How to Clean Your Vinyl Records – Review Geek

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There’s nothing in the world like vinyl. However, once you get your new albums home from the record store, you’ll need to keep them clean so they last for years. wondering How? ‘Or’ What clean a vinyl record? Keep reading – we have all the information.

Whether you’re looking for the best way to clean up an old vinyl record or an easy way to keep your current collection clean and ready to play, these methods make the process quick and easy. When properly cleaned, the vinyl collection you’ve spent years building and investing in will last a lifetime. But you need to be sure that you’re cleaning them the right way and that you don’t risk damaging them. Let’s go ahead and learn how to clean your vinyl without further ado.

Why do you need to clean vinyl records?

You might not think cleaning up your folders is a big deal, or you might decide not to care because cleaning up can be tedious, but it is necessary. They tend to attract dust, stains, hair, static electricity, contaminants from pressing and packaging, and all sorts of other grime from everyday use. Not cleaning them can lead to noisy or dull playback, increased wear, damage to the grooves, and even potential damage to your turntable’s stylus.

Simply put, if you want to enjoy your expensive record collection for years to come, you need to clean it up. And if that news doesn’t thrill you, just remember how much better your favorite albums sound on vinyl than on a digital music streaming service.

How often should you clean vinyl records?

It’s a little complicated and mostly depends on how often you listen to your records and what steps you take to handle and store them properly. You must use an anti-static carbon fiber brush before and after each use to remove dust and everything else. But beyond that? Deep cleanings don’t need to be frequent.

Retro style image of boxes with turntable at a flea market
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Really, the only times you need to clean up your records is when you add a new one to your library, when you can spot dirt, or when you hear a noticeable amount of hissing or popping that disrupts your listening experience. There is no set schedule or deadline – it’s up to you and only necessary when you can see or hear what you need.

You will need a cleaning brush

How do you handle and store vinyl properly?

Part of keeping your records clean is knowing how to manage them properly. Compared to cassettes or CDs, vinyl is much less robust and a thousand times more susceptible to damage from a wider variety of sources. So if you are going to invest in them, you have to learn how to manage them.

When interacting with vinyl, the main thing to remember is to only touch them on the edges or the center label. You should never touch the playing surface of the record, as this can push any gunk already on the vinyl further into deep grooves. And to make matters worse, the oils in our skin attract contaminants (like dust) to cling to the surface.

To properly store your vinyl, we recommend two things. First, keep them in anti-static pouches inside the case; you also need to upgrade the basic paper sleeves. Second, you should always store them upright and never stack them vertically, as this can compress and ruin the grooves. We also recommend adding protective outer sleeves to every new vinyl you purchase to keep the artwork looking great for years to come.

Protect your vinyl

The easiest cleaning method: by hand

If you’re wondering how to clean vinyl records at home or on a budget, don’t worry, it’s easy. That said, it’s worth noting that you should avoid using tap water (especially if it’s hard water), vinegar, household cleaners, and isopropyl alcohol. These can potentially deposit impurities or cause plasticizers to leach out, dramatically shortening the life of your vinyl.

So what should you Actually clean your disks with it, so if you do it by hand? Beyond your daily anti-static record brush, you should use a few simple microfiber cloths, a container of distilled water, and a cleaning solution made specifically for vinyl record care. If you want, you can also purchase several of these items together in a reputable vinyl cleaning kit.

Once you have your supplies in hand, you’re ready to start cleaning:

Young hipster cleaning dust from his vinyl record collection
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First, gently wipe the disc you want to clean with your microfiber cloth. Your goal here is to clean larger particles using minimal pressure so you don’t push gunk deeper into the grooves. Use a circular motion here, following the grooves around the disc. You can also choose to use your vinyl cleaning brush here instead.

Second, lightly dampen the cloth with distilled water and wipe the playing surface (do not the central label), following the grooves. If you do routine maintenance cleaning, that should be enough and you can skip to step four.

If not, you can include this optional third step, where you do another pass with a good record cleaning solution (remembering to mix it with distilled water, if necessary). For this, just use a little on your cloth, following the grooves; then repeat step two with just distilled water to rinse away any remaining solution.

Fourth, take a new, dry microfiber cloth (or use the dry edge of your current cloth, if available) and completely dry the disc. Before putting the vinyl back in its packaging, perform a final inspection to make sure there are no lingering stains or particles. Peasy easy. The process of cleaning disks by hand is simple and relatively quick, and you can repeat it until the disk is clean.

A basic record cleaning kit

Other cleaning methods: washing machines and machines

Looking for a cleaning method that’s a little more extensive or on par with what a professional vinyl cleaning service might offer? We have you. These record cleaning machines automate much (if not all) of the process and are capable of removing ultra-stubborn particles embedded deep in the grooves of a vinyl.

Drying 33 rpm vinyl records after washing in a manual record cleaning machine
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Vinyl record washers

Record washers are by far the most efficient and economical way to clean vinyl (or even a whole batch of them), and only cost around $40-$150. Although you still have to do a little work here, the machine will take care of the most unpleasant part. You’ll need to refill the bath every few saves to minimize cross-contamination, but the process is still reasonably short overall.

Spin your clean vinyl

Vacuum cleaning machines

A vacuum cleaning machine is a worthwhile expense. These are great cleaning options for serious collectors, but are larger initial investments than a record washer or the simple vinyl cleaning kits you can find on Amazon. They vary between around $300 and $1,000.

These single-use machines are specially designed to perfectly clean your vinyl by sucking up deposited dirt and removing greasy fingerprints captured by the applied cleaning solution. At the same time, record cleaners minimize the physical contact and pressure applied to each record during the cleaning process.

High performance vacuum cleaner motor cleaner

Ultrasonic cleaning machines

Many vinyl collectors agree that ultrasonic cleaning machines are the best method to thoroughly clean a vinyl record. With these, the machine vibrates the liquid in its cleansing bath at incredible speed, creating a ton of bubbles, called cavitation. These, in turn, collapse and release pressure and heat, which can loosen deep-seated dirt on a dirty old record while making minimal (if any) contact with it. They are powerful, safe and effective.

Given that and the fact that the best ultrasonic cleaning machines cost around $400 to $2,500, you can be sure they’ll get the job done. If you can swing it, the Degritter is one of the best options out there.

If you don’t want to spend that much (which is understandable), there are less expensive machines that are still decent quality. Just be aware that these won’t have the same range of impact frequencies and might not do as good a job of cleaning overall.

Pulse resistant particles out of the grooves

A few tips before you go

When cleaning your vinyl, remember the name of the game is to keep it simple. In most cases, you can get by with the basic cleaning components; likewise, sophisticated equipment and an artillery of cleaning chemicals and tricks are, in most cases, a complete overkill. Invest in quality basics, like a good brush and microfiber cloth, and be sure to replace them as needed.

Vinyl Music Melody Leisure Rest Rhythm Concept
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Simple, regular cleanings are the best way to ensure that all your vinyl records stay in good condition. However, there are a few other things to keep in mind that can also help maintain good vinyl health. Keeping the needle (the stylus) of your turntable clean, properly storing your vinyl (vertical and in protective anti-static sleeves) are important measures to take.

But you also need to be careful when handling them (only touch the outer edge and the label, never the grooves). Improper storage and handling of records is the main cause of damage.

Essentially, it’s just about being aware of your equipment and records and taking your time handling and cleaning them. We also recommend that you teach friends and family interested in your vinyl how to handle and clean them properly for peace of mind.

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