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    How to Clean Vinyl Records: 2 Methods

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    I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Vinyl records are high maintenance. They’re like the hot, high maintenance girlfriend (or boyfriend) who takes two hours to get ready to go out. Of course, when they’re ready, they look good. In the case of vinyl, they sound amazing, but they take a little extra work to get there. Part of this maintenance is keeping them clean. Here is how to do it:

    Before and After listening to a record…

    First of all, before listening to a record (and after), give it a quick once-over with a carbon fiber brush designed for records. These brushes are great for removing small particles of dust and lint. They also de-staticize the record, reducing the chance that the record will attract more dust and lint. Most of the time, this is all you’ll have to do to keep your records in great shape. If you’re noticing that a record is popping and hissing a lot, a quick brush will clean up the sound considerably.

    Giving the records a more thorough cleaning…

    After listening to a record several times, it will probably get dirty. When your records get dirty, it’s a good idea to clean them. Cleaning records doesn’t have to be done very often if you treat your records with care, but it’s not a bad idea once a year if you listen to a record more than a few times in that year. When you clean a record, the goal is to remove grease, dirt and other contaminants.

    To do it properly, you have to use some sort of cleaner. There are many products on the market that are designed for cleaning records. If you want to clean your records on the cheap, you can make your own cleaning solution with some distilled water and isopropyl alcohol.

    Here’s what you do: Mix up one part 90%+ isopropyl alcohol and four parts distilled water. Add 5-6 drops of dishwashing (non-moisturizing) soap to the mixture. Next, apply the solution to a clean paper towel or record cleaning pad. Do not use your “dry” brush for this! Stroke the paper towel around the records, moving with the grooves. Sometimes it is helpful to use a back and forth motion. Repeat if necessary. Next, rinse the record with more distilled water. Dry with a clean towel. Let the record sit out for at least a few hours to ensure that it has dried completely. Just set the record on a clean towel, vertically leaning against something. After the record has dried, place it in a brand new paper or plastic sleeve, and put it back in its cover. Paper sleeves can be purchased on the internet and eBay, as well as in local record and audio shops.

    Using a machine to clean your vinyl…
    If you’re a baller, you can always buy a Nitty Gritty (or similar device), which is a machine that sucks dust off your records. This system works very well, is very easy, and will help you clean a large vinyl collection. These machines are pretty expensive, but worth it if you have a large collection and listen to a lot of music.

    Most of these devices have a platter that you place your record on. Put the record on the platter, and get it spinning (Some machines are motorized, others are manual). Apply some cleaning solution to either the machine’s brush (If it has one), or to your own (again, never use your “dry” brush for this!) Add a few drops to the record too. As the record is spinning, hold the brush directly on the record, allowing it to pass several times. Don’t use too much pressure. After the surface of the record has been brushed, push the vacuum opening over the surface of the record, and turn it on. Let the vacuum suck the debris off the record for a minute or so. To do the other side, make sure the platter is clean before putting the clean side of the record on it. Repeat for the second side.

    Once you have cleaned both sides, let the record air out for awhile. It’s true that the solution evaporates quickly, and the vacuum gets most of the moisture off the record, it’s still a good idea to let it dry for maybe a half hour or so before you put the record back in a sleeve or play it.

    Once it’s dry, put it in a brand new paper or plastic sleeve, and return it to its cover. Easy, right?

    Keeping your records clean will give you plenty of years of listening enjoyment. In addition, when they start to sound bad, you can just give them a quick wash, and they’re back to like new. Enjoy the music!

    Join the Conversation: Post a Comment!

    Topics: maintenance, Sound Quality | 17 Comments »

    17 Responses to “How to Clean Vinyl Records: 2 Methods”

    1. Blasphemy! Ripping LPs to CD | Vinyl Revinyl Says:
      January 28th, 2009 at 12:07 am

      […] Next up, you need to ensure that the LP you are going to rip is clean. Clean off any fingerprints, grease, etc. using a wet cleaning method. After that, use a carbon fiber brush to clean any dust, lint and hair from your vinyl. This will ensure a more “quiet” recording. For details, see my post about how to clean vinyl records. […]

    2. Muxx Says:
      March 17th, 2010 at 7:36 pm

      I hate taking the time to clean my vinyl, it becomes such a chore but it’s also a labor of love.

      When you wipe down that vinyl with a nice microfiber cloth and put it on for play – the sound is just so great, it really makes all your efforts worth it.

    3. Alan Says:
      March 17th, 2010 at 9:12 pm

      Keep it clean, and the sound is pristine.

    4. Kevyn Says:
      June 14th, 2010 at 8:38 am

      As a volunteer at a new/used music store, I spend most of my time assessing and cleaning vinyl. It is so very worth it, that wonderful microfiber cloth! (It also helps to remember to wash your hands before you even think of touching your vinyl or CD’s…)

    5. Alan Says:
      June 14th, 2010 at 12:50 pm

      Yes! Keeping your hands clean while handling vinyl is the one thing that will help you keep your vinyl clean for much longer.

      April 17th, 2011 at 3:19 am

      i recall that back in the 80’s there was a solution that you applied to a vinyl lp and allowed it to dry then peeled it off and it was supposed to take all the dirt out of the grooves of the record.
      it was reasonably effective but found that it wasnt that great on older lps but was better used on new lps which hardly had any play cant remember the name of it though

    7. ANDRE Says:
      June 10th, 2011 at 1:51 pm

      yes this is very interesting, but i have to give a warning: if you are not sure about your manual skills and precision DO NOT WASH REcORDS, if not really really dirty!! a bad operation can ruin your records, maybe with no chances to save it!! try to believe it!
      i never wash my records and they sound very great! they are from 70’s and 80’s and they still sounds without noises.. i always clean records with the carbon brush and i keep my stylus clean, maybe is enough.
      records i washed, maybe doing it wrong, noise became deeper and unbereable!! king regards from Italy

    8. Alan Says:
      June 11th, 2011 at 7:28 am

      Thanks for your comment, Andre!

    9. Lionel Says:
      September 7th, 2011 at 6:19 pm

      I have some beautiful picture disc Lp’s that I want to clean before I frame them..is it OK to use Windex??

    10. Alan Says:
      September 7th, 2011 at 10:02 pm

      This is a controversial topic because Windex contains ammonia, which is said to be corrosive to vinyl records. However, the truth is that you have to out a lot of ammonia on your records, many times before it’s going to eat away at the vinyl to the point where you’ll be able to tell. Plus, since you’re hanging your records up for art, you’re probably more concerned with them looking good than sounding good. Windex actually does do a pretty good job cleaning records, so you’re probably fine. If you want to be totally safe, use the dish soap/distilled water/alcohol mixture I described in the article, but I don’t think it’s necessary.

    11. Lionel Says:
      September 7th, 2011 at 10:28 pm

      Hi Alan, many thanks for your prompt reply and valuable insight. Cheers! Btw, I bought my new circular record frames from a neat place called Bags Unlimited that has discounts for quantities purchased, so I bought 10 for $187.50 with free shipping too.

    12. Alan Says:
      September 8th, 2011 at 7:21 pm

      No problem, glad to help!

    13. Lionel Says:
      September 8th, 2011 at 7:56 pm

      I’m going to test using Windex on an old, inexpensive Picture Disc LP to experiment first and make sure it’s non abrasive. I hear some people like to dilute the Windex first, but I’m going to try using the normal strength right from the git go and will report back to you folks about my experiment. Cheers!

    14. melancholicSymphony Says:
      November 18th, 2011 at 6:41 pm

      Quick noob question just for knowledge sakes. Could using a lens cleaner spray be used on the records? Or would it damage the records?

    15. Alan Says:
      November 20th, 2011 at 10:59 pm

      To be honest, I don’t know what’s in lens cleaner, so I’d err on the side of caution and not use it. I think dish soap and distilled water is the way to go.

    16. Vinyl Jason Says:
      December 9th, 2011 at 2:14 pm

      i had this christmas gift a brand new LP “speak Now” by taylor swift and it really sounds good. after several times of playing i noticed that some tracks came out with noise. clean to look at but with pop/click sounds. i handled it with great care and there’s no doubt that this LP is free from scratch or damage. i gently put it to its album box after playing. yesterday while it is playing and again having these annoying sounds, i shaded the current track with water using cotton and the sound quality is perfect. more than a CD. i love vinyl guys.

    17. Vinyl Jason Says:
      December 10th, 2011 at 11:42 pm

      Here’s what you do: Mix up one part 90%+ isopropyl alcohol and four parts distilled water. Add 5-6 drops of dishwashing (non-moisturizing) soap to the mixture. Next, apply the solution to a clean paper towel or record cleaning pad.

      Guys, this wet method is effective. tried this one just this morning and this is great. thank you guys…