Take a moment to look around your studio. Do you consider it to be clean? Have you let a fine layer of dust settle on some of your gear? Has dirt and grime built up around the dials of the outboard gear you regularly use? If so, maybe it’s time to spend an hour or two spring cleaning your studio as dust and dirt can end up causing a range of problems. For some, just the thought of cleaning is a boring idea. However, consider that a studio that isn't kept clean could start to let you down in more ways than you think.
In this article, we explore a number of reasons why keeping a studio in tip-top shape is smart thinking. We also highlight several examples of how dust and dirt buildup can cause you issues and damage to your precious studio gear.
What Can Happen To Your Gear If You Fail Keep Your Recording Studio Clean
Who likes working in dusty spaces? I certainly don’t. In my studio, there are several clear indicators that my studio is in desperate need of a good clean, one of which is the tops of my studio monitors. These large and often undisturbed spaces collect dust fast.
Then there’s the space where I spend most of the time, being sat at my control surface. As you can imagine all manner of dirt and crumbs have collected here over time. Not too long ago my control surface started misbehaving. Some of the central motorised faders, coincidentally the ones within my main sitting position, stopped responding to touch and moved erratically when responding to automation on playback. A closer inspection confirmed that a fair amount of crud had collected inside the faders and this was to blame for their poor performance. How did I go about cleaning these out?
It can be quite a challenge taking a control surface apart to deep clean the faders. I instead chose to take the path of least resistance using a can of compressed air. I aimed the airflow in several directions directly into the faders while using a guitar plectrum to pull the blasted loose dirt through the slits in the desk. I’ve owned this control surface for over nine years and have never cleaned the faders out. I was quite shocked at the amount of crud that I managed to blast free from inside the faders. At the time I wasn’t entirely sure if cleaning the faders this way would fix my unresponsive faders but it worked a treat. As prevention is better than the cure, an excellent way to reduce the amount of dust and dirt getting into your faders is an obvious one, use a cover when not in use.
How Dust Can Cause Problems With Your Studio Computer
In the image above you see the inside of my Mac Pro. I haven’t cleaned the dust out of this particular machine in over a year and at present, it doesn’t look too bad. You can see a small area, which is visibly cleaner than the rest around the front fans. My Mac in its current state doesn’t cause me any concern although I know from past experiences just how full these computers can get with dust, especially around the RAM modules, cards and processors.
One of my previous Mac Pro computers developed an intermittent graphics glitch that made the computer all but impossible to use. I explored a range of software solutions, none of which fixed the glitch. What did work was to give the inside of the computer a good clean out.
As this particular problem was very persistent, I chose to take an ordinary vacuum cleaner to it. I don’t recommend you try this on your machine as static electricity generated by vacuum cleaners can easily cause all sorts of serious electrical damage to the important parts inside your computer. I didn’t cause any damage this time, however, that’s not to say I would be so lucky if reached for the vacuum again in this way. I had lost all patience with my Mac at this point. If I were calmer, I would had used a can of compressed air to safely blow the dust buildup out and away from the machine, and that is what I would recommend.
If a lot of dust builds up inside a computer several heat-related issues can arise. Dust buildup can insulate major components, which can prevent clear airflow from pulling the heat out of the machine. Friction from dust settled on fan blades can also cause issues. Unwanted noise can arise, which we don’t want in a studio environment. Dust buildup in the chassis can also restrict airflow through the computer.
If a computer is overheating, it may start to feel sluggish at times as processors have thermal protection. This could be because of excessive dust buildup inside the computer. We recommend that you remove the dust and these built-in safeguards shouldn’t trigger.
What About Dirty Computer Keyboards?
If you are currently reading this article sitting at your studio computer then take a look down at your keyboard in front of you. Does it resemble the image above? When was the last time you gave your keyboard a thorough clean? There’s no excuse for not regularly taking some form of cleaning spray and cloth to your keyboard. It’s not just dirt that builds up on these but also nasty bacteria as well.
An article published by Wiproo called Important Reasons Why You Should Clean Your Keyboard and The Best Keyboard Cleaning Products goes into great detail on this topic. It states that there have been studies that prove computer keyboards, especially if they are shared with other people, can harbour five times more bacteria than a toilet seat, not a pleasant thought is it?
The same applies to your computer mouse. Not only can dirt appear on the surface but also underneath which can cause your mouse at best not to move over the desk smoothly, or at worse not to work properly. Dirt can also build up around a mouse pad, so it’s a good idea to lift these up clean the surface under and around the pad from time to time
Computer Displays Also Get Very Grubby
Your computer displays can also collect a lot of dirt over time, especially any touch-enabled devices you may use as part of your studio rig. We all know how quickly grubby finger marks get on those devices.
It’s fairly easy to spot a dirty computer display, especially if you look at it from certain angles with natural sunlight reflecting off the screen. When you go to clean your monitor you need to be sure that you are using a method that won’t damage your style of display. If in doubt, use a microfibre cloth. These are lint-free, which should leave your screen spotless. Different styles of display may be safe enough to use a cleaning product but check before you use them. The key to looking after your computer display when cleaning is not to apply too much pressure as a heavy hand can cause damage the panel.
Dust Can Damage The Finish Of Your Musical Instruments
I’ve owned an expensive Admira classical guitar for about 12 years, I will admit for ten of those years I haven’t looked after it. I recently pulled it out of my guitar rack to give it a clean, as it was covered in dust. After a wipe down I was shocked to see how bad the finish had got due to the years of neglect. What was once a beautiful guitar with a lovely shine and lustre is now a matt looking guitar that feels ever so slight coarse to the touch. This was caused by way too much dust sitting on the instrument mixed with a buildup of skin oils over a prolonged time, shame on me!
It just goes to show that dust, if left untouched, will slowly corrode the finish of a musical instrument. It’s completely avoidable, so please don’t let it happen to your beloved instruments.
Don’t Forget About Grime Buildup On Your Studio Gear
What dials, pots and switches do you reach for regularly in your studio? It could be master volume knob on your monitor controller, the first preamp gain pot on your go-to interface or even your studio light switches… These commonly used dials and switches will always attract their fair share of dirt.
In my studio, it’s clear what buttons and dials I frequently use, as a grime buildup shows up within a matter of weeks. The worst culprit is my monitor controller. I must reach for this as often as my computer mouse. Like computer keyboards, studio gear that you interact with regularly should be cleaned every so often to avoid bacteria buildup. If the fear of bacteria isn’t enough to encourage you to keep your gear clean then consider this. Many of us worship our studio gear and outboard racks, why not at the very least we keep our kit sparkling for vanity’s sake?
Watch Out For The Ants
Is your recording in an outhouse or dedicated building in your garden? If so, be very careful as these sorts of studios can be prone to ant and other insect invasions. This has happened to me several times, and it’s not easy getting rid of them once they’re in. Prevention is better than cure when ants are concerned. The only way I can keep ants from being tempted into my studio is to ensure that no food-related items are lying around, especially when the warmer weather sets in around spring and summer times. As an extra layer of defence, I don’t have a rubbish bin in my studio as it’s all too easy for me to forget to empty it which basically asking for trouble from the ants.
If ants do get into your studio, then you have two ways to combat them. First, clean your room making sure there isn’t any food-related anywhere in your room. Second, use an ant powder around the main entrance into your studio and be liberal with it as ants can be very persistent. I’ve found that if I block one of their paths they will very easily find another way in. I discovered my last ant invasion shortly before a client turned up for a session, as you can imagine, I was quite embarrassed.
Last But No Means Least - Consider How An Unclean Studio Can Impact Health
We have already touched on several examples of how your health could be impacted if you do not keep a clean recording studio. Besides running the risk of catching a bug or cold consider what other health problems dust could cause you? Many people suffer from Asthma, which is aggravated by dust. You’ll know this first hand if you have Asthma. If you don’t, then you need to be mindful of this as one day you may end up working with a client in your studio who suffers with it and you wouldn’t want them to feel uncomfortable working in your space would you?
In Summary - Cleaning Your Studio, It’s Just Good Housekeeping
We’ve presented a variety of reasons to to why we believe it’s essential to keep your studio clean from dirt, grime and dust and how by not keeping your studio clean could lead to your gear and health being impacted.
Be honest, how often do you clean your studio? If you are a super clean studio owner do please share some of your cleaning tips in the comments below.