How to Clean Your Vinyl Records

How to Clean Your Vinyl Records

Your NOLA Record Store’s Guide to Caring for Your Collection

How do you make sure your prized vinyl record collection stays in top shape today and years from now? Handling and storage matter, of course. But so does cleaning them properly.

While cleaning with a brush or microfiber cloth can do wonders for your collection, you should be using a vinyl cleaning solution from time to time. You could opt to go the DIY route and make your own concoction (totally doable) or purchase a commercial cleaner. Here’s how to clean your records to keep them sounding and looking as good as the day they were pressed.

Why Clean at All?

It doesn’t matter if your vinyl is old or new. Chances are, either will have some dirt and dust on its playable surface. Older records tend to get scratches and collect oil from fingerprints, which can damage them further. But all those clicks, pops, and hisses can magically disappear after a good cleaning, not only improving the quality of the sound but also improving the record’s lifespan, and increasing its value.

What You’ll Need

Yes, there are tons of cleaners and related supplies, and even pricey record-cleaning machines/vacuums out there to choose from, but a simpler way might just be the ticket. All you’ll need is microfiber cloth, a carbon fiber record brush, and a spray cleaning solution. The latter could be a commercial version, or you can easily make one yourself.

Microfiber cloths are soft, absorbent, and lint-free. That makes them ideal for cleaning records. You can also use the cloth designed for cleaning glasses or device screens. Carbon fiber brushes are well suited for cleaning vinyl because they remove any static charge that sticks to the surface.

Step One: Dusting

Gently dust the record with a dry carbon brush by whisking it into the direction of the grooves. That way, the dirt and dust won’t be pushed even deeper into the grooves, so the going-easy part is crucial.

Step Two: Spraying and Cleaning

Spray your cleaning solution onto the microfiber cloth first, then wipe the record, again, moving the cloth in the direction of the grooves. Avoid the label though, as it can get damaged by the liquid solution.

Cleaning Solution Recommendations

There are many commercial record-cleaning solutions available, and many record owners have their own preferences. You can also easily make one yourself. All you need is water and dish soap. The water should be warm, not hot, and, if possible, distilled and de-ionized. That way, the impurities won’t stick to the record’s surface. (You can find de-ionized water on Amazon and in most pharmacies in the U.S.) As for the dish soap, you probably already have it in your kitchen, and you should only use a little to avoid leaving residue. If you’re using a record cleaning solution, follow the instructions on the bottle.

Other Good Practices

  • Don’t touch the record’s surface, ever.
  • When handling, hold records only by their edges or labels, never the playable surface. Ideally, hold the record using both hands, by the outside edges.
  • Return records to their inner paper sleeves and cardboard jackets when done listening.
  • Store them vertically in crates, boxes, or on shelves -- not stacked -- in a cool, dry place, out of direct sunlight.
  • Needles can collect dirt and dust from inside record grooves. Don't forget to clean your stylus, using a special stylus cleaning brush, or any soft, fine-tipped brush.
  • For top-notch maintenance, try to give your record a quick clean with a brush before and after each play.
  • Never use harsh cleaning solutions like rubbing alcohol.
  • If possible, buy a quality record player. It will be worth it.

Come by New Orleans’ longest-operating independent record store to talk all things vinyl. We're always up for comparing notes on LP storage, cleaning, and maintenance. We're open from 10 a.m. to midnight daily, and we’d love to see you!

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