How to Clean Vinyl Records?
Cleaning your vinyl collection can be intimidating the first time you try it. Many people who haven’t tried it before worry that they are going to damage or blemish their vinyl records in the process. However, with just a little bit of equipment and patience, anyone can learn how to clean vinyl records.
In addition, it’s absolutely essential that you maintain your records in peak condition. The cleaner your vinyl is, the high sound quality it will have when you play it. Scratches, gunk, blemishes, or even just lint sitting on the record can drastically affect your listening experience.
In this article, we’re going to tell you everything you need to know in order to clean records and keep them in near-mint condition for years to come.
Keeping Vinyl Records Clean
When you purchase a brand new record, it’s unlikely that you will need to do any sort of deep cleaning. However, taking the time to keep your records clean will save you a lot of headaches over time.
There are a few steps you can take now to help keep your collection as pristine as possible.
Remove dust and static regularly with a record-cleaning brush
There’s a common saying, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” and it is so true when it comes to maintaining your records. If you’ve ever seen dirty records at a thrift store that have been left out and not taken care of, you’ll know exactly what we mean.
Extended time without any cleaning or brushing can cause dust to pile up on your records, and playing them without removing the dust can really damage your vinyl.
Each time you put a record on, you should let it spin clean a couple of times while brushing with an anti-static record brush in a circular motion on the surface of the record. Vinyl Styl and Audio-Technica both make great tools for this.
Doing this consistently will help to limit the amount of dust that builds up on the surface of your records, ultimately leading to an improved listening experience. It also increases the lifespan of your records.
Use anti-static sleeves to store your records
In addition to constantly cleaning your records, you also need to ensure that you are storing your records properly. This isn’t complex, but it’s vital to the longevity of your vinyl.
A simple anti-static sleeve like this one from Vinyl Styl is really all you need. When you’re finished listening, slide the record into one of those sleeves before placing it in the cardboard cover. Nearly every new record you purchase will already have one of these, but they do get lost from time to time with older vinyl.
This is another case of prevention, and it will also cut down on the amount of cleaning you’ll need to do. With proper preventative care, you will only need to deep-clean your vinyl records once every few years, if at all.
Examine your records to check for damage
Even if you’re taking the steps to keep your vinyl clean, you still want to inspect your records now and again to check for any damage or blemishes. If there are scratches on your records, playing them can actually make the damage worse. Moreover, deep scratches can also damage the stylus on your turntable.
When you examine your records, check for any scratches, warping, or other visible blemishes. With older records, you should also be checking for any build-up of dust, grime, or other debris. Old records, when not stored properly, can even begin growing mold and mildew if left unchecked.
In the case that you do find a record that is in bad shape, there are some steps you can take to get it looking just like new again.
Keep stylus clean
This step is easily forgotten by many vinyl enthusiasts, but it is just as important. In the same way that dust and dirt build-up on your records, the same thing happens with the stylus on your turntable.
A simple stylus-cleaning kit used around once a week can prevent much of the damage and wear that you see on old records.
How to Deep Clean Vinyl Records
If you’ve just gone record shopping and picked up a few classics, you may get them home and discover they aren’t in as good a condition as you thought. Maybe lots of dust has worked its way deep into your record’s grooves, or perhaps there’s even some mold starting to grow.
If you find yourself in this situation, no need to worry. There are methods and products out there that can help you restore an old, grimy record to nearly like-new condition.
Remove dust and debris
The first step in deep cleaning vinyl records is to remove any dirt, dust, or debris from the surface of the LP. You can do this with a simple anti-static brush, just as you would do before using the record player for the first time.
This is an important first step, as it will allow whatever cleaning solution or record cleaner you choose to do the work it needs to do.
Use a deep-groove record washer system
If you want an easy solution that will get the job done well, you can buy a deep groove record washer system. These record cleaning machines involve creating a bath of cleaning solution or cleaning fluid that you can then spin your record through and brush it to get grime and buildup out of the grooves.
This is the best solution for records that need serious cleaning, but you can also use one of these systems on any vinyl records. It takes some of the manual work out of the process and simplifies it.
The downside to this method is that these systems are significantly more expensive than the more manual options. For those with large collections of vinyl, a system like this can save you a ton of time over the years in cleaning and maintenance.
Use a liquid cleaning solution and brush
In the case that you want to go the manual route, a simple cleaning solution and carbon fiber brush combo can work wonders for your records. That being said, there is some disagreement over the best solution for cleaning vinyl records. Is it isopropyl alcohol, dish soap, simple warm water?
The Northeast Document Conservation Center recommends a mixture of deionized water and 0.5% Tergitol 15-S-7. Tergitol is a chemical that helps to separate dust and grime from the surface of the vinyl.
Rolling Stone Magazine, on the other hand, recommends a simple cleaning solution and microfiber cloth. The cleaning cloth you use is important, here, as you want to prevent static buildup during the cleaning process. More static means more dust. Microfiber cloths are static-resistant, so they make for a great cleaning method.
Even a wash with just plain water can make a big difference. However, be sure that you are using distilled or deionized water, as the minerals in plain tap water can damage your records.
For the best results, you’ll want to use some form of solution specifically designed for cleaning vinyl records, which you can get for as little as $15.
How To Clean Scratches from Vinyl Records
This is a question we hear a lot, but unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of great solutions for removing scratches from vinyl records.
There are some who advocate for using wood glue to fill in the gaps, but this is by no means a quick fix or guaranteed to work. With new records, the best way to remove scratches is to prevent them with proper care and maintenance.
In the case that you do have an old record that skips around and crackles a lot, just remember why you chose to listen to vinyl in the first place. You’re getting to hear the history of that record. Where it’s been and all the times it’s been played contribute to each imperfection that you’re hearing.
And while you want to keep your records in as close to perfect condition as possible, there’s something to be said for the crackling of an old, dusty Miles Davis record that you can’t experience any other way.
Here at Sound of Vinyl, we offer a host of products that can help you get your records good-as-new again. We know you listen to vinyl because of the unique sonic experience, and we want to make sure you have the best experience possible.
Check out our cleaning kits, brushes, anti-static sleeves, and other accessories that can help you clean and maintain your vinyl record collection.
Or, if you’re looking to grow your collection, we have thousands of albums across every genre and decade you can imagine, including limited-edition pieces, colored vinyl, and more.
Search here to find that one album you’ve been scouring your local record stores for over the last few years. We want to help you craft the collection you’ve been dreaming about.
Not sure what you want? Sign up for our curated text offers, where we’ll text you recommendations for albums we really think you’ll love based on your taste. It’s the easiest way to get curated albums shipped right to your door.