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Q: I have a problem with dust. Should I just grab a duster once a week?

An Audio Masterclass Newsletter reader has a dust problem. But is it really a problem or can you live with it?


A question from an Audio Masterclass Newsletter reader...

"This may be a stupid question. Let's say I have a home recording studio. What about problems with dust? Are there any methods to fight it or just grab a duster once a week? How is it solved in pro studios?"

I spent some time working in an extremely dusty environment. The studio was sited next to the cloth rack backstage of a theater, which I can tell you was very dusty. Some of the dust was more than a hundred years old! A lot of this dust leaked into the studio and deposited itself on every surface it could find, including the mixing console and tape recorders.

I have to say however that I never came across any audio problem that could be directly attributed to the dust. The equipment was kept clean, but the rest of the room was not what you would call operating-theatre clean, or even kitchen clean for that matter. It's funny how the same guy always drew the shortest straw for vacuuming duty.

FREE EBOOK - Equipping Your Home Recording Studio

Equipping Your Home Recording Studio

Having said that, clearly it is good practice to keep your work space clean and tidy, and the quality of your output will be better for it.

I remember being taught how to dust. I had a Saturday job in a camera shop when I was 15. "Start from the top" is what I was told. That was good advice - whatever dust is not trapped in the duster flies into the air, and of course it falls. Working from the top down prevents surfaces from being re-contaminated as you go.

Dust is best removed from equipment by vacuuming. I'm thinking here in particular of the mixing console. And where there are openings, such as the fader slots, don't let the dust fall in if you can help it. I don't believe in using any kind of spray or liquid on equipment - you might start off with a dirty mark that merely looks unsightly and end up with equipment that doesn't work. If equipment is dirty to an extent that doesn't just dust off, then cleaning it is part of maintenance and should be carried out by someone who knows what they are doing.

What the vacuum can't pick up directly can be dislodged by a paintbrush (that has never been used for painting!), particularly with equipment that has a high knob density.

Dust can be removed from other surfaces using a barely damp cloth. Sprays are not necessary and, unless the dirt is long-term, detergent should not be necessary either. If detergent is used, all you need is a drop of concentrate in a bucket of water.

If you have carpets then of course you need a full-size vacuum cleaner. And use it often. Carpets can store huge quantities of dust and dirt, ready to be repurposed as contaminants on your equipment.

If you have ventilation or air conditioning, then it should have filters. These will need cleaning regularly and can trap a surprising amount of dust.

By the way, although not so many people smoke these days, and smoking in the workplace is illegal in many jurisdictions, the practice is certainly worth a comment...

I remember talking to the manager of a studio complex where two of the studios were identical. The only difference was that the engineer who used one of the studios smoked, the other didn't. Apparently the rate of degradation of the equipment in the smoky studio was much greater than in the other. But if you smoke in your studio, you'll be dead sooner so it won't really matter!

Any further advice on cleanliness in the studio would be very welcome.

By David Mellor Saturday April 16, 2011