Strangely enough, a clinical study by General Dentistry revealed that instruments which touched the mouth of their players had myriads of bacteria and fungi simply from not being cleaned properly.

To answer simply, the easiest way to clean your microphone and remove unwanted odors is to remove the grille and foam windscreen, clean them with water and mild dishwashing detergent, let them dry entirely, and then put them back on the mic. If you can’t remove the grill, simply turn the microphone upside down and scrub using a soft toothbrush but do not turn right side up until it is fully dry again. The main thing to remember is that any water that reaches the electronics of the mic is sure to damage your microphone and potentially render it useless. For even worse cases of odor, use a diluted mix of mouthwash and water on the grill with a soft toothbrush to scrub the surface. 

As such, with any instrument used often, your microphone is guaranteed to need a thorough cleaning from time to time to stay in good shape and remove unwanted odors likewise. But, how do you clean and disinfect a microphone without damaging it, what are the things to look out for when cleaning your mic, and are there any tips or tricks that may make the whole process easier?

In order to provide you with a better understanding of what this process looks like, what not to do when cleaning your microphone, and a few tips to increase the longevity of your mic as well, we have compiled all of this information and more below. Through this, we hope you can start cleaning your microphones and seeing the results of a well-cared-for microphone in no time.

Proper Ways to Disinfect a Microphone

When it comes to cleaning your musical instrument, the key is thoroughness and delicacy. This is especially so with microphones as any wrong move could lead to damaged electronics and a worthless mic.

When preparing to clean your microphone, you will want to start by prepping your desk with a clean large rag over the workspace, mild dishwashing detergent (preferably Dawn), a toothbrush, mouthwash, a pitcher of water, multiple mixing bowls and stirring spoons, and a drying rack system if possible.

Next, remove the grille and foam windscreen from your microphone to clean them. If you can’t remove your grille, this is where the drying rack will come in handy. After they are removed, mix your dawn detergent and water. The mixture should be one part Dawn and four parts water. Use your toothbrush to scrub the grille lightly with this mixture and then put both the foam windscreen and grille in the mixture to sit for a few minutes. Once done, rinse them off with more water to remove any soap residue and let them dry.

If your microphone’s grille can’t be removed, simply scrub the mixture on the grille as the microphone sits upside down. Then, let it dry on your drying rack or hold it upside down until it is done drying entirely.

For cigarette odors or even more fouling smells, you can also mix one part mouthwash with three parts water and repeat the process. This should guarantee that your microphone is clean and smells fresh once more in no time.

What NOT to do When Cleaning Your Microphone?

As with any cleaning process, when cleaning your microphone, there are a few do’s and don’ts that are crucial to the success of your job. The main things to not do when cleaning your microphone are to choose not to rinse the grille and windscreen after using Dawn or mouthwash on it, to clean the microphone as one piece and completely disregard the electronics inside, and to use damaging cleaners like bleach or polish instead of using the recommended cleaning supplies.

If you don’t remove the cleaners from your windscreen and grille before letting them dry, they are sure to create water spots, potentially damage your microphone over time, and certainly damage your foam windscreen’s material strength.

Furthermore, cleaning your microphone without any care regarding water damage is a surefire way to lead to a dead mic. Fortunately, in the case of water damage, repairing it can usually be as simple as taking it down to your local music shop for a repair. If your mic is already water damaged or has had other liquids such as alcohol damage it, before cleaning the microphone, you will want to repair this problem and make sure that it is even worth it to fix prior to taking time out on cleaning it.

When Should You Replace Your Microphone Grille and Windscreen?

According to the GearPage Forum, you should replace your foam windscreen at least three times a year to ensure that it is still useful and isn’t simply a deteriorated piece of old foam not even remotely protecting your microphone any longer.

When it comes to replacing the microphone grille, the main things to be concerned about are damage to the actual shape of the grille such as dents as well as damage to the grille’s metal screen. If it becomes busted and holes form in the grille, this could severely damage your microphone and make it far easier for it to be continually damaged until it is replaced.

For this, it is recommended that a grille is replaced at least once a year to keep your microphone protected and clean. If the grille cannot be removed and has been damaged, this is the appropriate time to once more head down to your local music shop to see if it can be fixed or if the microphone is not worth repairing at that point.

In the long run, replacing these two parts of your microphone is sure to increase the lifespan of your mic and also make your cleaning process far simpler as well. Without having to make up for lost time when it comes to the cleaning of a grille or windscreen by simply replacing them and starting fresh, you can spend your time on what is important—making music—and leave the deep cleaning jobs to the venue owners after you’ve rocked the house and blown minds.

Can a pop Filter Increase the Lifespan of Your Microphone?

pop filterThis is a highly common question in the vocals and recording industries specifically and to put it simply, yes, both a pop filter and a windscreen will absolutely help you to increase the longevity of any mic guaranteed.

Although pop filters are specifically used for recording vocals, they are a great way to reduce the moisture that would otherwise spread from your mouth to the microphone. Pop filters create a barrier between your mouth’s bacteria and the microphone making it far less likely that you will damage the microphone, need to clean it often thus wearing it down, or even have to worry about moisture damage whatsoever.

One thing to take into account is that pop filters must also be cleaned but the process to clean them is the same as the windscreen and is far more effective than having to deal with microphone damage and neglect.

In the end, cleaning your microphone is the best way to keep it lasting longer, performing better, and smelling great for years to come. With a process as simple as this, how could you possibly choose not to clean your microphone only three to four times a year and benefit in doing so? For more instrument cleaning tips specifically to do with oral bacteria, feel free to check out our extensive list of woodwinds instrument cleaning guides today!

Josh Olswanger

I've been playing and writing music since the age of 13. My father is a piano tuner/technician of 40 years, and I've been musically involved in all aspects from composing, to recording, producing and playing live for most of my life. I've always had a fascination and appreciation for all types of music and musical instruments, so creating this site is a perfect outlet to share my knowledge.

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