How To Clean Vinyl Records The Right Way

We all know that you can go a bit nuts with anything you choose these days. Going nuts for Vinyl records is a pretty old and respectable practice, though. People have been obsessing over the condition and size of their record collections for decades.

Although someone less experienced in this subject may think that records came and went years ago they are always surprised when faced with the facts. We are indeed seeing a resurgence of this great medium, but they never really went away. 

Production of Vinyl records never really stopped, and they offer a sound quality that is rarely matched (if ever) by digital mediums. 

We have been using them non-stop for several decades now, and you would think that we would all know exactly how to take care of them. Well, there are several different schools of thought regarding this topic and some of them end up doing more harm than good.

But we do not need to convince you of any of this. If you are here it means that you are no outsider, you have already started down this path and now you need to know how to keep your collection in mint condition. We have good news for you: In here you will find everything you need to know to keep your collection in top shape.

Today we are going to go in-depth into cleaning Vinyl record collections. There is no sense in growing a great record collection if you can’t keep them in good shape, so let’s dive in.

What Is Vinyl?

You probably already have some idea, but it is good to make sure that we are all on the same page here. You can clean or take care of something if you do not know what it is made of. Vinyl is a form of plastic. It is one of the most common forms of plastic because of its versatility, we will not go into the chemistry here. 

Suffice it to say that since it is plastic it will be vulnerable to the same things that damage any other plastic item. Some of those things include abrasive compounds and undiluted solutions. Sunlight is a true plastic killer. You should take every step possible to avoid sun exposure on your records. Air and water will also damage plastics, but if your records are in constant contact with Sunlight, Air and Water you are doing something wrong. Records are meant to stay inside their containers at all times except when using them.

First a word of caution:

Please refrain from using undiluted alcohol to clean your records. It is not a good idea to use alcohol undiluted because it will do a lot more harm than good. There are several viable options out there for you to use, and the prices vary. Just stay away from undiluted alcohol and keep reading to discover better options.

Why do I need to clean the record?

You may have wondered about this. If you have, the answer is in the way in which your record player reads the information saved on your records. 

Vinyl record players read the encoded music by touching the surface of the record. This translates into electrical signals that then travel and transform into the sound we hear out of the speakers. If the surface of the record is not clean enough it will be harder for the machine to detect the indentations and therefore harder to read. When that happens you can either hear a slew of noises, or nothing at all. 

The best way to ensure that you do not need to clean your records is to store them properly. If they are kept inside their containers and handled carefully you shouldn’t need to clean them very often, but it is a good idea to know how it is done just in case you need to.

Scratches

As you may know or suspect scratches are bad for records. This is for the same reason that we just discussed, it makes it harder for the record player to read the info stored on the record. 

These scratches we are talking about here do not need to be very large at all to negatively affect your experience when listening. Smaller scratches will sometimes go unnoticed by your eyes but not your ears. To avoid all types of scratches the best way is to keep the record away from everything. Unfortunately, that is not a viable option, because if you keep it away from everything you never get to listen to it.

You can easily scratch a record using the wrong kind of item to clean it, so make sure that you use a soft cloth or a specialized piece of equipment design for the task.

Carbon Fiber Anti-static Brush

If you decide to spend a few dollars to invest in the right tool for the job we would recommend that you get a Carbon Fiber anti-static brush. Removing the static is key to facilitate the removal of dust, and the brush is designed to avoid scratching the record.

This option is not free, but it is not on the expensive side either. You may need to shop around depending on your location to find the item since it is not mainstream, but you should be ok. We feel it is a decent investment because you will not have to go shopping for another one of these any time soon, and it will be very useful to have when cleaning your records is in order.

As always we recommend caution and care here. If you think that using a tool that is designed for this task will keep your records from any harm you are wrong. You still need to be careful when using your brush to make sure that you do not scratch the surface. Chances are low that you will, but you should always keep an eye out. 

The Right Cloth

Your cheapest option is to simply try to find a piece of cloth that is soft enough not to damage the record, but also one that will not leave residue on the surface. You will probably need to experiment a bit before you find the right one. There are a lot of different kinds of cloth, but most will leave small hairs on the surfaces they come in touch with. That is a problem because these hairs will surely interfere with the record player, and are not so easily removed. We suggest that you try your cloth on another surface first so that you can see the results before taking the chance on your valuable records.

Vacuum cleaner?!

You read that right. There are special vacuum cleaners designed specifically to clean the surface of vinyl records without touching them. They are, by far, the best option. They do the job in seconds, leave behind no residue, and since they are not in contact with the record itself they never run the risk of scratching its surface. 

The downside? They are not cheap. Feel free to do some research, but these excellent tools are not for everyone. If you are truly committed to your collection, and it is of significant size then maybe this option is for you. On the other hand, if you are a more casual record collector or don’t use your records very often you are probably better off with some of the other options mentioned above. 

The Right Mix

If you decided to go with the vacuum cleaner then you can skip this section, but if you are using another approach you will need to have some sort of liquid to clean the surface of your record. 

As we all know it is important to have a liquid layer between any surface you are cleaning and the cloth or brush of your choosing. It will make dust and other filth easier to remove and reduce friction that can cause damage to the record. 

The thing is that, if you do not choose carefully you can end up doing more harm than good. You will find a crazy amount of options out there if you browse around for a few minutes. Try to stay away from anything too crazy. We will give you a few options here that are proven to work well and do as little damage as possible.

Record Cleaning Solution

This one is easy. There are special solutions that are made exactly to clean Vinyl records. You can probably find them online and in specialized shops. They are not cheap, but a bottle can last quite a long time if you use it properly and do not go crazy with your cleaning. It is nice to have something that you know will not harm and is available whenever you need it.

Most brands are fine and you can see the ingredients on the label if you have any doubts or concerns.

 Regular Soap?

Yes, you can use regular soap. Just some soap and water will do the try, although it will always leave behind a certain amount of residue. This is unavoidable with any liquid you end up using, though. Do not worry too much about it because it shouldn’t make too much of a difference.

Verdict

If you take good care of your Vinyl records they are sure to last for a very long time, but what is “good care” exactly? Well, here is a summary of all the things we just discussed:

  • Keep your records inside their original containers.
  • Expose them as little as possible to the elements.
  • Avoid scratching your records.
  • Use proper implements such as a good piece of cloth, a special brush, or a vacuum cleaner to remove dust and other impurities.
  • Avoid substances that would corrode the records.
  • Use a cleaning solution or a homemade mix according to your means and desires, but avoid alcohol that has not been diluted.

By following these tips you can make the process of keeping your records in shape a joyful action instead of a stressful moment. Once you have found the tools that work best for you all you will need is a bit of practice to ensure that you are not harming your collection and extending its life.

Cleaning your records can become a ritual that you love if you use the right tools with the right knowledge. Once you know that you are precisely doing things and not doing unnecessary damage to your records you are in for a treat. Just make sure you follow our recommendations so that you can keep doing it for years, and do go overboard! Clean them only when needed and as little as needed.

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