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How To Clean Vinyl Records

Whether you have just purchased something new from an online record store or you want to smarten up your latest haul of second-hand vinyls, it's important to know how to clean vinyl records correctly. They are notorious for attracting lots of dust and sticky fingerprints, so you need to act to maintain them and extend their lifespan. In this guide, we'll explain a simple, safe method to clean your vinyl records.

Tips for Vinyl Record Maintenance

Cleaning your records regularly will help them play better and stay like new vinyl records for longer. Here are some things you should be doing:

  • Get an anti-static kit and use it regularly.
  • Anti-static brushes are a great option: they last a long time and can be easily stored.
  • The brush fibres remove the static that causes dust to stick to the record and also clear out the vinyl grooves.
  • Anti-static mats can reduce hissing during playback and also prevent dust from reattaching to the record as it spins.
  • Anti-static sleeves help keep the record clean for the next time you use it.
  • Use long, gentle strokes when using an anti-static brush. Follow the direction of the grooves; do not brush across them, and never press down hard.
  • A micro-fibre cloth can help remove all the particles dislodged by brushing and also absorb excess oils like fingerprints.

These 'dry cleaning' tips are a solid minimum standard to maintain your records. Keep the brush close to your deck and use it when you play a record.

There will be times when a record needs something more than a quick once over with a brush and a cloth. Here is the method to really clean out those grooves in the vinyl.

Choose a Good Cleaning Solution

If you use the wrong solution type, your vinyl could get damaged. There are some DIY mixtures you could try, but it is recommended to only experiment on old, unwanted records. Alcohol-based cleaners can deliver great initial results but may strip the groove wall of its protective coating and reduce the quality of the sound on playback. Other cleaning solutions people often ask whether they should use include wood glue, windex, soap and water and white vinegar, mixing it 50-50 with distilled water. This is something you can try if you wish, but it is recommended that you experiment on old, unwanted vinyl first.

Purpose-designed vinyl-cleaning solutions are always a better option, and there is no shortage of choices out there.

The Vinyl Record Cleaning Method

Eliminate static and dust on the surface

Use that anti-static brush and the micro-fibre cloth to carefully remove the surface dirt, following the tips laid out above.

Inspect the record carefully

Once that first layer of dust is removed, you can take a look at what was underneath it. You will need good lighting to examine the surface for things like greasy patches, fingerprints, smudges and other similar blemishes. Be sure to move the record around so your viewing angle changes - this will enable you to see more of the grease and dirt. It may be necessary to treat problem areas several times.

Spot-clean problematic areas

Lay the record down on a clean, flat surface to avoid it taking any damage as you press down on it. A micro-fibre towel or record cleaning mat makes a great non-abrasive surface to lay the vinyl on.

If your solution isn't spray-on, you should transfer the fluid to a new container that has a spray function (just make sure it is clean). Alternatively, you can dab the solution onto the record with a micro-fibre cloth, but be sure to apply it sparingly.

Once the surface of the record has some cleaning solution on it, gently rub in circular motions to remove the blemishes you previously identified. Rub in concentric arcs following the grooves. Keep the liquid away from the centre label as it will either stain or ruin it.

Dry the record

Let the record air-dry, ensuring no liquid runs away onto the label. You could use a clean, dry micro-fibre cloth if necessary. The record must be completely dry before you tuck it back into the sleeve, particularly if you use an alcohol-based cleaning solution.

Store it safely

In the time between drying your record and pushing it into the sleeve, it will probably become statically charged again and begin attracting new dust. Give it a final quick sweep with the anti-static brush, handling only the edges, then ease it back into its anti-static sleeve.

How We Clean Records at Life of Vinyl

Here at Life Of Vinyl we wet clean all of our vinyl records using a record cleaning machine. This works by applying the record cleaning solution and the vacuum sucks the dissolved dirt and dust away at the same time.

If you’re the proud owner of a substantial collection and cleaning your records frequently is becoming a chore, it may be worth the investment.