The Art of Vinyl Record Cleaning: Tips and Tricks for Beginners and Enthusiasts
If you love listening to music on vinyl, you know how important it is to keep your records clean and well-maintained. Not only does a clean record sound better, but it also lasts longer and preserves its value. But how do you clean vinyl records without damaging them? What are the best tools and methods to use? In this post, we’ll share some tips and tricks for beginners and enthusiasts alike on how to clean vinyl records the right way.
Why You Should Clean Your Vinyl Records
Vinyl records are prone to collecting dust, dirt, fingerprints, and other contaminants that can affect their sound quality and performance. These particles can get trapped in the grooves of the record, causing pops, clicks, crackles, and skips when you play them. They can also damage the stylus (the needle that reads the record) and the record itself, reducing their lifespan and value.
Cleaning your vinyl records regularly can prevent these problems and keep your records sounding great for years to come. A clean record will have less surface noise, more clarity, and more dynamic range. It will also protect your stylus from wear and tear, and your record from scratches and warps.
What You Should Avoid When Cleaning Vinyl Records
Before we get into the best ways to clean vinyl records, let’s talk about what you should avoid. Some common mistakes and misconceptions can actually harm your records more than help them. Here are some things you should never do when cleaning vinyl records:
- Don’t use tap water or household cleaners. Tap water can contain minerals, chemicals, and impurities that can leave residues on your record’s surface. Household cleaners can contain harsh ingredients that can damage the vinyl or the label. Always use distilled water and a specially formulated record cleaning solution instead.
- Don’t use abrasive or linty materials. Paper towels, tissues, napkins, and other rough or linty materials can scratch your record or leave fibers behind. Always use a soft, lint-free microfiber cloth or a velvet vinyl brush instead.
- Don’t apply too much pressure or rub too hard. Vinyl records are delicate and can be easily warped or cracked by excessive force. Always use a gentle touch and follow the direction of the grooves when cleaning your record. Don’t scrub or rub back and forth, as this can damage the grooves and the stylus.
- Don’t expose your record to heat or sunlight. Heat and sunlight can warp your record or fade the label. Always store your record in a cool, dry place away from direct light. Don’t leave your record on the turntable or near a radiator or a window.
How to Clean Vinyl Records by Hand
One of the simplest and most effective ways to clean vinyl records is by hand, using a few basic tools and a bit of patience. Here’s how to do it:
- Step 1: Dust off the record. Before you wet-clean your record, you need to remove any loose dust and dirt that may be on the surface. Use a carbon fiber brush or a microfiber cloth and gently wipe the record in a circular motion, following the direction of the grooves. Start from the inner edge and work your way to the outer edge. Flip the record over and repeat on the other side.
- Step 2: Prepare the cleaning solution. Fill a small spray bottle with distilled water and add a few drops of dish soap. Shake well to mix. Alternatively, you can use a ready-made vinyl record cleaning solution, such as the one from Big Fudge, which comes with a spray bottle, a microfiber cloth, and a velvet brush.
- Step 3: Apply the cleaning solution. Spray the cleaning solution lightly and evenly on the record, avoiding the label. Don’t soak the record or let the solution drip on the label, as this can cause damage or discoloration. You can also spray the solution on the microfiber cloth or the velvet brush instead of directly on the record, if you prefer.
- Step 4: Wipe the record. Use the microfiber cloth or the velvet brush to gently wipe the record in a circular motion, following the direction of the grooves. Start from the inner edge and work your way to the outer edge. Flip the record over and repeat on the other side. Make sure to remove any excess solution or dirt from the record.
- Step 5: Rinse and dry the record. Use another microfiber cloth dampened with distilled water to wipe the record again, following the same circular motion. This will remove any soap residue or remaining dirt from the record. Then, use a dry microfiber cloth to gently pat the record dry, making sure no moisture is left on the surface. You can also let the record air-dry on a clean, flat surface, but don’t stack or store the record until it is completely dry.
How to Clean Vinyl Records with a Machine
If you have a large collection of vinyl records or you want to save some time and effort, you may want to invest in a vinyl record cleaning machine. These machines are designed to automate the cleaning process and provide a deeper and more thorough cleaning than by hand. There are different types of machines available, such as:
- Vacuum machines. These machines use suction to remove the dirt and cleaning solution from the record. They usually have a rotating platter that holds the record and a vacuum arm that moves across the record. Some examples are the Pro-Ject VC-E and the [Spin Clean Record Washer].
- Ultrasonic machines. These machines use high-frequency sound waves to create tiny bubbles that dislodge the dirt from the record. They usually have a water tank that holds the record and a transducer that generates the sound waves. Some examples are the [Klaudio KD-CLN-LP200] and the [iSonic P4875II+MVR5].
The exact steps for using a vinyl record cleaning machine may vary depending on the model and the type, so always follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully. Generally, you will need to:
- Prepare the machine. Plug in the machine and turn it on. Fill the water tank or the cleaning fluid reservoir with the appropriate amount and type of liquid. Adjust the settings according to the size and speed of the record you want to clean.
- Place the record on the machine. Carefully position the record on the platter or the spindle of the machine. Make sure the record is secure and balanced. Attach the clamp or the label protector if provided.
- Start the cleaning cycle. Press the start button or the switch to begin the cleaning cycle. The machine will rotate the record and apply the cleaning solution, the vacuum, or the ultrasonic waves to the record. The cycle may take from a few seconds to a few minutes, depending on the machine and the level of cleaning.
- Remove the record from the machine. When the cleaning cycle is finished, the machine will stop automatically or notify you with a beep or a light. Carefully remove the record from the machine and inspect it for any dirt or moisture. If needed, repeat the cleaning cycle or wipe the record with a microfiber cloth.
- Dry and store the record. Let the record air-dry on a clean, flat surface, or use a dry microfiber cloth to gently pat it dry. Don’t stack or store the record until it is completely dry. Store the record in a clean, anti-static inner sleeve and a protective outer sleeve.
How to Take Care of Your Vinyl Records
Cleaning your vinyl records is only one part of keeping them in good shape. You also need to take care of them before, during, and after playing them. Here are some tips on how to take care of your vinyl records:
- Handle your records with care. Always hold your records by the edges or the label, and avoid touching the grooves with your fingers. Use a stylus brush to gently clean the stylus before and after playing a record. Don’t drop or slide your records on the turntable, and don’t stack them on top of each other.
- Store your records properly. Store your records in a cool, dry place away from heat, sunlight, and humidity. Keep them in clean, anti-static inner sleeves and protective outer sleeves. Store them vertically, not horizontally, and don’t cram them too tightly together. Don’t leave your records on the turntable or near the speakers, and don’t lend them to anyone who won’t treat them well.
- Play your records with the right equipment. Use a good-quality turntable, cartridge, stylus, and speakers that are compatible with your records. Make sure the turntable is level, the tonearm is balanced, and the tracking force and anti-skate are adjusted correctly. Replace the stylus when it wears out, and upgrade your equipment when you can.
Vinyl records are a great way to enjoy music, but they require some TLC to keep them sounding their best. By following these tips and tricks, you can clean your vinyl records safely and effectively, and extend their life and value. Whether you choose to clean your records by hand or with a machine, remember to use the right tools and methods, and avoid anything that can harm your records. And don’t forget to take care of your records before, during, and after playing them, and store them properly. With a little bit of effort, you can keep your vinyl collection in prime condition and enjoy your music for years to come.