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How to clean vinyl records? The 3 ways to take care of your vinyl collection

Published by SwapRecords on 2/04/2021

Collecting vinyl records is a pleasure but also a constraint: every collector has to take care of his records at some point in order to make them last in time. If a well preserved vinyl record has a life span of 100 years - in comparison, a CD can only survive from 2 to 20 years maximum - it is however necessary to respect a certain number of good practices. First and foremost, the use of plastic storage sleeves is essential to protect records from dust. The second most important tip is to avoid exposing your records to direct light. If you have a vinyl cabinet or are planning to buy one, try to place it somewhere other than near a window. With that said, let's move on to the 3 ways you can use to clean your used vinyl records.

Cleaning vinyl records by hand 

A basic and quality cleaning can be done at home with a few accessories and cleaning products. And with a very limited budget! All depends of course on the size of your vinyl collection... All you need is an anti-static brush, if you don't already have one, a cleaning solution and a microfiber cloth. We recommend the following cleaning brushes:

Antistatic brush Pro-Ject

The first step is to dust the entire surface of the vinyl record, on both sides. There is no need to press too hard, the objective is to delicately move the brush in the direction of the grooves, in order to remove the dust and static electricity accumulated in the vinyl. This gesture must therefore be light. Do not use any other accessory for this step, and even less rags or other rough materials. Only microfiber cloths are acceptable. And don't forget, the use of an anti-static brush before listening to a vinyl record must become a reflex! 

The second step is to get a vinyl cleaner. We do not recommend mixing water and dishwashing liquid. Especially because we do not guarantee the composition of the dishwashing liquid that you could use as well as the proportions to make this mixture. Furthermore, we do not recommend isopropyl solutions which can damage the protective coating of your vinyl records in the long run. Prefer the Tergitol-based concentrate which is a soft surfactant. With demineralized water - absolutely avoid tap water - the mix is effective for a good and safe cleaning. After spraying your product, let it sit for 4 to 5 minutes. Then brush your discs using only demineralized water, several times to remove the waste of Tergitol, and always in the direction of the grooves! Then finish the cleaning operation by drying with a new microfiber cloth for 30 minutes, before putting the clean and dry discs back in their protective pouch.

We also like the Pure Vinyl product, which is ready to use and contains no alcohol or glycol. However, be careful not to use it on organic or vegetal vinyl. The Spin Clean starter kit proposed by Pro-Ject is also quite interesting and complete with a cleaning product and brushes. 

A very important reminder: always use distilled water to clean your vinyl record, or filtered rainwater at room temperature, and not unfiltered tap water. Limescale is harmful to vinyl, and may deposit a film at the bottom of the grooves as it dries. 

Cleaning kit Spin Clean

Cleaning vinyl records with a record vacuum cleaner

Method number 2: vinyl cleaning with a vacuum cleaner. So let's reassure you right away, this is not your household vacuum cleaner. You'll just scratch your disc. The advantage of a vacuum cleaner specially designed for cleaning vinyl records is that the aspiration of dirt and dust is efficient to go just in the LPs, without exerting too much pressure on the record which remains, remember, a fragile object. Therefore, as a general rule, avoid bending or putting pressure on the record. 

These vinyl record vacuums are a real plus for any collector looking to take care of their records and clean hundreds or thousands of records. We don't think it's crucial to get one if you have a few dozen albums at home. The first method will then be more than sufficient, except if you have rare or very old records. Here are some references of vacuum cleaners for vinyl records:

Pro-Ject Vinyl Cleaner VC-E

Cleaning vinyl records at an independent record store

Finally, the third option is to have your records, and especially your rare or old ones for which you do not want to take any risk, cleaned by a professional. Indeed it is then the possibility to have access to more sophisticated machines and especially to leave your precious vinyl records in the hands of experts. You will thus avoid any error of handling on discs which date from the interwar period, for example, like certain 78 RPMs which were not then produced in the same vinyl material as in the following decades. 

We recommend you to contact your nearest record shop, which could propose you this vinyl cleaning service, usually per unit, or redirect you to a specialist. SwapRecords offers you a directory of the best record shops in the US, don't hesitate to go and have a look to find your local record shops!

 

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