How to Keep Records Clean
Practicing good vinyl record care is an important part of any vinyl collection. We all know that vinyl’s are a great way to enjoy music, the sound is warm, the setup to play can be a ritual like making tea, and collecting them is a lot of fun. The achilles with vinyl records is that they’re a relatively fragile medium. Vinyl can warp over time, records are susceptible to scratches, dust and other damaging elements. Hell even UV from the sun can fade your record outer sleeves and covers! If you haven’t been caring for your vinyls, don’t worry just read on.
Read our guide on How to Fix Scratched Records
Clean Your Vinyls
You can clean your vinyls with two different approaches. One is to dry clean them with a micro fiber cloth or brush, while the other method would be wet cleaning them with a solution. Dry cleaning is perhaps a simpler process while wet cleaning can minimize the amount of times you’ll need to clean your records as it doesn’t add static charge which can attract dust! Either way, both methods can be effective and it’s a good idea to have the option for both methods in your tool chest.
Dry Cleaning Your Vinyls
Dry cleaning your records is perhaps the easiest way to remove dust. An anti-static carbon fiber brush is a great tool for dry cleaning your vinyls. These can be purchased from a number of reputable brands along with complete vinyl record cleaning kits. There are also some pretty slick velvet brushes out there that may cost a bit more but work great. If you don’t have a vinyl brush you can use a clean (preferably new) paintbrush with soft synthetic bristles.
You’ll want to brush with the grooves of the record. The purpose of the brush is to get into the grooves of the record and clear out any dust or debris. It can be helpful to put your dusty record spinning on a turntable and gently allow your brush contact with the record as it spins. This method helps to ensure that you don’t over brush and cause damage to your records.
Wet Cleaning Your Vinyls
If you want to get a more thorough clean and avoid adding static charge to your records a wet cleaning method might be in order. There are a number of cleaning solutions (much like brushes) that can be purchased along with a vinyl record cleaning kit. It’s also possible to make your own solution. A simple DIY solution of filtered water (like distilled or deionized) mixed with alcohol (over the counter isopropyl alcohol) should do the trick. You’ll want a mix that is somewhere in the range of 4:1 to 10:1 (water:alcohol). For example a 5 parts water 1 part isopropyl alcohol is a good place to start. You can add a small amount of detergent to this mix if desired.
NOTE : A DIY solution such as outlined above is for EPs and LPs. DO NOT use this type of solution on a 78!
Once you have your solution, lay your record down on a safe surface like a table with a cloth. Next spray your solution lightly around on the dusty vinyl. Next use a microfiber cloth to wipe away the solution. Wipe around the record, following the grooves not going against or across them. Repeat as needed. Once you’re done it’s a good idea to use a second microfiber cloth that is dry to give a final wipe to your records. When clean and dry carefully store them back into a clean paper inner sleeve and into their outer sleeve.
Clean Your Stylus
Like cleaning your vinyl records it’s also good care for your collection to occasionally clean your turntable stylus. Look online for a stylus cleaning kit. Similarly there are wet and dry cleaning options. Follow instructions and be careful. The stylus is very delicate and requires delicate cleaning but it’s worth it as it can prolong the life of your stylus as well as prevent it from causing damage to your records!
Proper Vinyl Record Storage
It may seem like a no-brainer but improper storage of your vinyl records can have an impact on their longevity. For example, records should never be stacked on top of one another as the pressure builds on the records at the bottom of the stack. This pressure can cause your records to warp. For this reason it’s recommended that you store your vinyl records vertically. Check out some of our favorite vinyl storage options here.
Make sure your vinyl records are stored in an area of your home where the sunlight isn’t directly hitting them. UV light from the sun can cause the outer sleeves (album covers) to fade over time. For this reason many collectors store their vinyls in a box or case that closes. There are also furniture storage options that close to keep light out. If you really want them visible or on display just make sure that they’re not getting hit by sunlight.
Use and Replace Sleeves as Needed
A simple and affordable way to care for your vinyl records is to use (and replace when necessary) the inner and outer sleeves. On the outside, use a high-density polypropylene outer sleeve to prevent dust, scratches, and blemishes. Polypropylene is strong and known to be resistant to moisture and chemicals. You can buy packs of outer sleeves from many online retailers.
Along the same lines as the outer sleeves, replace the paper inner sleeves when necessary. Paper inner sleeves break down over time and the paper can create more dust on your records so replace these as needed. Look for anti static archival paper as well as acid free paper sleeves.
Use a Dust Cover on Your Turntable
This is another obvious one for most as a lot of turntables come with dust covers. Surprisingly, some people opt not to use their dust cover but it’s there for a reason! And if you own a turntable without a dust cover, consider purchasing one. The dust cover does what it says, covers your records from dust. It’s a simple step in caring for your records and equates to less cleaning for you!
Vinyl record collections can cost money so its worth the time and effort to protect them. Consider these tips to keep your collection in good condition, prevent damage, and prolong the life of your vinyls. Happy listening!