Speaker grills are a beautiful and effective way to cover and protect the speaker drivers underneath, but these grills can become dirty, dusty, and even stained, and should be cleaned on a fairly regular basis.
Properly cleaning your speaker covers is not only important for overall health and hygiene, especially for anybody who has allergies or asthma (they can catch a lot of dust), but can make your speakers look nicer, can improve the sound of your system, and can even potentially prevent damage to the speakers themselves.
Cleaning a speaker grill may seem like pretty much a no-brainer, but in fact there are a few basic tips and techniques which might not be so obvious but which can make cleaning a speaker cloth easier, more effective and safer for the speakers.
In this tutorial on the best ways to clean speaker cloth, we will discuss methods for dusting, wet washing, removing mold and effectively drying speaker grills, as well as a brief explanation of replacing stained or damaged speaker cloth. We will also explain how to clean the speaker grill on an iPhone or other cellphone.
What is a Speaker Grill?
A speaker grill is simply the cover on the front of the speaker, which hides and protects the speaker drivers (like the tweeter and woofer) that are mounted on the front of the speaker cabinet.
A speaker grill is designed to not just protect the speakers, but also to be “acoustically transparent,” meaning the speaker grill’s cloth or other material will let all of the music through without blocking, muffling or otherwise hurting the sound quality.
Different Types of Speaker Grills
Your speakers may have removable or non-removable speaker grills, with foam or cloth material. Most good-quality stereo and home theater speakers, though – even less expensive ones – have removable grills with cloth covering them.
Some of the cleaning methods described below require the removal of the speaker grills, and it is very important to make sure that your speakers’ grills are in fact removable. Even some expensive audiophile speakers have permanently attached grills and grill cloth, which are not meant to ever come off.
When trying to remove your speaker grills, always use light pressure to pop them off. Never force them off, and if they do not easily pop off stop trying, since too much force may break the grill frames or damage the speakers. If you aren’t sure whether your speaker grills are removable, you can contact the manufacturer for information.
How to Safely and Effectively Clean Speaker Grills
Method 1: Dusting
Dusting your speaker cloths should be done regularly, and dusting the speaker cabinets and even the speaker drivers is also very good to do on a regular basis.
The only real trick here is to take the speaker grills off first (if they are removable) before dusting them, so as to keep the scattered dust away from the speaker drivers and also to protect them from accidental damage. You can use a damp cloth, a dry dusting cloth or a feather duster on the grills, but be careful about using damp cloth on speaker cabinets, never allowing water to drip or well up or get on the drivers, the wires on the back, any knobs, controls or other electric or electronic parts. And never, ever use a damp cloth or water on the speaker drivers themselves. Most audiophiles prefer to only use a dry feather duster with extremely light pressure on all parts of their speakers, or any of their other stereo or video equipment.
If you do dust the speaker drivers, only use a dry, very soft cloth or a feather duster, and please use only EXTREMELY LIGHT PRESSURE on them, as they can be damaged very easily.
Method 2: Vacuuming
Vacuuming can be a very effective way to get dust out of a speaker grill’s cloth, but we need to be careful because a vacuum can easily damage speaker drivers. It is recommended that you remove the speaker grills first and move them away from the speakers before using a vacuum. If the grills are non-removable, only use a very low power vacuum, and never allow the vacuum wand to come near or touch the speaker drivers.
And while this can probably go without saying, if you remove your speaker grills and want to vacuum them, do not use a floor vacuum to roll over the speaker grills, as this can damage the frames, the cloth and the attaching pegs. Use only a hand-held vacuum, or a wand attached to a floor vacuum.
Method 3: Wet Cleaning Speaker Cloth
If your speakers are stained or very dirty, and dusting or vacuuming are not doing enough, you can use soapy water to more deeply clean the speaker cloth. You can either use a wet, soapy sponge or cloth, or set up a large tray full of soapy water, big enough for the speaker grills to rest in so that the grill cloth can soak.
When you are done, rinse the speaker cloth thoroughly with clean water and dry in the sun or with a fan. Do not put the speaker grills back on the speakers when they are still wet, or even damp, and it is a good idea to really let them dry thoroughly – again, by fan or sunlight – to eliminate and avoid mold.
If there is mold in your speaker grill cloth, you can soak the cloth in water with a strong concentration of vinegar, using the method above, and just make sure to really thoroughly rinse and dry the cloth afterward – again, with a fan or sunlight.
How to Safely Clean Speaker Cabinets
While you’re on a cleaning spree, you might also want to clean your speaker cabinets. You can do this the same way you would clean any other piece of fine furniture – remember that many speaker cabinets are covered with a high quality wood veneer, and so you want to protect and care properly for the finish.
If you use water, use only a damp cloth that has been thoroughly wrung out, with no excess water or dripping, and make absolutely certain that no water drips on or comes in contact with the speaker drivers, the speaker terminals or wires on the back, or any knobs, controls or other electric or electronic parts.
You may, in fact, want to use a dry feather duster instead on your speaker cabinets, but still make sure that you are very careful with the speaker drivers – they can be dusted, but you should not put any pressure whatsoever on them.
How to Clean Speaker Cones
As mentioned above, speaker drivers – like woofer cones or tweeter domes – are very, very fragile and can be easily damaged. You can dust speaker cones and domes with a very soft and completely dry cloth, using only the lightest of pressure, or a feather duster, again applying no pressure. Never use water or a damp cloth, even if the speaker driver material looks like plastic or seems water-resistant, and never use a vacuum or canned air on speaker drivers.
How to Clean the Speaker Grill on a Phone
Whether you have an iPhone, an Android or any other type of cellular phone, you might want to clean the grill over the speaker – especially considering how much this part of the phone comes into contact with your ear.
Your cellphone’s user’s guide should provide instructions on how to safely clean the phone, but the most important thing to remember is that electronics, and speaker drivers, do not like water. If you use a damp cloth, which can work very well, make absolutely certain that it is very thoroughly wrung out and that no water drips or gathers anywhere on the phone. Make doubly sure that no water is allowed to go inside or through the speaker grill and get to the speaker itself.
How to Replace Stained, Damaged or Moldy Speaker Cloth
Sometimes speaker grill cloth is just too stained to clean properly, or it might be damaged or even moldy, and you would like to replace it. In fact, while stains, rips or holes may be more of an issue of appearance, mold can spread to speaker cabinets or even speaker drivers, and can cause more serious problems over time.
The first thing to check, before you actually get into the job – and especially before you start removing the old speaker cloth – is if you can work with the speaker grills themselves. That is, are they made of a material which will allow you to attach new cloth? If they are made of wood or other materials which will take and hold a small nail, brad or staple, you should be fine. Many speaker grill frames are made of plastic, though, or some other materials which won’t really let you easily attach the cloth. This may mean that you can’t easily replace the speaker cloth, or that you will have to use epoxy, hot glue or some other method.
The second thing to know when attempting to replace the grill cloth on your speaker is that you can’t use just any type of cloth. Speaker grill cloth is acoustically transparent material, a special kind of cloth which will allow all sound to pass through without blocking any of it. Any other type of cloth, even if apparently quite sheer and thin, will obstruct the sound, and the performance of your speakers will suffer.
If you are sure you can attach the new cloth, and you have a good acoustically transparent replacement cloth, you should be good to go. Just make sure the cloth is tightly stretched across the frame, and that you do the work away from the speakers themselves, and are extremely careful at all times to not touch, put pressure on or damage the speaker drivers.