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Vinyl Collecting 101: Vinyl Record Care Essentials

This guest post is from Chris Scalise at Big Fudge, the leading brand for premium vinyl supplies. Enjoy these tips on keeping your vinyl collection sounding great for years to come.

Photo by Travis Yewell on Unsplash

Collecting records has been a passion project for many audiophiles pretty much since vinyl records were invented over a century ago. But to keep any favorite record sounding great, it’s important to invest in the best possible storage, cleaning, and maintenance products.

Vinyl Record Cleaning Tips

To keep your records clean and sounding great, go through these five steps on a regular basis:

  1. Remove all the dust and static using a vinyl record brush. 
  2. Go through your collection once in a while, especially some of your most-played records, and check for visible signs of warping, blemishes, smudges, or damage. 
  3. Spray cleaning solution on problem areas only. 
  4. Wipe records clean in gentle, circular motions. 
  5. Store your records in sleeves, in upright positions (never stacked on top of each other).

1. Remove Dust and Static

Before cleaning records with any type of liquid solution, you should always ensure they’re free of dust and dirt. To do this, you can use an antistatic velvet brush, using gentle circular strokes to remove dust.

Most importantly, try not to get any fingerprints on the records as you do this, otherwise you will need to repeat this first step. 

2. Regularly Inspect Your Records

Generally, this is something you’ll want to do every few weeks, especially with the records you play frequently. Check for warping, smudges, residual fingerprints, discoloration, or any other signs of significant wear or damage. The latter is especially important if you regularly get vintage vinyl records from local stores.

Imperfections and some slight warping will be inevitable, especially among older, secondhand records, but be aware of anything that significantly diminishes sound quality. 

3. Use Cleaning Solution 

Use a microfiber cloth lightly dampened with alcohol-free cleaning solution. Generally, this should be a cloth that’s fine enough for you to use on a TV or computer screen.

Pay attention to those problem areas you might have just identified. Apply cleaning solution directly onto those marks, smudges, and fingerprints. But be careful about getting any kind of liquid onto the paper label on your records’ inner rings. 

4. Wipe Records Clean 

After you spray problem areas on the records you want to clean, apply a light amount of pressure and use gentle, circular motions with the microfiber cloth. Continue as needed to wipe away any smudges.

Understandably, this might take some time if you plan on cleaning a lot of records in one go. But today, it’s relatively easy to keep records clean in a fraction of the time with vinyl record cleaning machines that do the work for you. 

5. Store and Organize Your Records

After cleaning and drying your records, you should always store them in their respective outer and inner sleeves.

If they’re older records with worn sleeves or if you don’t have the originals, consider investing in well-made inner and outer record sleeves, especially ones made from durable polypropylene. Then, keep them in an upright position to avoid warping.

If you have a particularly large collection, it may be a worthwhile investment to get specially-sized record storage boxes. Boxes also make it a breeze to move, store, and organize depending on where you’re housing your collection. 

Long-Term Maintenance 

Maintaining your record collection involves more than just routine cleaning. To keep your records sounding great for years to come, serious audiophiles generally recommend:

  • Handling records with care. 
  • Investing in a record cleaning kit or machine. 
  • Maintaining your record player’s stylus. 

How to Handle Records 

To ensure your records are clean and sound great for decades to come, you should always keep dust and dirt at bay. The best way you can do this is by handling them with clean hands, and only on the outer rims.

Essentially, you should avoid touching any part of a record that contains the actual audio recording. (i.e. the actual grooves on the record)

This will take some practice, especially with those wider 33s, but after a while, you’ll get the hang of balancing records handling only the outer and inner rims.

Also, to ensure you keep dust off your records, consider using a carbon fiber brush before and after playing your record. And if your record player has a lid, keep it closed when not in use. That way, you’ll minimize the amount of airborne dust that can get on your records’ surfaces. 

Invest in a Record Cleaning Kit or Machine

Like we mentioned earlier, record cleaning kits and machines help automate the cleaning process. However, they also play a role in minimizing the amount of physical contact you’ll have to do. This goes back to a few earlier points on dust and fingerprints. The less you have to touch your records, the fewer fingerprints will end up on them.

If you have a record cleaning machine, you can just spray record cleaning solution manually, then pop them into the machine where a gentle vacuum mechanism sucks up excess cleaning solution, along with other dirt and dust that may have lingered. 

Invest in the Stylus 

The stylus is the actual needle that comes into direct contact with your records. Using a severely-worn stylus can permanently scratch or damage your records. Because of this, serious record collectors generally recommend keeping this part well-maintained and replaced at least once a year.

A good stylus’ usable life will depend on how often you play records. Typically, a diamond stylus might last 500 to 1,000 playing hours. But in between replacements, you can also use specialty cleaning solution on a stylus to remove excess dirt. 

Long Term Record Collecting Basics

Collecting records is definitely worth the investment. If you’re a record lover, we hope these tips gave you some context on the basic cleaning and maintenance routine needed to keep your favorites sounding great.

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