How to Clean Vinyl Records in 6 Steps

Published Categorized as Vinyl Cleaning

It can be very easy to neglect the proper procedure of how to clean vinyl records. Unlike digital means, vinyl is a delicate and fragile thing. It is in need of care if the discs and music contained within are to last. This is certainly a crutch when it comes to vinyl record collecting. But one that many enthusiasts are more than willing to take on. Are you willing and ready to learn how to clean vinyl records?

1. Remove Dust and Static

You really can’t go wrong with having a dust brush around. Something about vinyl records. in particular, seems to welcome it with wide open arms outstretched. As though it simply cannot get enough of these old, vintage, and retro sounds pouring from the record into the stylus, the needle, and out of the speakers. It is matters like these that have us precisely needing to know how to clean vinyl records.

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No matter why the dust rears its head, it can be a real nuisance. No doubt, some feel that the appeal of collecting vinyl records is precisely the sound of a turntable needle clawing its way through the mounds of dust that have accumulated over the years. The literal epitome of the glorifying of nostalgia.

Even if I don’t necessarily believe in nostalgia for nostalgia’s sake, even I have to admit how satisfying it is to hear the snap, crackle, and pop of tired old vinyl records spinning on the platter, like an overexcited bowl of cereal.

You or your resident vinyl collector might think otherwise. However, if you or they are always out and about, commenting on audio fidelity and distortion and the like, then chances are they are not going to be hugely into the amount of dust that can accumulate on vinyl records.

Thus, a dust brush, which is specifically designed to deal with the dust that accumulates on vinyl records, is going to be a vinyl record-collecting accessory that you simply can’t be without.

Dusting Down the Disc

So constructed, it is all too common for the grooves of a record to become marred in this way. It will thus be useful to give the record(s) in question a closer inspection with a magnifying glass or another optical device. Sometimes you might be able to see the dust with your own eye from a distance it is so obvious. Other times, you may need to use such an optical device to inspect the dust when it is less obvious.

Nevertheless, it is rarely a bad idea to consistently clean your vinyl record discs. There are plenty of homebrew solutions that people encourage you to use. Though you really can’t go wrong with a professional-grade vinyl record cleaning solution made specifically for the purpose.

vinyl cleaning

This is especially wise if you are indeed intending to learn how to clean vinyl records multiple times and regularly. Making your own solution certainly saves money. But might actually involve further damage, if not a total annihilation of the vinyl record disc. So proceed with caution and, if your finances allow it, invest in some dedicated solution.

Some things you must leave to the professionals. They do what they are doing for a living. And have specifically designed the chemical makeup of the product for precisely this purpose.

Removing Static Too!

What can be mistaken by some as the sound of dirt and dust might be a significant build-up of static on the face of the disc. A seeming act effacing how to clean vinyl records. This form of electricity has a habit of building up a following in these kinds of technologies that bridge the gap between analog and the digital.

Just like dirt and dust that have found a home in the grooves of the record, static electricity can cause the very same pops and skips during playback. This is even more mystifying, as it is something that you can’t see corporeally. Unlike the dirt and dust commonly found in the grooves, however, this is a fairly easy issue to address. And it will almost certainly not cause any damage to the record in question, not any serious damage anyhow.

There are several popular solutions, all of which sadly involve purchasing a dedicated product for the purpose. There are such things as anti-static record sleeves that prevent static electricity from building up. This has a double effect of removing a considerable amount of the static electricity accrued during playback itself.

There are also acrylic platter mats, which in the realm of playback, seek to reduce the amount of static electricity conducted through the turntable to the disc itself. The chemical composition of the acrylic simply puts a relative stop to the static build-up.

2. Inspect the Record Up Close for Visible Blemishes and Marks

No matter how hard we might strive to look after our vinyl records, they can still accrue scratches. Symptoms of this will rear their heads as scratches and scrapes on the surface of a record, easily seen if viewed in a certain light. These trenches will undoubtedly spook the needle and cause it to jump excitedly forward or backward.

Sadly, this is an issue not so easily remedied as some measly bits of dust. Some vinyl record collectors will tell you that it is possible to fill more dramatic holes in a record with epoxy or wood glue. This would fill in the scratch certainly and mean that the needle would not jump. However, needles simply are not designed to grind against such materials. Marring the disc in this way is all well and good, but the needle will undoubtedly suffer for it. This might lead to you needing to replace your record player needle.

Thus, the main solution here would simply be to purchase a new record.

3. Spray Cleaning Solution on Areas that are Causing Problems

Vinyl records attract dirt, dust, and grime like they are related to it or something. Relishing the battle against those who enjoy knowing how to clean vinyl records. I suppose you could, in fact, say that they are, considering dust and dirt are the remnants of lives past. Much like all recordings are relics of a musical moment or performance gone by.

cleaning vinyl

Nevertheless, if a record is to last longer than its sell-by date, so to speak, a vinyl record collector is going to need to show each record some love. What with the clinical perfection and uncanny inhumanity of digital audio technology, it is no wonder that such imperfect formats like vinyl and cassette have made such a massive comeback in the 21st century. They are placeholders for a time uninhabited by more or less the entire user base. Allowing younger generations to return to a time they see as being previous to the veritable complexity of the modern day.

Thus, purchasing an all-in-one record cleaning kit seems your best at combatting the onward march of dirt and dust. Typically contained within are two cleaning solutions, one for the discs themselves and the other for cleaning the stylus. Alongside this will usually be dedicated brushes for each aspect of the turntable, as well as a general microfibre cloth. All of these elements seek to remove dust and grime that gets in the way of the perfect vinyl sound.

4. Wipe Clean Using Circular Movements

Once the how-to-clean vinyl records solution has been applied to the record, typical practice on how to clean vinyl records suggests that you use gentle circular movements to remove all dirt and dust from the surface without causing any further damage or scratches. It is best to make sure you are using a fresh cloth, rid completely of any dust or dirt beforehand. This should help remove or otherwise eradicate any surface blemishes, whether they be fingerprints, oil slicks or grease stains.

It is important to avoid contact with the label at the center of the record as much as possible. This can very easily become damaged if overexposed to fluids, the liquid matter causing the usual paper label to peel off. This would mean certain doom for the contents of a particular side of vinyl, so proceed with veritable caution.

5. Rinse and Dry the Record of Any Excess Solution

If the process of wiping the record beforehand did not already remove any excess, how to clean vinyl records solution, any lather, bubbles, and soap, then do so with a dust-free microfiber cloth. This ought preferably to be a separate cloth to remove the dirt in the first place.

Make sure before adding a record to the turntable or back to the collection where it belongs that you totally rid of fluids or any kind of solution or excess. These can interfere with the sanctity of the turntable and its platter. Since the turntable and record player more often than not run on mains electricity. Thus, water is not a just companion to this hydrophobic piece of technology.

Water will also affect the sleeve to which the record disc itself belongs. The water can very easily ruin the artwork of the sleeve and the jacket that slots itself within the sleeve. So the utmost care ought to be taken at this stage so as to preserve the sanctity of each individual item in the record package.

6. Make Sure to Store Records Properly in the Future to Prevent Any Issues

The only thing more helpful than methods on how to clean vinyl records would be methods for you to prevent the damaging of your records altogether, methods that encourage safely storing records. The vinyl record is a sensitive and fragile thing. Scarcely able to maintain its structural integrity throughout its lifetime, and certainly not without being kept in the right conditions.

how to clean vinyl records diy

The first step would be to keep the records away from direct sunlight, much like a succulent. The heat can have a significant impact on the structural integrity of a vinyl disc.

Sunlight

The sunlight can cause various damages to the sleeve and the record itself. The slow exposure to heat can eventually warp a record beyond recognition. Keep the records away from windows and heating. You’ll also want to ensure you don’t leave your records in the car on a hot day.

how to clean vinyl records at home

Stacking records

Another seemingly obvious method of preventing a damaged or unclean record which can be easy to overlook is to avoid stacking them. A record on its own might not feel heavy, but their weight certainly adds up. Not only can this contribute to an excess of pressure on the records, but can also exacerbate the presence of any dust or dirt in the sleeves.

Humidity of the space

Less common, though by no means less important to consider, is the humidity of the space where you keep your records. The humidity of a basement or attic room is likely to cause some serious damage to your record collection if left unchecked. Try to find a space you can use that isn’t overly humid, though if a basement is your only choice, you should consider installing a dehumidifier to provide a safe place to store your records.

Final Tones

So, there you have it! I hope this guide on how to clean vinyl records has been useful and comprehensive enough. It is of the utmost importance to do so, for the sanctity of your records and record player. Godspeed!

FAQs How to Clean Vinyl Records

What household items can you use to clean vinyl records?

Preferably none, if you can really help it. Microfiber cloths are never a bad place to go if you are seeking a dust free kind of cloth to wipe down your records of dust and dirt and grime without introducing further complications of dust and dirt and grime into the equation. Otherwise, it would be best to avoid homegrown solutions for how to clean vinyl records as much as possible. These things were simply not designed specifically for the purpose of cleaning vinyl records, and so, if not properly mixed or implemented, might destroy the record or the sleeve itself.

Is it OK to wash vinyl records?

Yes, absolutely, and in fact many audiophiles would actively encourage it. This is, of course, providing that you do it right and with the proper tools. Without the proper tools, it can be all too easy to destroy a record without meaning to. The same goes for the way that you clean the record itself, for if you do not clean the record with the requisite care you can very easily damage the disc further than it was already damaged or marred by dust and dirt and grime.

How do you clean a dirty record?

With care and precision, taking your sweet time, that’s how! You will want to proceed with caution at every stage, using tools and chemicals specifically designed for the purpose. Using any that are not can result in further to damage to a record that is already damaged enough to need cleaning in the first place! These solutions are relatively cheap and easy to find online or from your local record store, so do the right thing! Gentle circular movements with a dust free microfiber cloth and some specifically formulated vinyl record cleaning solution will have your disc right as rain, provided the problems are only surface level and don’t involve any scratches and the like.

Can you clean vinyl records with Windex?

This probably is not totally advisable, but it can be done. Since this is a far more corrosive solution than any that might be otherwise used for the purpose, like soap or water, you will only need a small amount, so I would advice that you proceed with the utmost caution so as not to further damage your disc.

By Robert Halvari

My name is Robert Halvari - audio engineer and a total audiophile. I love vinyl because it has that natural character which brings music to life. I've been using and testing vinyl record players for around 15 years and I'm sharing my love and knowledge of vinyl by publishing all I know at Notes On Vinyl

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