You’ve just played a killer DJ set in a packed, hot club where punters just couldn’t get enough of you. Congratulations – everyone had a blast! However, bangers and belters weren’t the only things dropped during your set: cigarette ash, sticky sweat, vodka Red Bulls and beer stains somehow made their way on to your DJ controller and headphones.
It’s not the end of the world (or your gear) just yet, but you do need to get these cleaned up before your next gig. The longer you let those spills, stains and dirt stay, the harder it’ll be to get them out. In this short series of articles, we’ll look at how to maintain your gear – starting with immediately post-gig…
The post-gig wipedown
Cleaning your kit may be an afterthought for most, but it really doesn’t take a lot of time to do what I call the “post-gig wipedown”. It’s simple two-step process that you can do after each show you play.
1. Right after the gig
The first step happens right after your DJ gig. Start by wiping your DJ gear carefully using a soft, absorbent cloth. This is just to get rid of any moisture, droplets, or beads of sweat on your gear, as well as any loose dust and debris.
You’ll want to be especially careful if your DJ kit has any screens and clear / transparent plastic windows, such as those found on LED level meters, loop indicators, and jogwheel centre displays – if you’ve seen CDJs with hairline scratches on their jogs and controllers with hazy looking meters, you’ll know what I mean. Avoid these sensitive surfaces first – you’ll need a more efficient type of fabric, known as a microfibre.
How does a microfibre cloth work?
A microfibre cloth is great for sensitive equipment and scratch-prone surfaces because it efficiently traps dirt, dust, and oil thanks to the pattern of the fibres. Normal cotton cleaning cloths like terry cloths, paper towels, rags / diapers aren’t as good in picking up gunk because they just push around dirt when you wipe, but they are good for soaking / drying.
2. When you get home
The second step is to do more detailed cleaning work when you get home from the gig. Use a microfibre cloth to gently wipe the spaces in between the knobs, faders, jogwheels, earcups, and other moving parts. You’ll also want to use a microfibre cloth to clean your DJ controller or media player’s screens.
While microfibre is more delicate and better at lifting dirt and smudges, it also means that it stores all of this gunk over time, so make sure your microfibre cloth has been washed recently before cleaning screens.
Having a combination of both a microfibre cloth for detailed work, and a soft cotton cloth for absorbing sweat, moisture or drink droplets and, heaven forbid, drink spills, is your best 1-2 punch when it comes to post-gig wipedowns. You should have at least one of each in your DJ gig bag and in your bedroom set-up so you can clean up when necessary.
How I do it
Right after the gig
Here’s how I go about the post-gig wipedown: I live in the tropics, so it’s always humid and hot, and every gig is an occasion to sweat no matter the time of year, so after each show start my post-gig wipedown with my headphones. I go around the ear cups and headband with my absorbent soft cloth before I pack it in my headphone case.
Next, I clean my DDJ-RZ controller using the soft cloth just to get rid of any loose dirt, dust, sweat, ash, and other debris before packing it in my UDG zippered bag. I also wipe all my leads, using a separate cloth if they’re wet or especially dusty / wet before storing in my DJ backpack.
Finally, I give my laptop a quick wipe with the soft cloth. My Macbook Pro’s keyboard is usually one of the dirtiest bits after a show, along with the bottom casing, so I clean this up quickly before packing it into my DJ bag.
My laptop’s screen ends up having tons of smudges from fingerprints, sweat, and other nasty things throughout the course of a rager. Despite this, I do leave the screen cleaning for later because it requires more delicate, detail-oriented cleaning work.
When I get home
I always unpack my gear when I get back from the club. I’ve had numerous nightmares from not unloading my gear from my car (eg warped records, cracked plastic DJ controllers from the heat, and so on), so one of the first things I do when i get home is lay my DJ kit out on the carpet: that includes my DJ headphones, DJ controller, headphones, and leads. This airs them out, giving them a chance to “breathe” especially if they reek of stale Chesterfields and cheap beer (who doesn’t hate DJ headphones that smell like your drunk uncle?).
If I’ve taken along some timecode vinyl or records, I remove them from my record bag and store them properly in my crates, making sure that they’re all in their proper sleeves.
This is when I get into more detailed cleaning – I use the microfibre cloth to clean any drink stains on my DJ controller, and I also use it to carefully clean the jogwheels and joghweel displays that scratch easily, unlike smartphone and tablet screens that have protective coatings. This is also when I pull out my laptop and clean the screen using a screen cleaning fluid and microfibre cloth kit. You’d be surprised at how dirty a laptop screen gets after a few hours in a smoky club.
Cleaning your gear isn’t like Spring cleaning your home – the post-gig wipedown takes me under 10 minutes to complete, and it helps my gear last longer, look better, and feel nicer. This is why I do it after every show. They may help at a cosmetic level, but I perform better when I don’t have to worry about last week’s beer stains forming a sticky patch around my performance pads and transport controls. It’s also a great way to wind down your evening after an energetic performance.
In the next article, we’ll take a look at deep cleaning methods that solve common DJ gear problems, including sticky and dust-filled faders, gunk under your knobs, and other nastiness.
How do you clean your DJ gear? Do you follow a cleaning ritual, or do you clean it only when it’s absolutely needed? Share your thoughts below.