No big bash, gig, or performance would be complete without some nice, big plumes of smoke to fully accentuate the lighting show or just add a dramatic touch of atmosphere. A good smoke machine is simply essential if you want to throw a memorable party. But how do you get the very best performance out of your smoke machine for as long as possible? Here, we offer 5 Golden Rules for operating and maintaining your smoke machine, so it can continue to belch out fog for as long as possible.
Smoke Machines: 5 Golden Rules for a Longer Lifespan

#1: Warming Up & Cooling Down

Do: Allow your smoke machine enough time to warm up after you’ve switched it on and give it time to cool down after the show.
Don’t: Pack up and cart your smoke machine off as soon as the show is over.
Why?: A smoke machine is a complex and pretty sensitive bit of kit. Hefty shocks while it’s still cooling down could cause things like the heating element conductors to break. When you switch it on, give it a good half an hour to operating temperature – there’s usually even an indicator that lights up as soon as it’s ready to go. Switch it off as soon as you know you’re not going to need it any more – say half an hour before the party is over, then completely empty it one last time (see Tip #4) and give it some peace to cool down while you pack up all your other gear.

#2: The Right Juice

Do: Only ever fill the tank with the recommended fog juice.
Don’t: Use fog juice from an entirely different brand or even think about trying to make juice yourself.
Why?: Smoke machines are set up by the manufacturer to work with a specific kind of fluid. Using other types of fluid can cause a fault in the atomisation process and possibly dangerous effects like ‘spraying’, where droplets are spat out by the output nozzle – not what you want. It can also sometimes give the smoke a nasty burnt smell, or make the floor slippery. Good fog juice that has been smoothly and efficiently converted into smoke should be virtually scentless. You can also forget all those myths about adding dyes. If it was possible to colour the smoke produced by a standard smoke machine, then you would be able to buy it ready-made. If you want to achieve this kind of colourful smoke effect, then a smoke machine with built-in LEDs will come pretty close.

#3: Scented Fluid Additives: Less is More

Do: Add just one drop of your preferred flavour of scented fluid to the tank of your smoke machine to give the smoke a nice fragrance.
Don’t: Pour a whole bottle into the tank and hope for the best.
Why?: The fragranced liquid designed for adding to fog juice is incredibly concentrated, so you only ever need very little. I mean, you wouldn’t throw a whole bottle of squash into your glass and then add a splash of water. So, always follow the instructions written on the scented fluid bottle, even if just one or two drops seems too little – it really is enough. In fact, it’s probably better to avoid using fragrances altogether as they can actually have a negative effect on the lifespan of your smoke machine. But, if you want to use some, maybe only ever use it with a cheaper smoke machine, or a second hand model that you won’t be so bothered about if it develops a defect.

#4: Completely Empty the System

Do: If you’re not going to use the machine for a long time, remove the tube from the tank and run the machine until it stops producing smoke. Then switch it off.
Don’t: Store your smoke machine away for long periods while there’s still fluid in the system.
Why?: Fog juice is a little oily and made out of various substances that can build up and leave deposits in the internal workings, to the point where the system gets clogged up completely and stops working altogether. Unfortunately, a clogged up system can very rarely be fixed, and if it can be fixed, the machine isn’t likely to last much longer. By running the system until no smoke is produced, it gets rid of as much fluid as possible. However, to make sure that the pump doesn’t run dry for too long, pay attention to the sound it’s making as you clear it out. And, if your smoke machine has an integrated tank, make sure to empty it before carrying out the emptying process.

#5: Use Distilled Water

Do: If your machine is clogged, pump some distilled water through it. Maybe add a little cleaning vinegar to the distilled water as well.
Don’t: If the machine is clogged, never pump normal tap water through the system.
Why?: Distilled water isn’t chalky – tap water is. Chalk settles as limescale inside the system and can lead to some serious clogging. Instead, pick up some distilled water from the chemist or supermarket, and to clean out all the oil residue and any limescale, add a little cleaning vinegar – about an 80-20 ratio. Afterwards, give the system a good rinse with normal distilled water and don’t breathe the steam in! Make sure to carry out the process in a well ventilated space and don’t pump the water through for too long – 5 minutes is usually more than enough time. If this doesn’t clear out the system, then I’m afraid that your smoke machine is done. As a side note, it’s best to use smoke machine cleaning fluids sparingly, and never pump distilled water through a smoke machine made by Martin, since this will void your warranty.

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