Unless you are shopping they are new, and often even then, your vinyl records are probably dirty. New records are static and attract dust; old logs have been sitting in boxes in other people’s basements. Take it from someone who has bought, sold, found, cleaned, and restored some dusty, greasy jewelry — your records probably need a good bath.
Below you will find everything you need to know to get (and keep) your wax fresh. Interested in other audio tips? Be sure to check out our list of the best spinning dishes and our guide on how to upgrade your home audio for free or cheap.
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If you do a quick search on Amazon, you will find a lot of products that aim to clean vinyl records. They usually use sprays and some sort of cleaning device, such as a cloth or pad, to clean the surface. However, the vinyl slots are so small that the fibers of any cloth cannot reach the inside. Although you can insert cleaning fluid into the slots, re-removing it is quite difficult.
This is where vacuum aspiration comes into play Pro-Ject ($ 499) Use a plate and a vacuum system to physically suck up the nasty cleaning solution from the slots, with a motor that rotates the disc in two directions.
If you feel more frugal, you can simply buy one these amazing attachments ($ 30) for a small store void. Then all you need is cleaning solution ($ 24)a cheap brush ($ 5), a empty ($ 50), and a turntable or old shaft to rotate the disc while vacuuming the slot solution. Look for old ones in thrift stores, as all you need is a table that spins physically, not music.
I have had amazing results cleaning my disks with this system, bringing crisp old disks to shiny clean masterpieces in minutes.
Let it roll
Once you’ve set up your vacuum system, it’s basically a situation of ignition and wax. Spread the solution on the disk as you rotate it, making sure to fill in all the grooves. Let it rest for a few seconds, then use the vacuum nozzle to suck up the liquid as you turn the disc, making sure to get as much as possible before letting any residual liquid evaporate.
If a record is especially dirty, I like to do it twice per side. Make sure you have a clean microfiber towel ($ 7) or a drying station so that the disc is completely dry before returning it to its packaging.
Scratches or deformations
You can’t clean up scratches or fix distorted logs, so store your logs in a clean, vertical environment. (Discs stacked differently may be deformed by their own weight.) Do not store your discs in a particularly hot or cold place, or in any place where the temperature varies greatly, as this may affect the longevity of the vinyl.
When buying used discs, it is important to know the difference between a dirty disc and a scratched or deformed disc. I recommend using a bright flashlight ($ 16) to inspect the used logs you are interested in buying in case of scratches and to make sure they are flat.
How often should I clean?
The correct answer here is as long as your records are dirty. For most people, a single thorough cleaning of all their records followed by a cleanup every 10 or 20 plays per side is a good start. I clean my spring. I make a lot of records that have been played a lot and newer that I’ve never cleaned. (New discs may have oils used to separate them from the press still on the surface, so they spoil faster than previously cleaned discs.) From here, it’s Netflix and the vacuum cleaner!
I’m not so clean that I wear white gloves when handling my vinyl, but if you have especially greasy hands, it may be a good idea. Always handle your discs in the most indirect way possible: grab them by the edges or by the edge and the label instead of touching the playback surfaces.
Before touching a disc, wipe the needle (I like these little gummy cleaners ($ 16)), and make sure you brush your disc so that the needle does not grind dust on the surface (the source of many octopuses when you listen). Properly maintained, your records should last for many decades of playback. Remember: a clean record is a happy record!