Ultimate Guide to Storing Vinyl Records: Best Practices for Preserving Your Collection

Published Categorized as Storing Vinyl

So, you have all of your records ready to go, and you even made sure to set up your entire stereo system as per the specifications of the retailer. But what use is such a pristine setup and listening environment if you’re not going to look after your vinyl collection? If you aren’t storing your vinyl records properly?

Storage care is an all too easy aspect to neglect, one that can leave you having to replace vinyls from your precious collection over and over again because they got damaged for whatever reason. So today, let’s talk about what properly storing vinyl records looks like.


Table of Contents

How to Store Your Vinyl Records

Using a Vinyl Storage Crate

No vinyl record collector’s setup is complete without a place to hold their collection and learn the proper way of storing records. This will ideally occupy pride of place in a record collector’s den, a place for each collector to exhibit their collection for all visitors to see.

Very often, however, a collector’s collection will simply be too large for the space it occupies. Finding a middle ground between proudly exhibiting one’s collection and economically storing it all away can be a real pickle! It is also a pickle trying to find a product that strikes this middle ground!

Cue a wooden vinyl record storage crate. Storage crates made of solid wood can be found, made for the strict purpose of giving the record collection in question the just protection it deserves. The materials used mean these are usually built to last and will be more aesthetically pleasing the older they get, thanks to the real wood finish.

This strength goes hand in hand with the robustness offered by the inbuilt wheels that they often come with. Unlike other consumables for enthusiasts, these crates can often hold up to 100 LPs, even if they are equipped with plastic sleeves for extra protection. This is a massive weight to burden one’s back with, a strain that the inbuilt wheels can completely negate.

This kind of crate will not only allow record collectors to stylishly store a larger collection but will also lend credence to the oft-touted term ‘crate digging’. The owner of this fine wooden crate will indeed be crate digging every time they go looking for a record of theirs to spin.

Vinyl Record Storage Crate on Wheels

Using Plastic Vinyl LP Sleeves

This way of storing records ought to be ubiquitous among all record lovers. While some accessories can be more concerned with the sanctity of the disc itself, these kinds of plastic sleeves are more concerned with the preservation of the sleeve itself, as well as keeping dust out of the business of the jacket and disc.

This is an aspect often neglected in the world of vinyl records collecting. Far too often, you will receive a record in the post or out in the wild, whose disc will be perfectly preserved but whose sleeve will look more like trash.

So much of the experience of listening to and appreciating a record is in these sleeves. Listening to a record properly, sitting back, and holding the sleeve aloft like art. For that is what it is, and why album covers are referred to, by some, as album art.

Here is where these plastic sleeves come in. You might have seen similar accessories on some or all of the records in your local record store. Too often, however, those used in record stores are murky and almost opaque. Fair enough, it would be pretty expensive to deck every record in the store with such high-grade plastic sleeves. But that is precisely what newer sleeves offer, bearing crystal clear transparency.

In this way, you can easily and economically preserve the quality of the album art without sacrificing the act of marveling at it from time to time. The crystal is clear and wrinkle-free polypropylene also boasts protection from UV radiation. All too often, a record sleeve will be marred by distortion and fading, having been overexposed to the sun’s light.


Storing Records on a Shelf

It is far better to store records upright than flat for reasons pertaining to the sanctity of the disc. If utterly necessary, a record can be stored flat, though it should be avoided as much as you can help it. A record on its own might not feel heavy, but its weight certainly adds up (just try lifting a big pile or box of records, and you will know exactly what we mean).

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. Pressure is exerted on these grains of dirt, forcing scratches into the surfaces of these records. Typical solutions to this conundrum have users and enthusiasts leaning their collection up against a wall, with the records coming outwards from the wall towards the user.

Others include similar situations where the wall is used and leaned against. There are more commercial and consumable methods that involve purchasing a dedicated crate (a la crate digging) or weights which keep the records in place, though it is not at all necessary to involve yourself with such methods if you have a perfectly good wall free around the house.

storing records on a shelf

Importance of Proper Vinyl Storage

Now that you have easy and actionable things to do for your vinyl collection, why don’t we get into the details of why it’s important to show plenty of care in storing your records?

Storing your vinyl collection properly is critical for preserving these treasured recordings and will help protect your records from damage over time.

Vertical vs. Horizontal Storage

When organizing your vinyl record collection, you must decide whether to store albums vertically or horizontally. Vertical storage allows records to stand upright like books on a shelf. This prevents warping, as the weight of the vinyl itself avoids placing uneven stress across the record’s surface. However, records stored vertically are more vulnerable to leaning, slipping, and falling.

Horizontal storage involves stacking records side-by-side flat on their edges. This provides more structural stability. But the pressure placed on the vinyl can cause warping over time as gravitational force bears down. Interesting analogies and examples help simplify complex topics.

Most experts recommend vertical storage in a sturdy cabinet or shelving unit. This allows air to circulate while keeping records upright and secure. Horizontal stacking is suitable for short-term storage. But long-term, vertical stands champion.

Shielding Records from Environmental Damage

Vinyl’s worst enemies are heat, sunlight, and excess moisture. Storing records in hot spaces like attics or garages can severely warp and melt vinyl. Sunlight and UV exposure will fade and discolor album covers and labels. Excess humidity can encourage mold growth.

The optimal storage conditions for vinyl include room temperature between 65-72°F and 45-65% relative humidity. Storing records in basements or closets away from external walls provides suitable ambient conditions in most homes. Regularly monitoring temperature and humidity can alert you to any unfavorable fluctuations requiring intervention.

Ensure storage spaces have climate control and barriers from sunlight. For damp areas like crawl spaces, using a dehumidifier prevents humidity damage. Thoughtful storage solutions defend your vinyl investment against environmental threats.

Cleanliness Counts

Another fundamental vinyl storage rule is keeping your records and storage equipment clean. Dust buildup can embed in a record’s grooves, reducing audio quality and wearing the stylus prematurely. Sticky residue from food, drinks, or cigarettes also attracts debris impacting playability.

Designate your media storage as a no-eating zone and keep surfaces wiped down. Clean records before playing or storing them, using a specialized vinyl cleaning system. Store albums in anti-static inner sleeves for extra protection. For shelving and storage units, use microfiber cloths to trap dust and debris that compressed air may miss.

Upholding tidy, hygienic storage conditions greatly extends the lifespan of your vinyl collection and equipment. Skipping basic housekeeping undermines your preservation efforts.

A diverse mixture of original LP’s over many years.  Music is so important in every day life.

Selecting the Right Storage Furniture

Doing due diligence when selecting storage furniture pays off exponentially long-term through properly preserving your vinyl investment. Trust us, opting for storage solutions designed with LPs in mind will better protect your investment while keeping your music mess-free.

Prioritize Stability

As explored previously, vinyl records fare best when stored vertically to prevent uneven pressure and warping. So sturdy, tip-proof shelving is a prerequisite for quality record storage furniture. Prioritizing solid construction and weight capacity over style ensures your records stand securely—perhaps for decades.

Materials like thick gauge steel and high-density particle board endure heavy vinyl loads without buckling or sagging over time. Robust joinery and reinforced backing provide added structural integrity. And wide, grounded bases thwart tipping accidents.

For freestanding racks, select those with an exceptionally low center of gravity or permanent floor anchorage points. Drawers on full extension glides also promote stability for a mobile shelving solution.

While DIY endeavors can get creative, commercial-grade materials stand the test of time and weight better than repurposed goods. When structural stability ranks first, your vinyl investment remains upright and protected.

Sized for Vinyl

Purpose-built vinyl storage furniture tailors sizing specifically for 12” LPs. Optimal dimensions allow records to stand vertically without leaning while enabling easy thumbing through your collection.

The popular IKEA Kallax shelving unit features appropriately sized 13” square cubbies for storing substantial vinyl libraries. Many compatible aftermarket vinyl drawer inserts exist for this budget-friendly system. Commercial vinyl record storage cabinets scale up for larger collections with similar ergonomics.

For heavy collections, open shelving allows quick visual inspection to confirm album orientation. Enclosed storage looks slick but demands diligence when sliding out tightly-packed records to prevent toppling.

Seeking out storage furniture designed expressly for vinyl’s proportions demonstrates understanding of the medium’s unique needs. Prioritizing vinyl-centric ergonomics preserves your records and listening experience.

Choose the Right Materials

Traditional wooden shelves look aesthetically pleasing but carry some disadvantages for vinyl storage. Their uneven, porous surfaces collect dust, require vigilant cleaning, and provide less stabilization. Warping from natural movement also remains a possibility.

Instead, storage furniture constructed using vinyl-friendly materials makes better sense. Powder-coated metal stands up well to humidity and allows close record stacking without sticking. Durable plastics and polymer veneers clean easily while resisting scratches and scuffs from frequent handling.

Convenient features like adjustable shelving, backed partitions, and slide-out drawers simplify editing your storage solution down the road. Seek furniture offering customization capabilities to effortlessly evolve alongside your collection.

Innovative Storage Ideas

Thinking outside the record crate sparks inventive solutions. With ample room for customization, you can store collections proudly while adding tasteful focal points reflecting the music—and style—you love.

Wall-Mounted Racks

Tasteful wall mounts add vertical storage capacity while punctuating living spaces with artistic appeal. Floating shelves and bracketed ledges crafted using wood, glass, or metal create dimensional depth when stacked with vinyl.

Staggered rack shelving angles records for easier label visibility compared to tight cubbies. And proper weight-bearing designs eliminate strain on walls despite holding substantial libraries.

Match storage racks to your existing aesthetic for a cohesive feel. Black metal piping offers an industrial edge, while reclaimed barnwood makes a rustic statement. Lean toward minimalism or high contrast—either way, wall mounts spotlight your vinyl collection as intentional design.

Vinyl as Art

Taking vinyl storage to more avant-garde heights, some enterprising companies transform tattered vinyl sleeves into one-of-a-kind soundwave art. Using scanned record grooves as inspiration, inkjet prints and metal etchings celebrate albums in modern graphic style.

Framed vinyl art draws the eye while sparking curiosity about the music inside. More functional designs like coasters and placemats also reuse old sleeves to noble ends without demanding additional storage capacity.

This novel upcycling captures vinyl’s analog warmth through abstract visual representations. Displaying album sleeve art allows minds to envision the auditory experiences locked inside.

Multipurpose Furniture

Savvy collectors configure storage solutions pulling double duty as functional furniture. Tables with lift-tops or large hollow pedestals stash substantial record collections out of sight. Storage ottomans and hollow side tables offer similar concealed capacity without appearing cluttered.

Some lounge chairs even feature built-in cabinets within their base, using dead space for organized record storage. And simple trunks lined with protective pads morph into coffee tables or bench seats ready to store your vinyl hoard.

When existing furniture lacks sufficient storage capacity, handy hobbyists adapt pieces themselves. A quick Internet search uncovers guides for adding storage cubbies to bookshelves, headboards, sofas, and more through basic woodworking.

With a little elbow grease, it becomes possible to both conceal and display records around the home while enjoying new furniture on a budget.

Storing Vinyl Records Special Editions and Box Sets

For prized limited edition and multi-disc box sets, implementing a few additional safeguards helps these special records stand the test of time. Spending on extra protection goes a long way.

Added Protection from Elements

As vinyl’s worst enemies, temperature fluctuations, sunlight, and excess moisture pose heightened risks for vulnerable special editions. Store these rarities in interior closets or basement spaces with climate control to minimize environmental threats. Consider a dedicated media closet for extremely sensitive pieces.

Additionally, museum-grade outer sleeves help defend against dust, grime, and physical damage during handling. Archival quality resealable bags also defend delicate artwork and photo inserts without the risks of ringwear marring glossy jackets. And avoid overpacking shelves to alleviate excess weight strain over time.

Finally, limit playing prized vinyl to high-performing turntables using gentle settings and pristine styli. This lowers risks of irreparable groove damage or skip defects through unnecessary wear and tear. Handle discs by edges and label areas only during play.

Reinforced Storage Materials

Given their substantial weight, expanded dimensions, and oft-delicate nature, sturdy yet non-damaging transportation and storage cases preserve box sets integrity. Seek reinforced record and media crates with ample clearance, strong handles, and scratch-resistant surfaces.

For display purposes, acrylic record frames accommodate extra weight while preventing dust buildup on open box set contents. And shelving racks with adjustable partitions or bookends keep shapely multi-disc packages orderly.

Individual outer and inner sleeves specially sized for box sets better shield discs from friction damage. Materials like anti-static rice paper and polyethylene film add negligible weight while protecting investment pieces.

Displaying with Intent

When dealing with high-value showpieces, thoughtfully incorporating box sets into room design makes a statement. Position them as intentional focal points atop credenzas or coffee tables instead of tightly packing them onto shelves.

Accent lighting casts a warm glow on beloved centerpieces to highlight without inflicting light damage. For especially enviable collections, install secure glass cabinetry to reliably showcase box sets as an artistic installation.

Alternatively, prop open box lids at prescribed angles using persistence-of-vision stands for a levitating appearance. This allows peeking at inner contents without fully removing fragile platters.

Ultimate Guide To Storing Vinyl Records: Best Practices For Preserving Your Collection

Storing Records for Long-Term Preservation

For vinyl collectors invested in preserving recordings for generations, implementing archival best practices defends against degradation over decades. Go the distance ensuring vinyl legacies that span generations.

Archival Storage Materials

Archival quality enclosures crafted from specialized materials best shield vintage vinyl from aging elements. Uncoated acid-free paper sleeves resist yellowing and deterioration. High-density polyethylene outer sleeves block external contaminants. Rice paper and poly sleeves mitigate static charge buildup.

Seeking out materials tested for longevity also matters. Opt for enclosures with proven resistance to tears, seam splits, fading, and brittling through extended time trials. And ensure adhesives pass photochemical analyzation without emitting acidic compounds over 100-year projections.

Some suppliers also nitrogen purge sleeves to evacuate oxygen during sealing. This innovation prevents oxidation essentially placing contents into stasis until opening. It offers the closest solution short of professional vacuum sealing for timeless preservation.

Climate Controlled Conditions

As previously outlined, improper temperature, light, and humidity hasten vinyl deterioration. But spaces purpose-built for archival media storage enable unprecedented environmental regulation.

Moisture and pollution filtration paired with precision HVAC systems maintain temperatures within 1° and humidity within 5% of prescribed levels perpetually. Backup power generators ensure continuity of conditions if main power fails. And specialized lighting mimics low-UV museum gallery conditions avoiding fading damage.

Some collectors install custom media vaults or repurposed coolers creating hyper-controlled spaces in their own homes cost-effectively. But for those lacking specialized construction skills, professional facilities provide turnkey archival environments. Partners like Vessel Audio in Bentonville, Arkansas even accommodate small collections requiring highly regulated stability.

Long-Term Maintenance Planning

While enclosures and conditions defend against aging factors, no archival storage solution lasts forever. Periodic maintenance helps counter material entropy over decades.

Schedule time every 2-5 years to perform visual inspection on archived collections. Look for signs of deteriorating sleeves, label wear, disc fogging or oxidation necessitating fresh enclosures. Prioritize at-risk titles showing advanced signs of aging first.

As storage materials naturally degrade after prolonged use, swap outer sleeves every decade at minimum. More frequent replacements provide added insurance as preservation technologies advance.

Leave handling of discs themselves to audio engineers using specialized record cleaning vacuums during scheduled checkups. This minimizes risks of accidental damage during frequent inspection. Handling delicately and only by edges remains mandatory nonetheless.

Understanding Vinyl Composition

So, given all those tips for record storage, let’s briefly touch on my vinyl is so fragile in the first place. The materials and production methods used make vinyl uniquely vulnerable to environmental factors—thus informing ideal storage protocol.

Appreciating what constitutes these beloved platters better equips collectors to protect them.

What Vinyl’s Made Of

Unlike shellac records preceding them, most vinyl consists of non-toxic polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic. This hot mixture gets squeezed into a mold called a biscuit for chilling. Labels embed directly into records during pressing rather than gluing on afterward as some assume.

The biscuit then meets the stamper—a negative mold coated in metal film used to imprint grooved impressions. Tonnes of pressure imprint recordings into softened PVC, which a trimming die cuts into a disc. Finishing touches like label application and protective spray follow before protective sleeve insertion and shrink wrapping.

This petroleum-based construction interacts uniquely with environmental elements compared to shellac or lacquer records. Understanding vinyl’s vulnerabilities enables collectors to mitigate threats through mindful storage.

Why Composition Matters

Unlike ceramic, glass, or even some metals, plastics remain susceptible to gradual structural breakdown over decades through material fatigue. Vinyl also carries electrostatic properties attracting dust and debris into its grooves—necessitating fastidious maintenance for preserving playability.

Excess heat accelerates vinyl decay by evaporating essential plasticizers, leaving records brittle prematurely. Labels also dry out, compromising adhesion. Without protective barriers, moisture and oxygen exposure oxidize polymers causing foggy streaks. Light bleaches colorants and fades sleeve art over time.

Thoughtful storage solutions address vinyl’s inherent sensitivities, dramatically extending its lifespan. Otherwise seemingly harmless conditions trigger gradual deterioration that attentive prevention averts. Just a few degrees’ variance can mean the difference between enjoyment for years instead of rapid demise.

Caring for Specialized Formulations

Picture discs with images laminated between transparent PVC layers remain especially vulnerable to heat and light damage. Their thin profile also demands exceptional handling care against flex damage.

Colored vinyl substituted standard black carbon additives during compounding with custom pigments. While equally playable, these special editions require more frequent cleaning as brighter compounds show dust and scuffs more conspicuously. Static charge also increases minus carbon.

And vintage shellac records must avoid alcohol exposure that can dissolve their wood flour and ceramic fillings. Storage spaces shared with vinyl merit isolation to prevent chemical cross-contamination destroying irreplaceable history.

Ultimate Guide To Storing Vinyl Records: Best Practices For Preserving Your Collection

How Might a Record Get Damaged?

There are several different reasons for adequately storing records, though many of these tend to circulate around improper storage. This is an imperfect medium; there are no two ways about it. The vinyl record is an incredibly sensitive thing, prey to many debilitating minutiae. Keeping your vinyl in shape with suitable cleaning kits might prevent some of the following.

Heat is Not Vinyl’s Friend

Heat tends to be one of the main factors for a damaged record, a vinyl disc so affected as to literally change its shape. These discs tend to be made from vinyl plastic, crude oil shaped like a frisbee. Anyone could tell you that such material is sensitive to heat, and they would be right! You wouldn’t put a piece of plastic crockery or cutlery on a radiator, would you?

The same logic ought to apply here, for this is plastic in the most real sense. Exposed to heat, the plastic becomes softer and thus starts to mould to whatever shape it is being pressed into. Since they are so thin anyhow, it does not take much to force them into a new shape. Other aspects of the climate of a space can have an impact on a vinyl record disc’s structural integrity too, not least the humidity of a given room.

Sunlight Damages Vinyl and Sleeve

A vinyl record disc can be sensitive to direct sunlight, also, so it is best to always replace a disc in its corresponding sleeve as soon as possible, making sure of your adequately storing records. The light can play tricks on the grooves of the disc, melting them and moulding them to another shape, or else blunting them entirely and erasing the details carved within.

The same very much goes for the sleeve itself, in fact, as a sleeve’s exposure to direct sunlight or other light sources is one of the main reasons for them being weathered and bleached, such as those you might see at a yard sale or in a second hand store.

Needless to say, then, that at every stage, properly storing records is absolutely vital.

Tips to Prevent Vinyl Damage

As any record lover knows, the vinyl record is a sensitive and fragile thing, scarcely able to maintain its structural integrity throughout its lifetime.

So it certainly will not last without being kept in the right conditions.

The only thing better than fixing a damaged record would be preventing the damaging of your records in the first place. Here are a few ways to do that:

Avoid Direct Sunlight

The first step would be to keep the records away from direct sunlight, much like a succulent. The heat, no matter how negligible it might feel to us humans, can have a significant impact on the structural integrity of a vinyl disc.

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 make sure you don’t leave your records in the car on a hot day, a hot car being so much like a greenhouse.

Storing Your Vinyl Records Correctly avoid sun

Avoid Stacking Your Records

Another seemingly obvious method of preventing a warped record, which can be easy to overlook, is to avoid stacking them.

A record on its own might not feel heavy, but its weight certainly adds up (just try lifting a big pile or box of records, and you will know exactly what we mean). 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. Pressure is exerted on these grains of dirt, forcing scratches into the surfaces of these records.

So remember not to stack them on top of each other, ever.

Storing Records Correctly

Avoid Humid Places

Less common, though by no means less important to consider, is the humidity of the space in which your records are kept.

The humidity of a basement or attic room is likely to cause some serious damage to your vinyl 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.

Be a Groove Guardian!

So, there you have it; the best practices for how to store vinyl records properly.

Composed of delicate PVC plastic, vinyl’s unique properties demand protection from environmental threats like heat, moisture, and light which accelerate material breakdown. Thoughtful storage solutions address vinyl’s sensitivities, dramatically extending its lifespan through stable conditions and archival materials.

Hopefully you have been able to find within the folds of my post for the day some useful advice on how best to go about storing records. And hopefully, the advice has enabled you to sort out your own collection and preserve for years to come!

FAQs Storing Records

How should you store records?

When storing records you should make sure to take several factors into account and to keep them in the balance. The temperature is vital to consider. Heat tends to be one of the main factors for a damaged record, a vinyl disc so affected as to literally change its shape. These discs tend to be made from vinyl plastic, crude oil shaped like a frisbee. Humidity, too, can have a similarly drastic effect on the polyvinyl chloride that houses your favorite recordings. Likewise, direct light is an important factor in storing records, not simply for the heat it can impart. The Ultraviolet light transmitted by the sun onto a record can significantly damage the grooves of a record, the common currency of sound on a vinyl disc.

Is it OK to store records flat?

If utterly necessary, though, it should be avoided as much as you can help it. A record on its own might not feel heavy, but its weight certainly adds up (just try lifting a big pile or box of records, and you will know exactly what we mean). Not only can this contribute to excess pressure on the records, but can also exacerbate the presence of any dust or dirt in the sleeves. Pressure is exerted on these grains of dirt, forcing scratches into the surfaces of these records.

What temperature should vinyl records be stored?

There is not necessarily a single temperature that will guarantee the sanctity of your precious vinyl collection. Simply making sure that the collection is kept at a reasonable temperature will, however, ensure that certain issues like warping and such will be avoided altogether by means of heat. A cool and collected temperature kept stable will be ample for a record collection, not too hot nor too cold. Both these extremes can have a severely detrimental effect on the records as a whole and singularly.

How do you keep records upright?

Typical solutions to this conundrum have users and enthusiasts leaning their collection up against a wall, with the records coming outwards from the wall towards the user. Others include similar situations where the wall is used and leaned against. There are more commercial and consumable methods that involve purchasing a dedicated crate (a la crate digging) or weights which keep the records in place, though it is not at all necessary to involve yourself with such methods if you have a perfectly good wall free around the house.

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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