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How To Clean Vinyl Records


record cleaner brush

Today, the most popular places to listen to music is either on the radio or digitally. With the advent of Spotify and iTunes, physical media has definitely taken a downturn. However, it is not all doom and gloom for those not wanting to jump on the digital bandwagon! Vinyl records have started to make a small resurgence and record players are gaining in popularity.

Now you might go out, buy a few records, and play them every now and again, but what happens when they get dirty? When your records start to accumulate dust and dirt you need to clean the record without damaging it if you want your music at optimum quality. In this easy to follow guide, I will share some ways you can keep your records clean and playing correctly.

1) Using a dedicated machine

Not everyone is a vinyl casual and some might own in excess of hundreds of vinyl records. If you own a lot of records you are not going to want to have to clean all of them by hand. Companies like Nitty Gritty, Record Doctor, and VPI make self-contained machines that are dedicated record cleaners. A record cleaning machine consists of a vacuum and suction tube and is able to perform a deep clean that is near to impossible to do manually.

One such product is the highly rated Record Doctor available on Amazon. There are more expensive versions of record cleaners often going up to $1,000, but the Record Doctor comes highly recommended. You can see it here along with a few other record cleaning machines:

2) Don’t use just any cleaning agent

Your first impulse when seeing that your new records are dirty is to pull out your nearest cleaning agent e.g. dish washing liquid, and spray or wipe away. Don’t do it! A lot of name brand cleaning agents contain isopropyl alcohol which can destroy your records. While it might work the first or second time, eventually it will break down the vinyl on the record and you will lose audio quality. Other things not to use are tap water especially under a faucet. NEVER run a vinyl record under a faucet.

3) Buying a brush

The main thing you are trying to clean in your records are the grooves. If the grooves of the record are infected with dirt then the audio quality will degrade. Brushes that are anti-static not only clean out the dirt in the grooves, but because they are anti-static they will naturally stir up the dirt similar to a vacuum. Carbon fiber brushes are another good bet due to the way they are made.

4) Microfiber cloth

If you don’t want to buy a brush because you want to save some money then a microfiber cloth is a very good bet. Microfiber is meant for attracting oils, liquids, dust, and dirt which is exactly what you are looking for in a cleaning product. Plus a cloth is useful for other tasks besides cleaning records.

5) Never use tap water

If you want to use water to clean your records never use the water coming out of your tap. Tap water contains many impurities no matter where you live and those impurities can harm your records significantly. If you are going to use water use distilled and de-ionized water to minimize potential damage to your records.

6) Minimize contact

No matter what manual method you use, you will be making contact with the record. Making contact even if you are being careful will result in some small damage done to the record. Trying to make as little contact as possible with your records is the best way to go to ensure that they stay in the best condition.

The bottom line

The best solution for maintaining your records is buying a dedicated vinyl record cleaner. Buying a dedicated solution not only removes user error in cleaning, but keeps foreign contact with your records to a minimum. You can find these solutions ranging from $100 to $1,000 with varying degrees of success.

If you only own a few records you can buy a microfiber cloth, anti-static brush, or even make your own dedicated record cleaner but you do have to be careful when using these. Whatever you do make sure that you enjoy your records and always keep them away from harmful materials such as unfiltered water and isopropyl alcohol.

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