Cleaning controls or “pots”

Controls

Almost every piece of equipment be it a keyboard, a mixing board, a guitar amplifier, or an effect unit has some good old fashioned potentiometers (Pots) that at some time in its life will need to be cleaned.

Cleaning controls is a pretty simple process; it is the getting to the controls to clean them that can sometimes be complicated.

Fist a warning about faders or slide controls. Do not clean them unless the absolutely need it, and only use special fader only cleaner, and finish up with some fader lube. If you use anything else the controls will become so stiff you will barely be able to operate them. Even when you use the proper products on them they will still be stiffer than they were before they were cleaned. That is why I advise not cleaning them unless it is necessary.

Fader controls unlike rotary controls can be cleaned without taking the equipment apart. You just spray the fader cleaner in the slot that shaft rides in that the knob it attached to. Then work it back and forth over its entire sweep several times, apply some fader lube in the same way, and you are done.

Cleaning rotary controls requires disassembly of the unit being worked on. Once you have accesses to the controls the process is pretty simple. Most, but not all rotary controls have a slot or other opening on the back, or side that you can spray your preferred brand of control cleaner into.

Clean the controls one at a time, do not spray them all first and then go back and rotate them as it is not nearly as effective as spraying the cleaner into the control and then immediately rotating it vigorously several times over its entire sweep.

Here at the shop we generally clean each control twice, the reason we do this is if you have to spend several ours on cleaning the controls on say a mixing board that you had to pull all the circuit boards on to get to the controls you sure as heck don’t want to have to pull it all back apart because you were not thorough in your first attempt.

A few additional notes on control cleaning.

When cleaning controls on keyboards, and synthesizers be careful not to get any control cleaner in the area of the keyboard display, or the keyboard contacts.

When cleaning controls on guitar amplifiers try not to get any cleaner on the tubes or any of the power resistors.

When cleaning controls on mixing boards there will generally be a lot of cleaner run off after cleaning the controls. Put the board on some old newspapers or something else absorbent and let the cleaner drain off before you put the cover back on it. It generally helps to do this with the mixing board left sitting in a variety of positions to facilitate draining of the excess cleaner out of the mixing board controls.

Randy Morgan …..  Owner & head technician at All Service Musical Electronics Repair

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