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How to clean vinyl records the right way?

If you want to keep your records in top shape so that they look and sound their best, and to ensure that your vinyl collection will have a long life, you should know how to properly clean them.

There are various cleaning methods for vinyl and it’s easier than you’d think to clean them. This short guide will give you step by step directions for cleaning your vinyl records!

1. Quick cleaning

A quick cleaning is suitable for your records when handling them before or after playing them to ensure that the oils from your hands don’t get on the surface of the record.

This can simply be done with a carbon fiber brush (also called an antistatic record/vinyl cleaning brush), which gets rid of oil, dust, and dirt, as well as tames static electricity.

If you don’t have the money to purchase an antistatic record cleaning brush, you can use a microfiber cloth to wipe up any oil or dust on the record’s surface. Be sure to wipe in circular motions on the surface of the record.

2. General cleaning

If there is dust and dirt built up on your records, a general cleaning should do the trick to get it taken care of. To do this, you’ll need to make sure you have the proper items for cleaning vinyl.

For a general cleaning, you’ll need:

  • An antistatic record brush: Also called a carbon fiber brush, it picks up dust and dirt while reducing static on the surface of the record.
  • A microfiber cloth: You probably know these cloths as they are often used to clean computer screens and eyeglasses because of their soft material that doesn’t scratch surfaces.
  • Vinyl cleaning solution: Make sure that it doesn’t have isopropyl alcohol in it, or at the very least that it only has a very small amount in it.
  • Deionized, distilled water: It has no minerals in it and is completely pure, thus being safe for using to clean vinyl. You’ll need it in a plastic spray bottle.

To do a general cleaning of your records, you should follow these steps:

  1. Use the antistatic brush to remove dust from the grooves of the vinyl. Be sure to follow the grooves by going in a circular motion. You don’t have to use too much force or pressure, this should be a gentle cleaning. Using a brush is a good idea before and after handling a record regardless of how dirty or clean it is, in order to prevent oil from your skin from damaging the vinyl.
  2. Spray your record with the vinyl cleaning solution and let it sit for 5 minutes.
  3. Use the antistatic brush to wipe the disc in the direction of the vinyl’s grooves to clean up the vinyl cleaner solution and ensure that the liquid has dispersed through the grooves.
  4. Spray the record with only the deionized, distilled water and repeat the 5 minute wait.
  5. Use the antistatic brush to wipe up any residue left behind.
  6. Using the microfiber cloth, dry the vinyl by gently patting it. Leave it exposed to air for up to 30 minutes so it can dry further. Make sure the vinyl is completely dry before putting it back in the sleeve.

3. Budget hand cleaning

If you’re on a budget and can’t afford to purchase a cleaning solution that is specially designed to be used to clean vinyl records, you’re not out of luck.

There are two different things that you can use to clean your records if you’re on a budget:

  • White vinegar.
  • Dish soap (a gentle formula like Dawn, nothing with bleach or harsh chemicals).

To do a hand cleaning with one of these liquids, you will also need the following:

  • An antistatic record cleaning brush.
  • A microfiber cloth.
  • Distilled, deionized water.
  • Plastic spray bottle.

In order to hand clean your records with white vinegar or dish soap, follow these instructions:

  1. Brush the record off using an antistatic record cleaning brush, going in a circular motion, following the grooves of the vinyl.
  2. Combine 50/50 white vinegar and distilled, deionized water OR 1 teaspoon dish soap with 1 liter warm distilled, deionized water in a plastic spray bottle and shake to combine.
  3. Spray the solution on your record and let it sit for 5 minutes.
  4. Using the record cleaning brush, brush the record once more, using motions following the vinyl’s grooves, to allow for the solution to be spread into the grooves.
  5. Using the plastic spray bottle, spray the vinyl with JUST distilled, deionized water, and wait 5 minutes again.
  6. Pat the record down with a microfiber cloth. This shouldn’t be done in an aggressive or rough manner, but rather gently and carefully. Let it sit out and dry for 30 minutes or until completely dry before putting it away.

If you don’t have a plastic spray bottle to use, alternatively, you can put the vinegar/water or soap/water solution in a bowl and dip the microfiber cloth into it. From here you would clean the records by gently wiping the wet cloth on the vinyl, following the grooves.

Then you would proceed with the rest of the steps to rinse and dry the vinyl.

4. Vacuum cleaning

While hand washing records is more common, there is such a thing as a vacuum powered record cleaner. A record cleaner like this sucks up dust and dirt that has gotten stuck in the grooves of the vinyl. The vacuum powered record cleaner does this all while barely touching the vinyl to minimize damage while cleaning.

Vacuum record cleaners are extremely useful and very convenient when it comes to cleaning your records and extending their life. Since there are different models of vacuum powered record cleaners, you should be sure to follow the specific instructions that come with your record cleaner in order to properly clean your records and minimize damage.

For the most part you will simply put the record in a dedicated spot and the machine will then take care of the rest after you press a button.

Unfortunately, these record cleaners don’t come cheap. A vacuum powered record cleaner can easily cost $200 or more.

If you can shell out the money for a vacuum powered record cleaner, they are your best bet for keeping your records in the best shape and I would recommend them for anyone who collects records and wants them in the best shape.

I wouldn’t recommend that you purchase a vacuum powered record cleaner if you don’t intend to clean your records on a regular basis.

What to avoid when cleaning your records?

You should avoid using isopropyl alcohol or cleaning solutions that have isopropyl alcohol in them to clean your records. Isopropyl alcohol will clean your records fine, but with time it damages the protective coating on the vinyl.

If you have no other cleaning solutions and you absolutely need to clean your vinyl, use isopropyl alcohol very, very sparingly.

Household cleaning solutions like Windex, Borax, Comet, etc, should not be used to clean vinyl records.

Additionally, you should avoid using cloth that will leave lint behind. A microfiber cloth is perfect as it is lint free. Things like paper towels, bath tissue, face tissue, napkins, and washcloths may either be too rough or leave lint behind on the surface of the record, scratching it.

Tips on how to prevent damage to your records

The most common way that records are damaged is through improper storage and improper handling. In order to maximize the life of your records, there are things you can do that will prevent you from having to clean them so often.

When handling records, you should never touch the surface of it, aside from the label. Keep your fingers to the label and the edges of the record. Oils from your skin can damage the vinyl, especially if you don’t clean your records regularly and it builds up over time.

You should always store your records so they are laying upright, vertically, not laying down flat. When records are stored on top of each other like that, it can cause warping.

Records should also be stored in plastic sleeves. Storing them in just their album cover sleeves allows dust to accumulate on the record, damaging it over time. Plastic sleeves keep records a little bit safer.

Now you have adequate information on how to care for your records so you can keep them lasting long and in top quality. With the various methods, you will surely be able to find one that is the most convenient for you. Be sure to check back soon for more!