Advice From Your Local Record Shop on Handling, Cleaning, and Storing Your Collection
You've hit up estate sales, combed through dusty crates, scoured eBay for rare gems, and harvested a few hard-to-find classics from your parents' garage. Congratulations -- you now have a record collection you can be proud of. So now how do you ensure these auditory gems last a lifetime?
Here's the rundown on how to handle your records, how to store them, and how and when to clean them. Follow these simple steps, and your precious LPs should sound as good today (or years from now) as they did the day they were pressed.
Handle records properly
Hold records only by their edges or labels -- never the playable surface! The natural oils on your fingers collect dust and dirt that can gum up record grooves. Not to mention the potential for catastrophe if you've been, say, eating Cheetos.
Give them a good cleaning
It doesn't matter if your records are old or new. Chances are, they'd benefit from a good cleaning before they hit the turntables. Old records obviously may have collected dust or grime, but even new records may arrive contaminated.
There's a lot of controversy around the best cleaning practices -- and no shortage of expensive record cleaning machines -- but you can't go wrong with this simple, two-step method. All it requires is a carbon fiber record brush, your spray cleaning solution of choice (there are commercial versions on the market and plenty of easy DIY recipes online), and a microfiber cloth.
First, give the record a gentle dusting with the dry carbon brush. Don't press hard -- this can actually push dirt and dust deeper into the grooves -- just whisk the brush lightly in the direction of the grooves. Next, spray your cleaning solution onto the microfiber cloth and wipe the record -- again, moving the cloth in the direction of the grooves.
This not only preserves your records' lifespan, but it also improves the quality of sound. Many pops, clicks, and hisses disappear immediately after a good cleaning. You'd be surprised how much noise a tiny particle of dust can make! It can also cause damage to the stylus. So always clean your new records before you do anything else. And don't forget to clean your stylus from time to time, again, using a special stylus cleaning brush.
Return records to their sleeves promptly
Once the record is clean and pristine, don't let it sit out and get dusty again. Put it back in its sleeve after you're done listening. Just make sure you wait for the platter to finish spinning before you remove the record from the turntable.
Store records properly
Like medications and most people, records do best when they live in a cool, dry place, out of direct sunlight, without being crammed together too tightly. Never stack your records, as this creates uneven pressure that can warp them or create wear on the rings. There are plenty of vertical LP storage options ranging from cheap cardboard boxes to pricier designer shelving units. It doesn't matter what you choose as long as your records are upright and happy.
Always make sure you're putting records in paper inner sleeves before returning them to their cardboard jackets. Some people like to go the extra mile to protect the jackets by storing those inside poly bags. Yes, record storage can become a veritable Russian nesting doll of layers, but we wouldn't be collectors if we weren't a tiny bit obsessed with these details.
Come by New Orleans’ longest-operating record store to talk shop
Want to compare cleaning solutions? Discuss the merits of various types of crates? We're always down to geek out over LP storage, cleaning, and maintenance. As your friendly neighborhood record shop, it's kind of our job.