Whether you own a professional recording studio that you rent out to musicians or just have a cozy home studio setup, one crucial but often overlooked maintenance step is cleaning your mic covers (pop filters).
If you don’t clean them frequently, they’ll start hosting a thriving bacteria community and turn into an unhygienic mess. Also, as dust and spit start to build up, it’ll eventually start affecting the audio quality of your mics.
So, how do you clean pop filters or foam mic covers?
In short, you should use a gentle liquid soap (such as this) and add it to some warm water. Carefully submerge the foam cover and rinse the fibers thoroughly. After you’re done cleaning and disinfecting (optional) the cover, let it dry in an airy, well-lit place, away from direct sunshine for anywhere between 12 to 72 hours until it gets completely dry.
Table of Contents
- How Does a Pop Filter or Foam Mic Cover Work?
- What Are Pop Filters Made Up of?
- Do You Really Have to Clean Mic Covers?
- How to Clean a Pop Filter / Foam Mic Cover – A Step-by-Step Guide
- How Often Should You Clean Your Mic Covers / Pop Filters?
- The Don’ts
How Does a Pop Filter or Foam Mic Cover Work?
Pop filters or foam mic covers are tools used by musicians and recording studios. The main purpose is noise reduction, and I’ve outlined the differences between them in this post.
When singing or speaking into a microphone, certain sounds known as plosives, causes a fast-moving stream of air to hit the microphone, causing popping noises that distort and spoil the vocals.
The pop filter prevents this stream from hitting the microphone by literally filtering it out, thus producing a clean, noise-free, pleasing vocal.
There is another less pleasant purpose – it protects the microphone against spit and germs, which is catapulted through the air as a singer blasts out their latest tune with questionable lyrics.
What Are Pop Filters Made Up of?
Pop filters and mic covers are most frequently made by layering acoustically semi-transparent woven nylon into a cover or filter that either fits over a microphone or is stretched over a circular frame mounted in front of a microphone.
Do You Really Have to Clean Mic Covers?
Well, you really should. In a recording studio, you have several customers coming through every day, recording a song, a voice-over, a soppy romantic wedding cover, or perhaps an evil monologue to be broadcast at a later date.
Each one of these artists brings with them their own personal brand of germs, viral plague, halitosis, and an army of other unknown unsavory alien invaders which they mercilessly bombard your pop filter or mic cover with.
With a pandemic wreaking havoc across the globe, it is more important than ever to keep things squeaky clean.
If hygiene wasn’t reason enough, having dirt and spit-filled mic covers will ultimately also affect the quality of recording slightly. And that’s something you can’t take lightly.
How to Clean a Pop Filter / Foam Mic Cover – A Step-by-Step Guide
You will find a host of videos, instruction manuals, and tips if you do a google search on this topic. Most of these suggest a simple soap wash, rinse, and dry approach.
But is that really sufficient? Does it protect your customers and your equipment to take shortcuts here? The short answer is, it’s not.
With that said, here’s an actionable guide for cleaning pop filters effectively.
Step 1 – The Washing
First, you have to remove the pop filter or mic cover from the actual frame or microphone – not doing this could result in severe water damage to your expensive gear.
It may seem obvious to most of us, but for that one person planning to drop the whole thing into the washer, take note.
You certainly do not want to use a very strong foul-smelling soap, and no, toilet cleaner will not be required. Heavy-duty soap often contains caustic soda or abrasive ingredients that will damage the delicate fibers of the filter.
Avoid industrial cleaners completely and head on to the baby and toddler section. Select a gentle, non-perfumed liquid soap. I’ve used this one on multiple occasions and it works perfectly for this purpose.
To start, submerge the filter into mildly warm water. Then you want to carefully rub the soap into the fibers of the filter. Take your time while performing this step.
Step 2 – The Rinsing
You want to be sure that you remove all soap from the filter so this could take a long time. Rinse and repeat, or rather rinse and rinse.
When the water is completely clear, you have achieved your goal. Now you should have a clean filter.
Step 3 – Disinfecting
Germs have a tendency to thrive in mildly warm conditions and even though the soap should have taken care of most of the germs, it is important to take extra precautions and ensure a hygienic environment for your next user.
My suggestion would be mixing some high alcohol sanitizer with distilled water. A 50/50 ratio worked well for my experiment. Gently submerge the filter into the liquid, hold it there for a minute or two, and remove it.
Step 4 – The Drying
Natural drying is definitely the way to go here. You’re looking for a well-ventilated and dry spot that gets plenty of light but avoids direct sunlight. Again, this could take a while (up to 2-3 days), but it’s worth it.
How Often Should You Clean Your Mic Covers / Pop Filters?
For a DIY home recording studio, it should be enough to clean them once every two months or so, depending on how heavily the mics of your studio get used on a regular basis.
But if you own a professional recording studio that you rent out to clients every day, I recommend cleaning the pop filters once every week or at minimum once every couple of weeks.
If a single band or a group of musicians used your studio for several days at a stretch to record their new album or EP, it’d be probably better to clean the pop filters before the next client visits your studio, even if the first client didn’t take a whole week or two.
Here are a few things you should avoid at all costs:
- Machine wash
- Using abrasive soaps
- Spraying with a hand sanitizer
- Placing a wet mic cover on the microphone
- Waiting for another 17 years before repeating the process!
You should now have a clean and dry pop filter/mic cover, and you are ready to get going. You could possibly experience emotions of anger and frustration as you watch the spit flying with your very next customer, but this usually passes rather quickly.