Protecting, cleaning and sanitizing your gear the right way

(Halisia Hubbard/NPR)

Reporters and producers in the field: You don’t want to wave unprotected gear in an interviewee’s face — for everyone’s sake.

NPR audio engineers tested the sound quality of these mic protection methods. If an engineer can fix your tape before it goes on-air, that’s ideal. Also engineer-approved are the cleaning and sanitization methods detailed below.

Best barrier options for indoors OR outdoors

●  RE50 + plastic wrap
●  RE50 + thin snack bag
●  Shotgun + softie (dead cat) + plastic wrap
●  Shotgun + softie (dead cat) + thin trash bag
●  Shotgun + softie (dead cat) + large zip-lock bag
●  RE50 + probe cover or non-lubricated latex condom (probe cover preferred; this method really needs a fix from an engineer)

OK for indoors only

●  Shotgun + foam windscreen + non-lubricated latex condom or probe cover
●  Shotgun + foam windscreen + large zip-lock bag

How to apply the barriers

Plastic wrap barrier for shotgun mic

  1. Lay the mic onto a piece of wrap that’s twice the length of the softie and fold the wrap over your mic.
  2. Roll the mic so the plastic wrap covers the entire softie, making it the wrap smooth as possible.
  3. Use a second piece to fully cover the softie and hold the first piece in place.
  4. Tape the plastic wrap down near the handle to secure the barrier and reduce crinkling noise.

Trash bag barrier for shotgun mic

  1. Put the mic in the corner of your trash bag.
  2. Use scissors to cut off the rest of the bag around your shotgun.
  3. Roll up the excess and tape the to barrier tightly. Make the bag as smooth as possible.
  4. Cut off the excess towards the handle. Then tape to keep the cover secure and reduce crinkling noise.

Zip-lock bag barrier for shotgun mic

  1. Put the mic in the corner of a gallon bag.
  2. Roll the mic and tape the excess plastic tightly.
  3. Tape the edge of the bag to the base of the softie. Make sure it is taped all the way around.
  4. Tape the excess plastic down at the top of the shotgun. Try to make the surface as smooth as possible.

Plastic wrap barrier for RE50

  1. Put plastic wrap around the top of your mic, making the wrap as smooth as possible.
  2. Tape or rubber-band the loose end to secure it and reduce crinkling noise.

  1. Put the RE50 at the corner of a sandwich bag, making the surface as smooth as possible. Secure the bag with tape or a rubber band.
  2. Take your scissors and cut off the excess plastic. Loose ends can cause crinkling sounds when touched.

Non-lubricated condom or probe cover barriers

Roll the condom or probe cover onto your mic. Try to cover as much of the mic as possible. The shotgun with small foam windscreen and condom is very susceptible to wind noise, but is suitable for indoor use.

Cleaning your gear

Between interviewees

  • Use a disinfectant wipe to clean the mic barrier between interviews. Pay special attention to any folds in the plastic or latex.

Cleaning after the interview

  • Put on gloves or put your hands in baggies. Remove any barriers you have put on your microphones and throw them in the trash.
  • Wipe down everything with the appropriate cleaning solution; see below under “Sanitizing your gear.” Pay extra attention to the mics and anything else that’s been close to another person.
  • Wash your foam microphone windscreens and softies (dead cat) using a mild solution of soap and water, per the sanitization tips below.
  • Wash your hands.
  • Remove the gloves. You can find instructions from the CDC here.
  • Dispose of the gloves, or disinfect them carefully.

Sanitizing your gear

Recorders, shotgun mics, pistol grips, headphones, cables: Use 70% alcohol wipes or bleach wipes.

RE50 omni microphones: Use bleach wipes (avoid alcohol).

Windscreens: Windscreens should be cleaned in a mild solution of warm water and dish soap. This can be done in a sink or inside a plastic bag. WARNING: Drying the large fuzzy windscreens takes a very long time and is best done overnight.

To properly clean a windscreen, follow these steps:

  1. Add two to three cups of warm water to a zip-lock bag.
  2. Mix in about a half-teaspoon of dish soap,.
  3. Add the windscreen and massage gently for 45 seconds. Try not to bend or twist large, fuzzy shotgun windscreens.
  4. Rinse the soap residue out of the windscreen. Again, try not to bend or twist large, fuzzy shotgun windscreens too severely. You can gently squeeze to rid the windscreen of excess water. Remove as much excess water as possible to keep drying time manageable.
  5. Let the windscreen air-dry overnight. You can use a blow dryer on air/low heat to speed things up.
  6. Once dry, fuzzy shotgun windscreens can be brushed to restore wind-diffusing fluffiness.

Melissa Marquis, Fiona Geiran and Greg Dixon helped create this guide.

Sean Phillips is NPR West's audio engineering production manager.