Once you start amassing a collection of vinyl records, it’s natural to want to keep them in pristine condition. Regular maintenance of your vinyl can improve audio quality and allow you to enjoy your investment for years.
New, unsealed discs rarely need to be cleaned before the first read, but that’s a different story for used discs. Even still, even new discs get dirty over time. Fortunately, there are easy ways to rehabilitate dirty discs to give you the best quality possible. Here’s what you need to know.
Remove dust and dirt with a disc brush
Doyle Davis, the co-owner of Grimeys Records in Nashville, Tennessee, brushes his records with a carbon fiber brush — like this one from Boundless Audio — before each rotation of a record side.
Carbon fiber brushes are designed to reduce static build-up and reach deep into a record’s grooves to remove dirt and dust. “You take off some of the static and dust off the surface of the vinyl before you drop the needle. It’s just daily maintenance,” Davis says.
In addition, there are also velvet disc brushes. Velvet brushes do not have an antistatic effect, but they are just as effective as carbon fiber brushes in removing dust and debris.
To use the brush, place the record on your turntable and turn it on. As the record spins, use long, soft strokes and drag the brush along the grooves to dislodge any dust.
Clean thoroughly with a damp cleaning solution
Beyond dust and dirt, drives also collect smudges, fingerprints, and fine scratches. These visible imperfections can lead to unwanted playback issues such as crackles, pops, and skips. So if you don’t necessarily see it at first, you will eventually hear it.
After brushing the disc, it’s a good idea to inspect it – holding the disc by its outer edges – for any visible marks left behind. Any remaining blemishes can be cleaned with a wet solution.
There are a number of commercial cleaning solutions specifically designed for vinyl records. Davis recommends Mobile Fidelity’s One Cleaning solution. For a homemade solution, you can use one part isopropyl alcohol to 10 parts distilled water – never use undiluted alcohol.
To clean your records with a wet solution, first dust off any surface debris with a record brush. Spray a small amount of the cleaning solution on the surface of the disc, taking care to avoid the label. Apply light pressure in a circular motion with a dry cleaning cloth. You can use the inside sleeve of the record as a clean surface to work on.
Dry the disc with another microfiber cloth or let it air dry completely. Make sure the record is completely dry before putting it back in the sleeve, as any moisture or dried cleaning solution can damage the vinyl or affect sound quality.
How to properly place a record in its sleeve
If you want to protect your freshly cleaned vinyl from dust particles during storage, the first line of defense is its interior sleeve.
The best way to protect your vinyl is to “lock the cover,” says Davis.
“Put the record in the inner sleeve, then put the inner sleeve back in the jacket with the inner sleeve opening facing up. So it’s against the top of the jacket line,” Davis explains. This method will ensure you keep dust and dirt out.
To better protect your records, you can put the entire record sleeve in a clear plastic sleeve, says Cole Wheeler of Goner Records in Memphis, Tennessee. Plastic covers can be especially useful if you’re storing records in a location that’s susceptible to moisture, such as a basement.
How to properly store your recordings
How you store your vinyl can also make or break sound quality and longevity.
You should never leave your discs stacked on top of each other for long periods of time. “It will cause warping,” Davis says. Plus, “it’s also not the best way to keep covers looking good,” Wheeler says.
You should also make sure to keep vinyl records out of direct sunlight.
The best way to store vinyl records is upright, like books on a shelf. “They should stand up straight,” Davis says, adding “don’t lean left or right. You shouldn’t squeeze them too tight either.”
If you have a vinyl record collection, it’s important to clean and maintain it regularly to keep it sounding its best.
Before each listening, remove dust and debris from the surface with a record brush. For thorough cleaning, clean the records by hand with a wet solution or invest in a record cleaning machine.
Whichever cleaning method you choose, you should make sure your vinyl is completely dry before putting it back in its sleeve. To safely store your vinyl collection, you need to keep it upright and make sure it stays out of direct sunlight.