How to Clean Vinyl Records in 6 Easy 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?

Importance of Cleaning Your Records

Keeping your beloved vinyl collection in pristine condition is no easy feat but a necessary labor of love for any record enthusiast. Let’s explore why consistently and gently removing dust, oils, and grime from your vinyl is well worth the effort.

1. Preserve Sound Quality

Your records gather all kinds of gunk that can drastically degrade audio quality over time or even cause irreparable damage. Dust gets lodged in the record’s grooves, attracting static charge that makes pops and cracks with each rotation. Oils from handling or manufacturing processes leave behind a grimy film that muffles the clarity of the recording. Without vigilant cleaning, these contaminants slowly erode the integrity of your treasured albums.

  • Dust causes static, pops, cracks
  • Oils create a muffling film
  • Contaminants degrade sound

Gently cleaning records helps strip away these sonic saboteurs and restore the musical magic etched into the vinyl. Trust me, once you hear the pristine playback possible from a freshly-cleaned record, you’ll become a convert!

black vinyl record on brown wooden table

2. Avoid Irreparable Damage

If dust and gunk accumulate too heavily, your records risk real physical damage beyond just poor audio quality. Dust can get permanently ground into scratches if it isn’t regularly brushed away. Oily build-up can penetrate deep into the vinyl material over time, becoming impossible to remove. Grass and grit stuck to a record from careless handling can cause deep abrasive scratches circling with each play. A strict cleaning regimen keeps contamination minimal so it never has a chance to do permanent harm.

3. Prolong Playback Life

Cleaning does more than just guard against damage – it can significantly extend the usable lifespan of vinyl records. With each play the needle makes physical contact with the delicate grooves, causing minor wear. This wear inevitably leads to diminished audio quality over time. 

So while keeping your records pristine may feel like a chore, just imagine all those additional hours of glorious analog audio it allows you to enjoy! A few minutes of easy maintenance translates to years of hassle-free spinning for your vinyl collection. 

Assessing Vinyl Record Condition

Before diving into the actual cleaning process, it helps to assess the current condition of your records so you know what issues need addressing. Developing a keen eye to spot common vinyl contaminants can guide you on where to focus cleaning efforts. After years of inspecting vinyl, here’s what I typically look for:

Visual Signs of Wear and Contamination

Carefully examine both sides of the record in bright light, watching for telltale signs of debris, damage, and wear.

  • Dust often clings around the center label area and within grooves. Use a flashlight at an angle to make any particles sparkle.
  • Delaminating patches with bubbles or peeling indicate serious previous exposure to moisture or heat.
  • Fine scratches generally feel smooth when running your fingertip gently across them. Deeper abrasions catch your nail.
  • Scuffs and grit ground into the vinyl point to a record that’s been carelessly handled or stored.

While all vinyl shows some natural signs of aging and use, heavy contamination calls for a thorough deep cleaning.

a stack of metal plates stacked on top of each other

Signs of Issues Evident During Playback

It’s also helpful to do a listen test both before and after cleaning. Certain types of noise and audio artifacts clue you into specific vinyl afflictions.

  • Frequent popping or crackling noises generally arise from static buildup attracting dust particles.
  • High-frequency surface noise – like a subtle underlying “shhh” between tracks – often indicates a coating of oily gunk.
  • Distortion, skipping grooves, or muted sections likely stem from scratches or physical vinyl damage.

By vigilantly inspecting vinyl condition over time, you’ll better understand the cleaning regimen needed for both preservation and optimal musical performance.

How to Clean Vinyl Records Step-by-Step

Follow these 6 simple steps to keep your vinyl clean and sounding as good as new:

  • Gather cleaning supplies
  • Remove dust and static
  • Inspect the record for visible blemishes and marks
  • Apply cleaning solution on problem areas
  • Wipe clean using circular movements
  • Dry the record of any excess solution

1. Gather Cleaning Supplies

Having the proper gear makes vinyl record cleaning far easier. Through trial and error with various products over the years, I’ve settled on a tried-and-true arsenal of affordable supplies that get LPs gleaming without damage. While specialty record cleaning machines certainly shine, a little elbow grease with the following manual tools works wonders too.

At the core of any traditional vinyl cleaning kit is a trio of simple basics:

  • Record cleaning solution – Ideal for dissolving oils and loosening debris from grooves. Just a tiny amount spread thin cleans effectively.
  • Microfiber cloth – Ultra plush microfiber cloths grip and absorb contaminants without leaving behind lint or scratches like paper towels. 
  • Carbon fiber brush – Extra soft carbon fiber bristles wisk away dust and debris from the record surface before and after wet cleaning.

Now with the gear gathered, let’s prep our workspace for some serious vinyl cleaning! Nothing more satisfying that a freshly bathed record, locked and loaded for a clean spin on the turntable.

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2. Remove Dust and Static Build Up

Before wet cleaning, briskly brush your records with a record brush to sweep away dust particles and static attraction. This properly preps the vinyl to allow deeper cleaning solution penetration into the grooves.

Place the record onto your turntable and spin it at a moderate pace. Hold a record brush lightly at a slight angle along the rotating grooves. The ultra-soft filaments will whisk away any dust, dirt and debris without abrasion over several revolutions.

Spending a minute on this prep brushing prevents dust and particles from getting pushed around in cleaning fluid later. And it reduces static so vinyl easily wets.

3. Inspect the Record 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.

So before applying vinyl record cleaning solution, it’s wise to closely inspect both sides of the record for any visible signs of wear, damage or debris needing attention. Scrutinize under strong light at different angles to identify problematic areas for tailored cleaning focus.

4. 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.

When it’s time to clean your records, strategic targeted application of cleaning solution prevents oversaturating the vinyl and concentrates efforts where they’re needed most.

After inspection reveals damaged or debris-filled zones marked for cleaning focus, position the record atop a lint-free microfiber cloth laid on a solid working surface. Then utilize a spray bottle filled with your preferred cleaning formula to precisely spritz problem areas.

Use cleaning solution extremely sparingly, just enough moisture to thoroughly wet scratches, scuffs or grimy buildup identified during inspection. Allow the fluid 1-2 minutes to fully penetrate etched grooves and dissolve years of caked contamination. For the gnarliest filth, an enzymatic or alcohol-based solution can tackle deep, set-in gunk when used briefly.

Strategically wetting isolated trouble spots avoids wasting excess fluid and oversaturating the rest of the vinyl. Plus, tailored application concentrates cleaning efforts right where they’re needed most!

cleaning vinyl

5. Wipe Clean Using Circular Movements

Now that inspecting and strategic wetting has pretreated any stubborn grime, it’s time for the satisfying hands-on scrub! This tactile step truly brings the cleaning process full circle.

With cleaning solution focused only on identified trouble patches, grasp the edges of your microfiber cloth and gently drape it over wetted areas. Apply light pressure and massage in small circular motions to lift contamination from etched grooves.

  • For wide scratches, use a linear back-and-forth motion aligned with the abrasion.
  • To clean the overall record, spiral motions from center label outward lift broader debris.
  • Increase pressure slightly on caked grime but avoid abrasive rubbing.

It is best to make sure you are using a fresh cloth, rid completely of any dust or dirt beforehand and make sure to check it frequently to ensure it’s not just spreading around gunk. 

It also 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.

6. Dry the Record of Any Excess Solution

Before adding a record to the turntable or back to the collection where it belongs, make sure 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.

Storing Clean Vinyl Records

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. Handling, sleeves and shelving should keep vinyl safe from scratches, dust infiltration or warping over time.

Insert Into Protective Inner Sleeves

Before sliding newly cleaned records onto storage shelves, first slip each into a high-quality inner sleeve. These sleeves act as a protective barrier against scuffs, debris and moisture. 

Invest In Vinyl 50 Master Sleeves Rice Paper Anti Static LP Inner Sleeves Vinyl Record Sleeves Provide Your LP Collection with The Proper Protection, White, Standard PH Meter 1492, Retro

Avoid stacking Vinyl 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.

Avoid Direct Sunlight and Humidity

If possible, store your cleaned vinyl collection within a climate controlled space free from humidity extremes that encourage jacket ringwear or fungus growths requiring repeat cleaning.

The sunlight can cause various damages to the sleeve and the record itself. Finally, the exposure to heat can eventually warp a record beyond recognition, so make sure to keep the records away from windows and heating.  

Other Ways to Clean Vinyl Records

Record Cleaning Machines

While manual washing delivers quality results with some physical effort, specialty vinyl cleaning contraptions automate the process for convenience and consistency. Machines utilize vacuum suction, rotating brushes, and cleaning fluid to efficiently wash LPs.

High-end ultrasonic record cleaning machines provide hands-free scrubbing using cavitating bubbles to lift contamination from grooves. More affordable options like spin clean-style washers combine soft brushes, cleaning solution and water to scrub discs.

Spin-Clean Record Washer Complete Kit

Benefits of powered record cleaning machines:

  • Hands-free automated process
  • Powerful vacuuming sucks fluid from grooves
  • Rotating brushes provide consistent scrubbing
  • Some models dry records post-wash

The main downside of automated units lies in their substantial price tags, often $100+ for quality models. However, for collectors with expansive libraries to keep pristine, a good vinyl cleaning machine can be a sound investment!

Cleaning with Soap and Water

While specialty cleaning fluids loosen tricky contaminants like oils and grime, sometimes good old-fashioned dish soap and water gets the job done.  The manual method of handwashing with gentle soap, a soft brush, and plenty of elbow grease cleans vinyl surprisingly well.

Simplify your supply cache to just household basics:

  • Mild dishwashing liquid diluted in room temperature water
  • Soft-bristled cleaning brush
  • Microfiber cloths

Guide the spinning record allowing streams of sudsy water to flow across the vinyl. Use a delicate brush in circular motions to safely agitate deeply embedded dust. Capture rinse water with a cloth.

Sure, it’s the old-school way. But sometimes classic techniques still prove themselves effective when backed by a little care and patience! For a quick freshening between deep cleans, gentle soap and water keep records shockingly clean minus fancy equipment.

Give it a shot next time grunge strikes – your wallet and vinyl will thank you!

Professional Record Cleaning Services

For the truly vinyl-obsessed collector or if you’ve inherited a massive dusty library, professional cleaning services may be worth investigating. Outsourcing the scrub work saves huge hassle while ensuring pristine results.

Local Record Store Options

Some stereo shops offer an in-house cleaning service for customer records brought into the store. 

record, shop, store

Mail-In Record Cleaning Companies

Some companies, like Perfect Vinyl Forever, deep clean records in bulk then return your shiny vinyl. They tackle everything from light dust to tough conditions like mold or oxidation. Costs vary based on level of cleaning required and shipping charges apply. But for large or extremely dirty collections, this can be more affordable and efficient than DIY scrubbing.

How Often Should You Clean Records?

With so many factors impacting vinyl cleanliness, how often should you clean your record collection? While some hardcore collectors insist on scrubbing after each play, I recommend judging cleaning frequency on storage environment, handling care and visually inspecting discs.

If records are properly sleeved and shelved vertically in a dust-free space, less frequent deep cleaning may suffice. But albums pulled out often or played frequently tend to accumulate more grime requiring extra maintenance love.

Gauge by Storage and Handling

Harsh conditions demand more vigilant upkeep. Records left out picking up playroom dust or subject to high heat/humidity benefit from monthly deep cleaning. Careless handling like touching grooves leaves behind skin oil and dirt that impacts sound far sooner.

Inspect and Playtest

Beyond time intervals, your eyes and ears can gauge cleaning needs. Scan tracks under light before spins, watching for new scuffs or dust bunnies clustering in grooves. Listen for increasing surface noise like crackles or muddied high end indicating new gunk depositing into etchings.

By tuning into both visual and audio clues plus considering your records’ care and environment, you can determine an ideal customized cleaning regimen. Keeping LPs in playable shape ensures you avoid disappointment next time the turntable beckons!

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 without introducing further complications 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, they 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.

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 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 advise 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


  1. Hello, I would like to ask a question…. My father passed away & recently came across approx 70- 10in records each are in a brown paper bag style sleeves. Some of them seem really dried out almost crisp like a potato chip, is there anything I can do to with the ones that seem brittle to bring back to life . In the 12in- I found 1 Beetles album in its original cover, & 4 others I was not familiar with. I don’t remember what Beetles album it was but after reading your articles on values, I sure hope it’s a rare one. Any advice I’d appreciate & I want to thank you for sharing your knowledge with the world !

    1. Hey Lori.

      Sorry for your loss – I hope you are coping okay considering the circumstances. I am unsure of specific cleaning techniques for this phenomenon in 10-inch records – your best bet would be to follow the kind of cleaning techniques outlined in this article and see how that works.

      Good luck Lori and thanks for stopping by,


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