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How to Clean Vinyl Records

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Authored by Phil Dotree in Music
Published on 11-15-2009

Vinyl records used to be a thing of the past. However, there’s been a turn back to the analog sound of old vinyl in recent years. There’s something to the claims of audiophiles–vinyl actually does sound better. It has to do with the recording and pressing techniques of digital vs. analog sound. Basically, there’s more sound on old vinyl, so if you think it sounds better, you’re correct. It’s also very collectable, and some vinyl records sell for thousands of dollars. However, your vinyl won’t sound good and it won’t be worth anything if you don’t keep your records clean.

Here’s a quick guide to cleaning your records.

1. Get your materials.
The best fluid to use to clean vinyl records is, well, record cleaning fluid. It’s sold at every record store. It’s specially formulated to avoid any damage to your records, and inexpensive. Some fluids come with a cleaning cloth or nonabrasive scrubbing pad. However, if you don’t buy this, you can simply use any microfiber cloth. If you’ve got glasses, the cloth you use for your glasses will work fine. You shouldn’t use paper towels or cloth towels. These can damage the record, or bits of the material can be pulled off onto the record. You’ll end up with vinyl that’s dirtier than before you started cleaning.

You might also use a simple soap and water mix. If you do this, use hand soap, not dish soap. Use an extremely small amount of soap heavily diluted in warm water. Err on the side of too much water rather than too little water.

2. Begin cleaning.
Once you’ve got your cleaning fluid ready, dip your cloth or spray the record with fluid. Very lightly wipe along the grooves of the record. Take care not to scratch the record, and keep it on a clean surface. If you’re cleaning multiple records it helps to have a cloth set aside where you can set the clean records. Don’t get the vinyl records completely wet. Never EVER completely submerge a record in water. This will cause warping, which is bad. You don’t really need more than a few drops to clean each record.

3. Listen.
Your records may still have some bad sounds after cleaning. This is due to scratches in the grooves. Unfortunately, there’s not much that you can do about this noise. This is why you’ve really got to be careful in the cleaning stage. Be sure to clean your records and store them safely. Any grime on the records will end up on the stylus (the needle) of your turntable, which isn’t a good thing. Too much dirt will eventually break the needle off.

On the other hand, your records don’t need to be cleaned extremely often. Once a week for heavy-play records is good. Any more than that, and you’re probably wasting time. With the right chemicals, though, you don’t have to worry about over-cleaning. You won’t run any risk of damaging your vinyl records as long as you’re using the right cleaning products and techniques.

Do you collect vinyl? What cleaning products and techniques do you use? Post in the comments section below this article.

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