Cleaning vinyl records....

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Cleaning vinyl records....
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Sat, 01-26-2013 - 10:44am

Still got any of those old 45s or 33 1/3 or even 78 records on hand? I gave most of my 400 and some to my middle son but kept a few that hadn't been copied to tapes for some reason. Years spent in a cabinet causes dust and grime to accumulate, whether the cabinet is closed or not. So before giving them to DS or trying to record them I went online looking for how to best clean them without ruining the tracks and grooves. Here's the best one I found! Obviously, everyone didn't agree with the method so you have other options to choose from, but this one worked very well for me. Even made some old Sesame Street records that had almost been played to death audible and clearer! Of course, you may want to do your own research and always be very careful and use a light touch when cleaning vinyl. In my opinion, LEAVE THE NEEDLE OR STYLUS ALONE. A replacement for our turntable stylus was $80 about 15 years ago. (Obviously, we haven't used it a lot or I'd have a more recent replacement value.)

http://www.instructables.com/id/Cleaning-Vinyl-Records/

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Cleaning Vinyl Records

by

mattdp

on February 15, 2008

Table of Contents

intro: Cleaning Vinyl Records

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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step 1: Gather the items

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step 2: Prepare the water

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step 3: Washing the records

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step 4: Rinsing

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step 5: Drying

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step 6: Storage and Playback

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http://www.instructables.com/id/Cleaning-Vinyl-Records/

intro:

Cleaning Vinyl Records

This a down and dirty guide to liberating your records from all the gunk they may have acquired - all without any special fluid. I show you my method using soap, water

and a record brush. Record cleaning is a lost art, but a necessity today, where most vinyl hasn't been played in almost 30 years, and is quite dirty.

I've tried a few different methods of record cleaning: The traditional fluid and brush method, and even vacuuming the surface, and nothing got all the gunk out. I would

clean a record, play it, stop the record and find a trail of dirt.

Then I tried this soap and water method. I finally got ALL the dirt and grime off the records!!! With this process, I've been able to clean off records that were literally caked

white with mold.

Here's a sample of that record after cleaning:

http://radioguy.googlepages.com/01AHitbyVarse.wav

One quick note: The best cleaning in the world simply minimizes the amount of non-musical noise on an album. Instead of hearing dirt, dust, mold, scratches and grove

damage, you'll hear scratches and groove damage. After cleaning, some albums will sound "perfect" and other will be absolutely terrible (large number of scratches, lack

of high frequencies and groove damage [scratchy, distorted sound])

Image Notes

1. The finished product: A spotless record

step 1:

Gather the items

You'll need the following:

-A Basin of some kind

-Dish soap (any kind will work)

-A record cleaning brush/pad (Discwasher style)

-A few washcloths

-A source of warm water

-A sink with faucet

-Records to wash

-A clean surface to put the records on (their cardboard sleeves)

-Two hands

-Rubber gloves (if your going to be doing a number of records at a time)

http://www.instructables.com/id/Cleaning-Vinyl-Records/

Image Notes

1. A Record

2. Washcloths

3. An old Realistic (Radio Shack) record brush.

4. A Basin

5. Wal-Mart brand dish soap

step 2:

Prepare the water

Put an extremely small about of soap in the basin, and then fill it with about 3-4" of warm water. To active the soap, stir it around with your hand while filling up the basin.

Now place the basin on a counter top or other comfortable surface where your going to clean your records.

Image Notes

1. A drop of dish soap

step 3:

Washing the records

Put a record in the basin, and turn it around by moving the edge with the palms of your hands (as to not touch the grooves).

Once the whole surface of the record is wet, grab the record brush and get it wet. With one hand, hold the record (with your palm) and with the other, move the brush in a

circular motion about 10 times. I like to do 5 counter-clockwise and 5 clockwise. If you've got heavy grime, you might want to do more. just make sure not to touch the

label. After one side is clean, flip it over and repeat.

http://www.instructables.com/id/Cleaning-Vinyl-Records/

Image Notes

1. Gunk

step 4:

Rinsing

After you've gotten the record clean, put it in a sink and run some cold water over it, and turn the record with the palms of your hand. After one side is clean, flip it over

and do the other.

After it's clean, turn off the tap and let the water run off.

step 5:

Drying

Now that most of the water has run off, put a wash cloth in your hand, and grab the record with it. Now put another washcloth in the other hand, and grab the record.

With one had, hold the record, and with the other, dry it off. Once it's dry, flip it over and do the other side (which should be most dry by now).

Once the record surface is dry, put the washcloths on the labels and press against them with your hand. This should get the labels dry.

After the record is mostly dry, set it on top of it's cardboard sleeve, then place it somewhere and let it dry for several hours.

http://www.instructables.com/id/Cleaning-Vinyl-Records/

step 6:

Storage and Playback

I'd recommend that the record is stored in a sleeve (the paper jacket inside the cover). Paper is fine, but does shed over time, so your records might have a little bit of

stuff on the surface. Later records (late 70s and 80s) have glossy paper and even plastic sleeves to prevent this, while records from the 50s might not even have a

sleeve.

Either make sleeves out of wax paper (this will be a future Instructible) or buy some paper or plastic ones (they can be found online).

When handling records, make sure to only touch the label and edge, because finger oil acts like glue and dirt will stick to it (I've seen many a used record with blotches of

dirt in the shape of finger prints).

Unless you seriously mistreat them, you'll probably never have to wash your records again or even use cleaning fluid. Just get the stray dust off with a carbon fiber brush

before playback, clean the stylus (with a stylus cleaning brush or a lint free cloth and a drop of alcohol) , keep the turntable clean, and close the dust cover during

playback.

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Comments

32 comments

Add Comment

jukeboxgal

says: Mar 7, 2009. 5:19 PM

REPLY

We bought an old jukebox and it came with boxes of 45's...

They were filthy!

In that horrible condition, the sound wouldn't be very good, and worse they'd ruin the new stylus...

I carefully washed the 45's in very warm water in the kitchen sink with a bit of dish liquid and a sponge and rinsed in the other sink---I towel dried after a bit of

air/drip drying.

I didn't leave the records for more than a few seconds in the water, so there was no damage to the paper label whatsoever.

I probably will never have to anything else other than regular vacuum/dusting ---so this once or twice in a lifetime method of cleaning shouldn't worry you....

No need to use solvents or expensive cleaners.....

This is much easier and works.

carlos-felo

says: Feb 16, 2009. 3:53 PM

REPLY

Thanks!

I have some vinyl records with dirt...

DowlingRoad

says: Jan 20, 2009. 8:01 AM

REPLY

Some here have mentioned cleaning with the end goal of digitizing the record, even if the cleaning method is not good for the long-term care of the record.

From the perspective of professional archivists, one should always err on the side of caring for the vinyl record. Though there are many different media on

which audio can be stored, no digital medium has been around long enough to demonstrate that it can stand the test of time. Even some CDs are beginning

to degrade. To date, only the intert medium of vinyl has proven reliable for audio storage. Better to keep your vinyl in top condition until technology provides

a modern medium of equal or better longevity. Besides, you can always digitize another copy from the original, if you don't spoil the original.

http://www.instructables.com/id/Cleaning-Vinyl-Records/

kstlfido

says: Jan 7, 2009. 12:45 AM

REPLY

Good info and worth a try. But if you find you need deeper cleaning abilities, using nonionic, ethylene oxide condensate surfactants such as Tergitol 15?S?3

and 15?S?9 with distilled water would be better. Also, these will leave virtually no residue.

More info at

http://

www.vinylengine.com/care-and-handling-recorded-sound-materials.shtml

mattdp

says: Nov 3, 2008. 7:16 AM

REPLY

As in pick, do you mean a stylus?

I'd recommend you not play any records with the stylus. It's probably worn into oblivion. Besides, a 40's turntable will only play..... 78RPM shilack records (if

it is indeed a 40s model).

You've been warned.

I would recommend a Q-tip with rubbing alcohol and/or a Statler Mars eraser.

Changoman

says: Nov 3, 2008. 8:45 AM

REPLY

yes, you are right, it's the stylus, sorry :P, my English is not the best in this topic.

I have checked the model and it's from 1978 (Sorry, for the 40's stuff :$), it's a Grundig Studio RPC 600a TP

How can I tell if the stylus is too worn down to be used?

My grandpa told me that it was hardly used, but who knows...

mattdp

says: Nov 3, 2008. 5:37 PM

REPLY

If you have a microscope and know what to look for, you can inspect the stylus. Otherwise, I'd try it out. Get your records clean and if the stylus isn't

super dirty, don't worry about cleaning.

Before firing up the table, inspect the belt (if applicable) and set up your tracking for and anti-skate correctly. To do this, turn the counterweight until

the arm floats level, now set the dial so that position reads zero, then add the reccommended amount of tracking force (if the manual says). If in

doubt, set it to 2. Anti-skate should match the tracking force (so, 2). If there is no scale or whatever, set it in the middle.

Fire it up and see what it sounds like. If the arm skips across the record, the stylus is completely shot. If your getting noticeable distortion (not pops

and clicks, but rough high frequencies and other crap) on the outer tracks, it's damaged. Most styli have some amount distortion on the last track or

two.

Remember to try a few different records. Some sound bad because of repeated stylus wear. If you have any, a late 70s record or an early 80s record

is a good test, simply because it was most like played on better equipment, probably cared for better and played less than others in a collection.

If your really serious about vinyl, a modern cartridge like the Audio Technica AT-440MLa is the way to go.

Changoman

says: Nov 3, 2008. 7:09 AM

REPLY

I have recently got an old grundig turntable (around the 70's) and I don't know hot to clean the old pick, can anyone give me a tip? Thanks a lot

gjmacd

says: Jul 19, 2008. 1:30 PM

REPLY

STOP! IF YOU CARE ABOUT YOUR VINYL, THIS IS THE WORST THING YOU CAN DO TO IT!!!! I DO NOT RECOMMEND THIS APPROACH

1.Tap water has a high degree of "crap" that can be damaging to vinyl.

2. Dish soap from walmart? Are you kidding me? Its got all sorts of "gunk".

3. Never ever, ever (x2) take a vinyl record and submerge it.

There are better methods on the web, this is NOT one of them

technodude92

says: Oct 18, 2008. 1:04 PM

REPLY

gjmacd,

I understand you feel strongly about this, but could you please substantiate your claims with facts or at least suggest an alternate method? Claiming that

this method is harmful and using words such as "crap" and "gunk" without providing a link or alternate method does very little to help anyone reading this

thread.

gjmacd

says: Oct 20, 2008. 11:28 AM

REPLY

Sure.

There are countless articles on-line. I suggest reading anything in the Audiogon forums and you'll see that people (purists and even casual

audiophiles like me) agree, using anything BUT fluids that are created to care for vinyl is a no-no.

Water from the tap (and depending on where you live) can be filled with minerals and all sorts of other substances that are not visible to the naked

eye, but ARE there...

Also, fluids created to clean records and are filtered, purified and treated.

Remember, the point of cleaning a record is to get into the groove and remove particles that are sticking and bound to the groove.

This is a hard to do with just a process that you described.

http://www.instructables.com/id/Cleaning-Vinyl-Records/

Note: submerging a vinyl record will also cause the label to absorb the water!

One thing people don't realize about vinyl records (or maybe never knew).

even new vinyl, is that every time you play a vinyl record, the needle's impact on the vinyl creates heat.

The heat will cause a fusion of any particle that is already IN the groove to bond on the groove and stay there causing "clicks and pops".

A good cleaning method focuses on lifting the "groove grime" and not just cleaning the surface. I believe the method you describe WILL clean the

record, but its not a method that focuses solely on the problem -- clearing the audio path so that the needle has the cleanest possible route so that

the listening floor of the record is as accurate as possible.

If I have time, I'll put up a video of how I clean vinyl, its a method that I've been using for a while and will clean the dirtiest records and does not cost

a lot of money... (under $100 for all the requirements)

Hope that helps.

xtrailer

says: Aug 27, 2008. 9:14 PM

REPLY

I agree, this method is not recommended for purists who play their vinyl regularly. However if you are looking to transfer your vinyl to digital, the cleaner

the surface, the better the transfer. Who cares what condition your records are in 10 years time if you never play them on a turntable but only listen to

your top quality transfer on CD or your computer. Get in & scrub those records clean & see how good they sound.

fonzzz

says: Feb 17, 2008. 7:16 PM

REPLY

One thing that you do not mention is that it is recommended that you use 'distilled' water, as 'tap' water is full of chemicals that may actually harm the

records. I am partial to using the water I get from my dehumidifier, it is very clean and also 'deionized.' I also use a dash of Ivory soap, a soft toothbrush and

'wash' the record the oppisite direction that it plays (counterclockwise) for the optimum cleaning.

I also use 'painters masking tape' and cover the label with a bit of plastic. It is important to keep the label dry, and this method works well, the 'painters tape'

is not too sticky and comes right off.

Also be sure to keep your records away from heat, dust and smoke and store them vertically. And be very careful when handling your records as oils from

the skin are especially harmful (my wife works in a deli and I actually wear those' throw away' plastic gloves when I handle my records)

Thanks for your time.

Regards,

Robert Benson

www.collectingvinylrecords.com

xtrailer

says: Aug 27, 2008. 9:19 PM

REPLY

You really don't have to be that precious with record labels. I have soaked LP's in the sink for half an hour to two hours & never lost a label. They dry like

new. Try it with a record you don't like to see its true.

Prometheus

says: Mar 4, 2008. 12:44 AM

REPLY

Not so much that tap water has chemicals, but more that it has sediment that can act as an abrasive, such as rust particles or lime/calcium from inside

the steel pipes that may be part of your plumbing in your home.

guitarman63mm

says: Jun 26, 2008. 10:01 PM

REPLY

It's a nice idea, but in practice I'm not going to risk 180 gram vinyl with household chemicals. If I paid a pretty penny for it, I'm using something I can fall back

on.

I use a Stanton kit, only because if it messes up any of my collection, I'll give 'em hell, and most likely be compensated.

DjProToJeeX

says: Apr 19, 2008. 8:13 AM

REPLY

nothing beats lighter fluid and a micro fiber cloth seriously. you never use dishsoap on anything omg. my grandma did that. i wouldnt even use dish soap to

wash my car why would i use it on vinyl. as a dj with 10,000 records id only use lighter fluid as a alternative to actualy cleaner. and a closed micro fiber cloth.

the ones that are flat not the ones that look like your average washcloth weave.

sounder

says: Apr 8, 2008. 7:56 PM

REPLY

Use BASIC H (a Shakley product) instead of dish detergent.

Works 100% better and won't harm the record surface.

Sold direct, look it up in your phone book.

Prometheus

says: Mar 3, 2008. 2:02 AM

REPLY

I disapprove of this method.....the simple method is to wipe with a rubbing-alcohol soaked cotton rag once every 5 years when stored properly.

Protecting the label that is "burned into" the surface is with a brush-on lacquer, but do not get this in the grooves under any circumstances.

Brush a generous bath of rubbing alcohol backwards from the normal rotation with a cosmetic brush of human hair or softer, air-dry in a vertical position, and

then place into an approved packaging, such as a paper envelope or paperboard sleeve. Once dried, it is recommended that the LP be placed in a sleeve of

HDPE or PETE plastic wrap to avoid fibers from a paper sleeve that may become electrostatically-attracted to the clean vinyl surface, as well as the abrasion

from removing it from the sleeve.

http://www.instructables.com/id/Cleaning-Vinyl-Records/

Always play LP's under the dust-shield provided by most players. Anytime you clean an LP, you reduce it's quality, so be sure you have to clean it as least

as possible.

mattdp

says: Mar 4, 2008. 7:26 AM

REPLY

With all due respect, I honestly think your method is a little extreme. I've heard other places that alcohol is bad for your records (wears off the "antistick"

coating on top of the vinyl). I put plastic wrap on a 45 one time, and now the surface looks all weird.

The way I do it, soap and water cleaning is a once in a lifetime, "get all the grime off" cleaning. After that, just brush things off with a carbon fiber brush. It

works great for me.

As for sleeves, I'm more a fan of plastic or wax paper.

Any time you clean an LP, you reduce it's quality: Um...a carbon fiber brush is going to ruin the sound on my LP??? The question is, does it make an

audible difference? Can you measure the results (eg, digitize a record, wash it 20 times, then compare the results (look at the waveforms side by side).

Btw, any time you play an LP, you reduce it's quality. That's a fact.

Labot2001

says: Feb 16, 2008. 2:25 PM

REPLY

COOL!

+1 and Fav'd!

Labot2001

says: Feb 16, 2008. 2:26 PM

REPLY

hey, you should make an instructable on cleaning turntables, too ;]

mattdp

says: Feb 16, 2008. 3:07 PM

REPLY

Will do. I've got a few vinyl related instructibles up my sleeves.

GorillazMiko

says: Feb 15, 2008. 4:38 PM

REPLY

Smart idea.

I thought they weren't possible to clean, they would get scratched.

Nice job, you proved me wrong! :-)

mattdp

says: Feb 16, 2008. 7:27 AM

REPLY

As far as I know, you won't scratch your vinyl using this method, so you should be good. Btw, their way more likely to get scratched with caked with grit.

bhunter736

says: Feb 15, 2008. 10:44 PM

REPLY

Is that a Herb Alpert record? Nothing quite like Jazz or Classical on vinyl from the peak of the era. : )

mattdp

says: Feb 16, 2008. 7:19 AM

REPLY

Yes, it's "Sounds Like Herb Alpert." This is the stereo version I picked up at Savers (for $.99) the other day. I previously had the mono edition.

Most of the records I get are dirty, so I just wash them off before I even think about playing them. As I mentioned in the tutorial, I clean any dust off with a

carbon fiber brush before playback, so I think cleaning is really only a one time thing.

Vautikos

says: Feb 16, 2008. 12:51 AM

REPLY

Probably fine for a good initial cleaning of a very dirty disc, but repeated use of this method will make for brittle vinyl and tonal degradation. Soap isn't really

all that good for them, but sometimes is really the only thing that'll get 'em clean.

bhunter736

says: Feb 15, 2008. 10:42 PM

REPLY

Looks good to me, but only for really bad or very dirty records. I recommend trying the traditional way two or three times before going to this step. Also, make

sure they are dry before playing them. If they are wet, it will dull the sound. This may be a benefit for some recordings, as it will make hiss seem to

disappear. If you do this, it also makes the needle more likely to cut as it plays. So this may mean you only get one good play from a record if you play it wet.

Also, dont forget to clean the needle. A drop of alcohol on a lint free cloth and dab, dont rub. One or two dabs should remove any material caught on the

needle. Again, dont rub. Be ever so gentle. If you are not sure, put the cloth down and then set the needle down on to it and then pick it up. The weight of the

needle is all it should take.

Its nice to see someone share information about how to revive the music instead of making bowls from the medium. : )

Ohm

says: Feb 15, 2008. 8:58 PM

REPLY

Cool, I have a few records that I picked up cheap and need to clean so I can digitize them.

http://www.instructables.com/id/Cleaning-Vinyl-Records/

modio

says: Feb 15, 2008. 7:06 PM

REPLY

ive done a little bit a research on record cleaning and while this is a good method, doing it to often can be bad for the records. something about the soap gets

locked in the grooves or eats away at the vinyl. but the way you outlined the job, should be fine. plus thats only a serious problem with repetitive washings,

which if you take care of your vinyl, you wont need.

so two thumbs up!!

jake101

says: Feb 15, 2008. 4:53 PM

REPLY

sweet instructable, i'll be trying this tomorrow! cheers =]

Marti

iVillage Member
Registered: 01-13-2013
Mon, 01-28-2013 - 3:23am

Very practical advice, thanks for sharing here, I would have a try imdiately! :)