Are you a proud owner of a vinyl record collection? If so, knowing how to care for them is essential. Improper handling can result in noise, uneven playback, and even the destruction of your beloved album. But don't worry – with simple tips to keep your records clean.
In this blog post, we'll cover how to clean vinyl records. We'll go over what type of cleaning products work best, how often you should clean each record, the cleaning method for keeping dust off the spinning disc, and other valuable information that every vinyl collector needs to know.
So let's start learning how to keep those cherished discs in mint condition!
Note: The following advice applies to both printed and lathe-cut vinyl records.
What you'll need to clean your vinyl records
Cleaning vinyl records is easy once you know how. There are a few supplies and household cleaning products that you'll need to have on hand to pair with your cleaning methods:
Soft, lint-free cloth – an old t-shirt or clean microfiber cloth works best.
Gentle record cleaner – use record cleaning solutions specifically designed for vinyl records to avoid causing damage. You can also use distilled water.
Anti-static gun – this is used to remove any dust or dirt particles that may be stuck on the surface.
Record cleaning brush – this is used to gently scrub away any debris build-up on the record's grooves.
Like the record brush, stylus cleaner helps remove dirt from the needle and keeps it in top condition when playing your record.
Cotton gloves (white if possible)
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Preparing to clean your records
Before you learn how to clean vinyl records, you should take a few essential steps to ensure the process is done safely.
First, make sure that your record player is off and unplugged. Additionally, it’s also essential to find a clean work surface free of dust and debris.
Finally, wearing white cotton gloves while handling your records is wise to limit how much dirt and oil from your hands gets onto the vinyl.
Cleaning the surface of the record
The best way to clean the surface of a record is by using an antistatic cloth combined with a cleaner specifically designed for vinyl records (if available). If no cleaner is available, then use distilled or deionized water instead.
First, moisten the cloth slightly with either cleaner or water and gently wipe any visible dirt or dust particles away from the record's grooves in straight lines, working outwards from the center towards the edge of each side. Use caution when applying pressure not to warp the shape of your record.
Cleaning the grooves of the record
To thoroughly clean the grooves, use a soft brush specifically designed for vinyl editing purposes; this will help dislodge any stubborn dirt or residue lodged between each groove without damaging them. Ensure you apply only gentle pressure when doing this—too much pressure could cause physical damage.
You can also purchase specialized products, such as stylus record cleaners, that can be used alongside your soft brush and a special cleaning solution designed specifically for vinyl records which can provide more thorough cleaning results than water alone.
Drying and storing your records
Cleaning your vinyl records is essential to maintaining them in optimal condition, but it’s just as important to ensure you dry them properly after cleaning. Here are some tips to ensure that your vinyl records stay safe and sound after every cleaning:
The first step is to remove all the moisture from cleaning the record with a lint-free cloth or a soft-bristled brush. Make sure to get into the grooves carefully and thoroughly so there are no residual liquids left behind that could damage the record later. Once the record is dry, use another clean cloth or even an air compressor to help speed up the process if needed.
It’s also essential to store your vinyl records in a cool and dry place away from direct sunlight and other heat sources, as these can cause warping or other damage over time. Ensure to avoid placing your vinyl too closely together, so they’re not pressing against one another, leaving them vulnerable to scratches and dents.
After drying off any remaining liquid, stand the dried record upright against something like a wall or shelf so it doesn’t come into contact with any other objects that could scratch it. Place loose paper between two albums if stacking them together when storing them to protect both from dust particles, dirt, moisture, and potential scratches from each other.
To further protect your collection, consider investing in plastic sleeves, such as those available online or at most music stores. These are inexpensive and will prevent dust buildup on each side of the album cover while helping to keep moisture away. Additionally, if you plan on transporting your collection, ensure they’re stored safely inside a protective box that can fit snugly around each album and prevent damage during transit or everyday wear-and-tear while being moved around.
Once you have cleaned both sides of your record (and allowed time for any cleaning solution to completely dry), it’s essential to store it back into its sleeve and/or jacket properly to protect it from further damage due to UV light exposure, dust accumulation and other environmental factors that can harm its condition over time.
When replacing it with its sleeve/jacket, ensure no extra paper inserts or plastic protection covers are left inside. These could potentially scratch or warp its surface if mishandled during future plays.
Similarly, when storing multiple LPs together, ensure they don’t come into contact. If not handled properly, this could cause unnecessary friction, leading to scratching their surfaces over time.
Maintenance tips for keeping your records in good condition
Regularly cleaning records is essential for preserving their sound quality over time, but there are several other things you can do to keep them safe between each play session:
Once you've finished cleaning your vinyl records, storing and handling them properly is equally important. This will help ensure that the records remain in good condition for years. Here are some tips on how to properly store and handle vinyl records:
Store the records vertically in their jackets or their plastic sleeves only. Storing them horizontally can cause the record to warp over time due to its weight. Keeping the record jackets or sleeves away from direct sunlight and areas with high humidity is best.
Handle your records with care at all times! Vinyl records are delicate and can easily be scratched if mishandled. Use two hands when picking up or carrying a record by its edges instead of grabbing it by the record label or center hole area.
Clean off any fingerprints from the record surface before playing it, as they will cause additional noise during playback. It's also good to clean off both sides of each record after each use with a cleaning solution specifically designed for cleaning vinyl records (not regular soap!).
If you have multiple copies of a particular album, try to store them separately and label them, so you don't get confused later on when trying to locate one specific copy among many identical ones!
Can you get vinyl record baths?
Yes! A vinyl record bath is one of the best ways to maintain your records. Vinyl record baths, also known as “cleaning baths” or “record cleaning machines,” are specialized cleaning devices designed to maximize the deep cleaning of your vinyl records.
A good vinyl record bath should be able to remove dirt, dust, and other debris from even the deepest grooves on a record. To use one of these devices, you place the record into the bath and allow it to run its cycle, which typically takes 5-10 minutes, depending on the model.
The device then uses ultrasonic sound waves and vibration technology to deep clean the surface of each groove, removing any impurities that may have built up over time. Once finished, you can quickly take out your freshly cleaned vinyl records and start listening again!
Can you clean vinyl records with a vacuum cleaner?
No, you should not use a vacuum cleaner to clean vinyl records. Vacuum cleaners are too powerful and can scratch the delicate grooves of your record as they suck up dirt and dust.
Instead, use an anti-static or carbon fiber brush to remove any surface dirt or dust from the record gently. Make sure you move the brush circularly across the entire record for even cleaning. You can also use cotton swabs to get into hard-to-reach areas of your record.
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Never use a cloth or paper towel; these materials can damage your record by leaving scratches and residues. Finally, you may consider investing in a professional cleaning machine designed specifically for vinyl and records if many must be cleaned regularly.
Top tip: Clean your microfiber cloth or replace it regularly
Using a microfiber cloth to clean your vinyl records is essential for maintenance. A dry microfiber cloth is designed with a very small structure and can easily retain dirt, dust, and other particles.
It is essential to regularly clean or replace your microfiber cloth to avoid putting more dirt and dust on your vinyl records than necessary. To clean the microfiber cloth, use warm water and some mild detergent, then dry it thoroughly before using it again. Additionally, consider storing your microfiber cloth in an airtight container when not in use so that dust does not accumulate on it.
Regularly replacing the cloth is also suggested as part of a routine cleaning schedule for record collectors, primarily if the same cloth has been used for long periods or exposed to harsh chemicals during cleaning.
By periodically discarding and replacing old or worn-out microfiber cloths, you can ensure that you are always using a clean one that won't add any additional contaminants to your collection.
What to avoid when cleaning your records?
When cleaning your vinyl records, there are a few essential things to avoid.
The most important is never to use harsh chemicals or abrasive materials, such as bleach or steel wool. These could damage the delicate surface of the record and make it unplayable.
Additionally, you should never use alcohol-based solutions as a record cleaner either, as this can cause the plastic of your record to become brittle over time. The best thing to use is a dedicated record-cleaning solution.
Finally, ensure you never play a dirty record: dirt and grime can act like sandpaper on the stylus and cartridge, causing irreparable damage.
Following these simple guidelines and avoiding these common mistakes when cleaning your records can ensure they remain pristine for years.
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