Well since listening to vinyl records has become a thing again, the same issues exist now as they did when I was a kid.Back then listening to vinyl was the primary way we listened to music. We had 8 track and cassette tapes but owning albums was the way to go. I remember there was a company called Columbia House that would offer a deal where you could get 11 albums of your choosing for a penny. This was a record buying club when after joining with the initial deal, you would then have to buy eight more albums at regular (overpriced) prices. Anyway, a lot of people were listening to vinyl and one thing about vinyl is it can get dirty. You can actually hear the dirt as the record plays. To get the best sound from your record you need to make sure there is no dust on the playing surface and for god’s sake do not get fingerprints on them. So keep reading to see what is the best way to clean vinyl records. There are actual record cleaning machines and record vacuums you can buy but the cheapest is doing it by hand. We’ll discuss the hand method first.
Cleaning By Hand
To remove dust you’ll want to use a vinyl record brush. A good one is the Audioquest Anti-Static Record Brush. With the brush you’ll want to gently brush the surface in a circular motion. Don’t use too much pressure, you don’t want to damage the grooves. It’s a good idea to brush your record before each play to get any dust off especially if you don’t actually clean your records very often. Now if your record has been in storage for a while or you just bought a used record then you’ll want to actually clean the record.
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Wash the Record with Solution
When washing a vinyl record it is best to use a cleaning solution made specifically for vinyl records. Also, you want to make sure that you have the right cleaning solution. You should avoid one that contains ispropyl alcohol. There have been reports that these cleaners will damage the protective coating on your vinyl over time. If you do use it, do it sparingly. There are many options out there including a dedicated solution called VPI record cleaning fluid. You can also create a solution yourself with deionized water and .5% Tergitol 15-S-7. This is actually what the Library of Congress uses. Lightly spray the solution onto the record avoiding the center label. If using the Tergitol solution let it sit for 4-5 minutes. Using a clean micro-fiber or cotton cloth wipe the record in circular movements, this will get rid of blemishes.
Rinse and Dry
To clean off the remaining soap residue spray the record with the deionoized water only and carefully dry the record with a different micro-fiber cloth. At this point only handle the record by the edges or label to keep from getting fingerprints on it. It is a good idea to let the record dry for up to thirty minutes before you put it back in the sleeve so that it is completely dry. Make sure your records are stored in a sleeve or you can get fresh archival record sleeves like the ones made by Mobile Fidelity. Take care to properly handle your records each time you remove them from the sleeve and play them, no fingerprints please.
Record Vacuum Cleaner
The first non-hand method and maybe the best way to clean your records is buying a vinyl record vacuum cleaner. These are good because they will suck up the dirt and dust in the grooves with minimal pressure and physical contact with the record. Please DO NOT use a normal vacuum cleaner. There are many vacuum machines available at different price points. A couple good ones are the Record Doctor V and the highly rated Pro-Ject VC-S2 ALU Record Cleaning Machine.
If you don’t want to pay for a vacuum cleaner, a less expensive way to clean your records is with a record washer. Spit Clean for example, offers a system made of brushes and rollers and comes with a cleaning solution. To clean a record you just insert the record into the cleaner and rotate it by hand a few times and you’re done. The one drawback is it does apply more pressure to the record so it’s not quite as good as a vacuum but seems to be sufficient for most record collectors.
It’s extremely important to keep your vinyl records clean and sounding their best. I think there will always be debates about what is the best way to listen to music to get the best sound. Vinyl records to me add a different character that you can’t get with digital. Of course if your records aren’t clean then they will not sound better than digital. Hopefully the information provided here will help you keep your vinyl clean and sounding the way you want. If this is your preferred way of listening to music, then it’s well worth the effort. Until next time, I wish you good sound!