Ensuring In Ear Monitors (IEM’s) are clean, holes unclogged and all drivers are working can save you precious troubleshooting time and gain some confidence in your mix — although not the most glamorous daily task. This quick post will show you how to clean in ear monitors quickly with just a few tools and a bit of time to take care of IEM earwax. Great for monitor engineers, FOH engineers and musicians!
My tools & steps to clean in ear monitors
“IEM Cleaning Solution”
This concoction was recommended to me by my audiologist for flushing out ears — equal parts 91% isopropyl alcohol and white vinegar. I dip a lint free rag into this and wipe down each IEM before attempting to clean out any impacted holes.
Tip: Be sure to warm up the solution for 10 seconds in the microwave before flushing out your own ears
IEM Cleaning Tool
This tool, often included with your IEM’s, has a small loop and a brush. I dip the loop in the cleaning solution and clean out the holes. The brush is good for hard to reach places. I’ll then use the Jodi-Vac to suck out the remaining wax.
IEM Listening Tube
Wouldn’t it be great to be able to listen and test each IEM driver? I simply play pink noise into the IEM in question, then “probe” each hole to listen for proper function. This tool has saved me so much troubleshooting time when an artists says something is “wrong” with her ears. You would be surprised how many IEM drivers are blown and the artist tries to accommodate not knowing the failure.
Tip! Grab one of my simple and affordable listening tube!
TIP: Be very careful with the metal probe — only do this once the ears are CLEAN. You don’t want to push a blockage deeper into the IEM canal.
The fine folks at Sensaphonics in Chicago also offer a nice molded version for their customers.
IEM Cleaning Pump – The Jodi-Vac
Primarily used to keep hearing aids clean, friends at JH Audio recommended this in-ear vac, . I use the “Consumer” model which seems to work just fine yet the is also a great choice. Just be sure to keep the tip and tube clean. I tend to dip the needle in the cleaning solution and then, while the pump is on, plunge the needle into the cleaning tube. Seems to do the trick.
Silica Gel Packets Desiccant for IEMs
After the show, try to let your IEM’s air out a bit before putting them back in a case. I tend to throw a Silica Gel Packet (Desiccant) in the case. This helps combat moisture. Quick and easy. Tip: Grab the “Indicating Packs” if you would like to keep an eye on when the pack no longer is absorbing moisture.
Flashlight to see the wax in your IEM’s
This process is best done in the daylight but the take away is you want to have plenty of light to see any other issues BELOW the hole opening. IEM’s come in many different colors— some easier than others to see the “tubes” within the IEM.
I hope sharing my workflow is helpful to you. Please let me know if you have some other tips for cleaning IEM’s.
Other resources for how to clean your in-ear monitors (IEM’s):
Need some help choosing the IEM model that works best for you? InEarGear.com is a great place to start!
New live sound classes!
By popular demand, I’m developing a series of smaller hands-on classes covering one specific topic such as:
- Monitor mixing
- FOH mixing
- Live Sound for Musicians
- Digital and analog console training.
If helpful to you, fill out the short form below and I’ll keep you in the loop on when registration will be open!