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What to Do With a Broken Vinyl Record

If you’re an avid vinyl collector, you’ve probably run into a few duds from time to time. Picking up a used record from a local shop can be a rewarding experience, but it’s also considerably riskier than buying an LP new. Pre-owned records typically have some wear and tear from years, or even decades, of heavy use, but some LPs are worse for wear than others. In the event that you find yourself the owner of a seriously damaged vinyl record, follow the steps in this post to restore it to its former glory.

The Many Forms of Vinyl Damage 

So, how does a vinyl record accrue so much wear and tear?

There are a few major ways that records can get damaged over the course of their lifespan. Below are just a few.

Warping 

One of the most difficult forms of vinyl damage to remedy, warping is typically caused by significant changes in temperature or moisture levels. If a record is stored in a hot car or attic, for example, it is far more likely to become warped due to that excessive heat. Warping can often render a record unplayable since the changes in its shape make it nearly impossible for your turntable’s stylus to read it accurately.

Scratching 

This common form of vinyl damage can occur as the result of improper handling or poor storage methods. Scratches can affect your record’s playability by adding significant noise and distortion to the sound an LP produces. In some cases, significant scratching can even cause a record to skip by sending your turntable’s stylus across unstable terrain.

Cracks 

A cracked vinyl, like a warped vinyl, is often irreparably damaged. Because a record needs to revolve around your turntable to produce sound, any interruptions in its revolutions can cause serious issues with playability. If your record is cracked, it may not be able to play at all. While small cracks in a record’s surface leave you with better chances of making repairs, this form of vinyl damage can be tough to tackle.

Cosmetic Flaws 

Another common issue with old records has less to do with the vinyl and more to do with its packaging. Many vintage records, much to the dismay of their owners, can lose some of their visual appeal due to years of heavy use. Jackets and sleeves can rip, water damage can make album art look warped and distorted, and precious inserts can get torn or lost. In many cases, cosmetically damaged record packaging is stuck in its sorry state and cannot be truly repaired.

Dust, Dirt, and Debris 

Thanks to improper storage and the natural effects of time, the grooves of an old record can often become the home for a wide array of distortion-causing gunk. Dust, dirt, and other particles can get lodged in the surface of a record, leading to noise and distortion. 

Fortunately, this form of vinyl damage is often much easier to remedy than the others. By using specialized tools, you can typically get debris out of the grooves of a record with relative ease, improving the sound quality by reducing distortion.

What to Do About Each Type of Vinyl Damage

If you’re wondering what you should do with a damaged vinyl record, keep reading. Now that you understand the various forms of vinyl record damage, it’s time to find out which types of damage are repairable, as well as how you can keep your vinyl collection in good shape.

What to Do About Warping 

Warped vinyl records are typically damaged beyond repair. However, this is not always the case, and there are multiple do-it-yourself methods of flattening records that have lost their shape to warping. One of the most often-cited processes for flattening a warped record is through weeks of constant weight applied to the vinyl. However, this method does not always work, and it can, in some cases, leave your vinyl worse off than before.

Ultimately, the best thing you can do regarding warping is to be smart about upkeep, maintenance, and storage. Records can sometimes become warped when they are stored in stacks or on shelves that are overstuffed with dozens of LPs. To prevent warping, store your records in such a way that they have little weight put on them. In addition, make sure that your record collection is in a temperature-controlled area that is not too hot or too cold.

What to Do About Scratching 

When a record gets scratched, you may be tempted to give up on it and deem it ruined forever. However, as is the case with warping, there are a few at-home methods for removing scratches from records that may be worth trying. One method involves the use of toothpicks, while another relies on wood glue. However, like the DIY fixes for warping, these methods have mixed results. 

If a record is full of deep scratches that are causing skipping and distortion, it’s often best to leave the LP be. Trying to fix it yourself can sometimes work, but a botched at-home fix may end up truly ruining the vinyl. 

The best way to prevent scratches is to properly store your records in protective sleeves. These sleeves go within the jacket of each album, serving as an additional buffer against dust, rough surfaces, and other threats to a record’s integrity. You can also avoid scratching by handling each record carefully, holding it only by its corners and never by its surface.

What to Do About Cracks 

Sadly, a cracked vinyl is typically an irreparable vinyl. If you’ve been unfortunate enough to drop a record hard enough for it to sustain a crack, that is most likely the end of the poor LP’s life. As you might guess, the best way to keep vinyl records from cracking is to handle them as carefully as possible, working to avoid drops and other forms of impact.

What to Do About Cosmetic Flaws 

Cosmetic flaws in a record’s packaging are often permanent. While it may be a disappointment to see a record’s jacket and inserts wear out over time, this gradual process is an inherent part of the record collecting experience. Records get old, but the best way to keep them looking great for as long as possible is to store them properly and handle them carefully.

What to Do About Dust, Dirt, and Debris 

The best way to remove dust and other debris from the surface of a record is with a specialized cloth or brush. Standard cleaning supplies may damage vinyl, so it is always best to maintain your records with supplies designed for vinyl care. The Sound of Vinyl shop is fully stocked with specialized record cleaning gear, including cloths, brushes, and fluid. 

Conclusion 

As a physical form of recorded music, vinyl records always have the potential to get scratched, warped, and cracked. Protecting your vinyl collection from damage can be tough, but with the right tools and good maintenance practices, you can keep your records as safe, clean, and great-sounding as possible. Records do require more upkeep and maintenance than a digital music library, but it’s worth it for the sake of a unique and immersive listening experience.

To learn more about vinyl restoration, make sure to visit The Sound of Vinyl’s blog. There, you’ll find numerous articles about vinyl record repair, shopping for vintage records, and more. 


Sources:

Fix Scratched Records Using a Toothpick | Sound Matters

How to Fix Scratches on Vinyl Records: 3 Easy Steps | Record Player Expert

Guide to Flattening Warped Vinyl Records | Vinyl Me, Please

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