How to Clean XLR Connectors (+7 Great Tips)

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Cleaning XLR connectors is not something that everyone considers to be important. This is not surprising since these cables are very reliable, and thus usually work very well. In rare cases where they stop working, they are simply replaced. Due to this, the idea of cleaning XLR connectors has not been embraced by most people.

However, you can significantly increase the lifespan and effectiveness of your XLR cables by simply cleaning them regularly. If you have no idea how to clean your XLR connectors, then this article will be of great benefit to you. Read along to find out.

To clean XLR connectors, you need to use an electronics contact cleaner and a cotton pipe cleaner that is thin enough to fit into female XLR connector holes. You need to clean the XLR connectors and connector housing thoroughly with the fluid cleaner and dry them with compressed air if necessary.

This is just a summary of how to clean your XLR connectors. Therefore, if that’s all you are here for, then there you do. However, I will spend time talking extensively about how to extensively clean both male and female connector units, as well as how to maintain XLR cables in this article so you need to read till the end.

Why XLR Connectors Need to be Cleaned

XLR connectors are magnets for dirt and debris. Unfortunately, most people have not realized this. What most people do not know is that the accumulation of dirt can cause damage to the cable and reduce the clarity of the signal from the cable. Due to this, cleaning your XLR connectors will do you a world of good.

Cleaning your XLR connectors and cables removes any dirt build-up that can add noise to the audio signal that passes through them. Apart from this, the cleaning of XLR connectors increases their conductivity and prolongs their lifespan significantly.

Therefore, if your XLR cables are not working as well as they used to, try cleaning them before you try replacing them.

Materials Needed to Clean XLR Cables and Connectors

Cleaning XLR cables is not difficult at all. It is all dependent on having the right materials for the job. Just like every other cleaning job you can think of, having the right cleaning materials and equipment is essential to cleaning these XLR cables and connectors well.

Without the right cleaning materials, XLR connectors can be impossible to clean when the dirt buildup cakes. The good news is, the products and materials required for cleaning XLR cables and connectors are not expensive at all. They are easy to get as well. 

The materials and products you require to clean XLR connectors include the following:

1. A contact cleaner for electronics.

A contact cleaner meant for cleaning electronics is the best cleaning product for XLR cables. This is because it cleans well without damaging the hardware. Additionally, it increases the conductivity of electronic surfaces. This contact cleaner is inexpensive and can be used for cleaning electronics and audio equipment as well.

One of the best contact cleaning products is WD-40 Specialist Contact Cleaner Spray (on Amazon). This product does a great job of cleaning XLR connectors. The amazing thing about this contact cleaner is that it contains a deoxidizer that can help to remove and prevent rust and other forms of oxidation buildup on XLR connectors.

Apart from the contact cleaner, other materials and products you will need to clean your XLR connectors are pure cotton pipe cleaners, a can of compressed air, and sanitizing wipes.

A pure cotton pipe cleaner like the Chenille Stem pipe cleaner (on Amazon) is ideal for removing moisture and dirt from hard-to-reach spots and holes whiles a compressed air product like the Dust-Off Disposable Compressed gas duster (on Amazon) helps to dry any leftover fluid in the connectors.

The sanitizing wipes are good for cleaning the length of the cable and are always great for wiping down electronic hardware. You can get sanitizing wipes from any local store or mart in your neighborhood.

How to Clean XLR Connectors

Now that it has been established that cleaning XLR cables is worthwhile and can increase the conductivity of cables whiles ensuring that the cables last as long as possible.  Let’s learn how to clean XLR cables and connectors properly.

Cleaning XLR connectors is straightforward when you have the right materials and equipment. That notwithstanding, there are some things to look out for, and some techniques that can be applied to ensure that the connectors are cleaned properly.

Before we get into that, you should note that there are two types of XLR connectors on every cable: the male and the female. If the fact that XLR connectors have male and female components is new to you, then you need to read this article titled “Are XLR Cables Directional?”

Both male and female XLR connectors can be cleaned with the same materials and equipment. However, the method involved in cleaning them is different. With that in mind, let’s look at how to clean male and female XLR connectors, respectively.

How to Clean Male XLR Connectors

The truth is, male XLR connectors are the easiest XLR connectors to clean. This is because they do not have tiny or hard-to-reach holes where dirt can accumulate. Male XLR connectors come with connector pins instead of connector holes.

To clean these male XLR connectors properly, all you have to do is simply spray a small amount of contact cleaner onto a section of the cotton pipe cleaner. Afterward, wipe each contact pin in the connector individually.

Try to scrub any dirt and corrosion from the pins firmly. However, be extra careful so that you never bend or dislodge the pins from their sockets as this will break the connector entirely.

It is worth noting that, if you are using a pipe cleaner that is hollow, you should soak the pipe cleaner in the cleaning fluid, and clean the connector pins by inserting them into the pipe cleaner individually.

Use the pipe cleaner to clean the connector’s internal surrounds and clean the connector’s outer housing in the same way. If necessary, unscrew the connector housing from the cable and expose the pins to clean them better and gain better access to the inside of the housing.

How to Clean Female XLR Connectors

Cleaning female XLR cables is slightly more difficult than cleaning the male connectors. This is because female XLR connectors gather dirt far more easily due to the tiny connector holes they come with.

This is the primary reason why female XLR connectors are harder to clean than male connectors. When it comes to cleaning female XLR connectors, I recommend that you use thin cotton pipe cleaners instead of large ones.

The reason why thin cotton pipe cleaners are recommended for cleaning these female XLR connectors is that these thin pipe cleaners can easily fit inside the connector holes in the female XLR connector. It is best to trim the pipe cleaner into smaller sections to reduce the number of pipe cleaners required for the task.

When cleaning female XLR connectors, attach the spray straw to your contact cleaner spray, and spray a good amount of the cleaner directly into the holes in the connector. When you do this, you will notice that some of the contact cleaners will rush out.

However, a good amount will remain within the holes. At this point, clean the connector properly by using the thin cotton pipe cleaner to scrub the connector.

It is worth noting that, when the contact cleaner rushes out of the connector holes, it will clean most of the dirt and grime. That notwithstanding, the holes still need to be scrubbed to be cleaned properly.

Clean the outside of the connector with the same materials, and pay special attention to the clip on the female connector. This is because, if the clip gathers too much grime, it will not function, and it may cause the connector to become stuck in a socket.

Extra Tips for Maintaining XLR Cables

Cleaning XLR connectors and cables are very important. However, ensuring that the cables themselves are well-maintained and cared for in every aspect is the best way to go. This is because proper cable culture or learning to look after your XLR cables is the best way to keep them functioning well for as long as possible.

Therefore, here are some extra tips that will keep your XLR cables and connectors well-maintained and functioning for a long time.

  1. Always coil XLR cables correctly and avoid internal cable twisting. Be careful never to bend XLR connector pins.
  2. Keep cables stored in containers or on cable hooks to prevent dirt build-up. Never leave your XLR cables on the floor and be careful never to stand on or walk on the XLR connectors and cables. This will ensure that they do not bend or get crushed.
  3. Never store XLR cables by connecting the male and female ends.
  4. Always release the clip on the XLR connector before pulling it out of a socket. This will ensure that the clip does not get damaged or broken.
  5. Clean XLR cables, connectors, and sockets regularly to maintain a clean connection.
  6. Never use XLR cables for anything other than analog audio signals.
  7. Never force an XLR cable into a socket.

Though it is always important to keep XLR cables clean, ensuring that they are well-handled and looked after will do you a world of good. Therefore, putting these simple methods into practice will significantly lengthen the lifespan of your XLR cables.


XLR connectors must be cleaned regularly to ensure they function properly. Cleaning XLR cables will ensure that they work well and extends the lifespan of the cables and the connectors. The best way to do so is with cotton pipe cleaners and contact cleaner fluid. When cleaning XLR connectors, always take your time to ensure that they are not damaged in the process.