How to clean old vinyl records
I have to start off by saying that there probably isn't a universally accepted method of how to clean old vinyl records - whatever you do, there's usually a chance that you will leave some sort of residue that someone else will claim is harmful, and there is often a chance that you might damage the record during the process if you don't know what you are doing. I've been collecting records for over thirty years so I can only go on my personal experience. I have also DJ'd with rare northern soul records, and I have hand cleaned records that I have paid over £1000 for, so while I don't claim that this gives me a divine "correct" view, all I'm saying is that I speak from personal experience and this is what has worked for me, and continues to work.
Now if you are new to collecting vinyl records, you will find no end of products and machines that will claim to clean your old vinyl records. Some of them are undoubtedly excellent and proven to work - like the famous record cleaning machines produced by people like VPI and if you look on ebay, you will find lots of other machines that are designed to clean records. I haven't ever had the spare money or inclination to buy a VPI machine so I can't comment on it, but I don't think there's any argument that they work and they work well because they are used by some of the biggest record dealers in the world so if money is no object, then look below for a ready made record cleaning machine and you're sorted.
Where to buy a vinyl record cleaning machine
How to clean old vinyl records using a machine. These are easy to use and set up and apparently work really well.
VPI HW 165 RECORD CLEANING MACHINE
Time Remaining: 6d 22h 30m
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Loricraft Record Cleaning Machine PRC III with supplies and CD Cleaning Machine
Time Remaining: 5d 1h 56m
Buy It Now for only: $2,000.00
Record Doctor V Record Cleaning Machine
Time Remaining: 16d 3h 18m
Buy It Now for only: $199.95
Okki Nokki Record Cleaning Machine White
Time Remaining: 10d 23h 38m
Buy It Now for only: $440.00
Record Doctor V Record Cleaning Machine
Time Remaining: 20d 2h 34m
Buy It Now for only: $199.95
VPI HW 17 Record Cleaning Machine Audiophile Vinyl LP Archival
$482.00 (27 Bids)
Time Remaining: 2d 3h 51m
Record Cleaner Vinyl Record Motorized Cleaning Machine AC Motor
Time Remaining: 8d 8h 22m
Buy It Now for only: $125.00
Professional Record Cleaning Service Ultrasonic Machine Cleaned+VPI 30 records
Time Remaining: 8d 16h 35m
Buy It Now for only: $132.00
Pro Ject VC S Vinyl Record Cleaning Machine
Time Remaining: 27d 23h 45m
Buy It Now for only: $499.00
VPI HW 17 Automatic Record LP Cleaning Vacuum Machine in working condition
Time Remaining: 1d 10h 37m
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Cleaning vinyl records by hand
Now I'm going to explain how I personally clean records by hand. Now as I said at the start, some people may gasp with horror at this method, but I have a large collection of original records (mainly 45s) and I wouldn't do anything to cause any of them harm as I love them all 🙂 So in other words, this is how I have been doing it successfully (in my opinion) for almost thirty years and I haven't noticed any degradation due to not using this chemical or that type of water over that time as I still have many records that I bought when I started collecting/loving records.
This is what I do, These are my ingredients to clean old vinyl records.
- Running tap - no hotter than just about lukewarm
- Soft sponge - natural sponge is great, otherwise some other non abrasive cloth - microfiber cloth will also do
- Ordinary detergent - washing up liquid.
- Kitchen towel to dry it
OK so this is what I do. I run the tap, always no hotter than lukewarm - NEVER hot as it will warp the record - I then wet the grooves of the record. I add a few drops of detergent - just a few drops - and then I GENTLY wipe this in to the grooves of the record - always wiping in the direction of the grooves. Give this a good (but always gentle) rub in, rinsing liberally under the tap to keep any debris moving off the record, and liberally rinsing the part of the sponge/cloth that I am using to wipe the record with to make sure that if I dislodge any grit or dirt from the grooves, that this is washed away immediately and isn't rubbed over the rest of the record scratching it. When I have given it a good wash, I then rinse well under the tap to make sure that all of the soap is gone. Then repeat on the other side of the record. I will then put the record in an upright position for a few minutes in a dish draining rack to remove the bulk of the water, and then lie it on a couple of sheets of kitchen towel to absorb the rest and pop another sheet over the top. After a couple of minutes, turn it over and pat the labels GENTLY (we don't want to damage a wet label by rubbing it).
After a few minutes, I will then pick up the record (always by the edge) and then GENTLY rub it dry with kitchen towel, again in the direction of the grooves - being careful not to scrub it as I don't want to deposit a load of paper into the grooves. You could also use a lint free cloth (which would probably be better!) I then give it a shake in the air (being careful not to drop or throw it to it's doom) to dry off any remaining moisture in the grooves.
And then I have a nice clean(er) record. Give it a play, if you play it soon after cleaning, and it is VERY dirty, then your stylus may help to dislodge more of the dirt, you can then repeat the above to get it cleaner and repeat again if need be. Most records don't have deep ground in dirt (but sometimes they do) so playing them while wet can also help to grind out some of the grunge. This technique works best for 45s or 7" singles as they are easier to handle under sink but you can also use if for albums or LPs BUT you must be very careful:
- NOT to bend the record when cleaning - you must wipe it VERY lightly as you won't be able to support the whole surface area of an LP with one hand while cleaning it
- NOT to bash/scratch it while cleaning - again, simply due to the fact that it's harder to handle and LP - especially under a tab - you don't want to scratch it on the tap or bang it on the side of the sink! For this reason, you might find it easier to clean LPs under a tap in a bigger sink or even in the bath.
And that's basically what I do. Now I know some of you will say I should use Isopropyl alcohol, or sterilised water and not use detergent because it's corrosive etc. but this simply works for me. As with any cleaning routine, you do it at your own risk, and you should always try it on a non valuable record that you can afford to mess up with. One final word about record labels - sticky labels and glue residue can sometimes be removed using lighter fluid or acetone (with patience and care), but be careful of writing on labels if washing them as if the ink is a type that might run when wet, then this can make a real mess. I haven't found a good way to remove writing from labels myself as any kind of rubbing tends to cause more damage than it solves. I believe that dabbing with lighter fluid may help - but there's always a risk of smudging/bleeding the ink and that can look a lot worse than some writing in my opinion.
If you want to use a cleaning solution or other product that has been developed especially for cleaning records, then have a look below.
Discwasher Zerostat Anti Static Gun Record Cleaning System Vintage Kit
$45.00 (1 Bid)
Time Remaining: 3d 22h 50m
The Groovinator Record Vinyl Lp Cleaning Solution Concentrated Fluid 8oz Cleaner
Time Remaining: 25d 7h 28m
Buy It Now for only: $15.95
Vinyl Record Cleaning System Pads Cleaner Spin Clean Solution Drying Cloths
Time Remaining: 3d 19h 37m
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LAST Liquid Archival Sound Treatment Record LP Preservation Cleaning Kit
Time Remaining: 3d 6h 43m
RECORD CLEANER VACUUM MK1 CLEANING WAND VINYL VELVET BRUSH TOOL ATTACHMENT VAC
Time Remaining: 13d 23h 4m
Buy It Now for only: $19.99
Vinyl Vac 33 Vinyl Record Cleaning Kit Vacuum Wand Official Brand Listing
Time Remaining: 16d 21h 17m
Buy It Now for only: $29.97
Vinyl Record Cleaning System Pads Cleaner Spin Clean Solution Drying Cloths New
Time Remaining: 14d 21h 10m
Buy It Now for only: $39.99
RECORD CLEANING TONEARM HK 68 ANTI STATIC
Time Remaining: 3d 9h 45m
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2 Head Cleaning Video Tape Cassette For VHS VCR Player Recorder Wet Dry Cleaner
Time Remaining: 20d 22h 2m
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Discwasher NEW D4 + Record Cleaner SPRAY Bottle Best Cleaning Washer Fluid
Time Remaining: 22d 23h 14m
Buy It Now for only: $8.95
And finally a few pointers for minimising the need to clean your precious vinyl record collection on the first place:
- ALWAYS put your record straight back into its sleeve! Never leave it lying about or sat on your turntable when not playing it.
- NEVER touch the grooves of the record with your fingers - you should always hold a record by the edges, touching the label area if absolutely necessary.
- Regularly replace your stylus - don't wait for it to get damaged and worn as by then, the damage it could do to your records might be irreversible.
- Always use a slipmat - you don't want your record resting on a hard plastic platter (as you get on some cheaper decks) as any dust or grit can translate into wear on the underside of your records.
By following the above, you should be able to keep your mint records mint!
Happy record collecting!