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How to clean vinyl records and store them safely


A dirty vinyl record will cause damage to both the record itself and also your turntable, and as vinyl is a magnet for dust, dirt and oily fingerprints, any discerning discophile (a specialist in, or collector of vinyl records), needs to know how to maintain their collection in the best possible condition.

Easy steps to keep your vinyl clean on a regular basis

1) An anti-static brush is indispensable. Using long strokes, simply brush the vinyl gently to remove the dust and dirt. The bristles of the brush will help to disperse any static charge which attracts the dust in the first place, and will get into the groove of the record.

2) Once the anti-static brush has dislodged any dirt, a simple microfibre cloth will remove it and also help to protect the record from the oils in your skin.

These steps are perfect for following on a regular basis and it will pay to get into the habit of giving your vinyl a quick clean each time you play it.

However, when a quick brush and wipe will not be enough, your vinyl may need a deeper clean and these simple steps will help keep your collection in the best possible condition.

How to deep clean vinyl records

1) Fill a bowl with warm water, not hot as heat will damage vinyl, and add a specialist cleaning solution or soluble soap. Use sparingly and mix well into the water.

2) Use a microfibre cloth dipped into the solution and with one finger, gently rub the surface of the record, avoiding the label. Follow the groove of the record in one direction before repeating in the opposite direction.

3) Step 2 can be followed as many times as required, but always refresh the solution once it is dirty.

4) When you are happy that the vinyl is sufficiently clean, use plain distilled water to wipe over both sides of the record to ‘rinse’.

Many collectors endorse the use of distilled water only, as the impurities in tap water can deposit dirt in record grooves and cleaning products may also leave residue. If you do choose to use a commercial cleaning product, read the label carefully and avoid anything with alcohol as this can remove the protective coating on the surface of the record.

Once your vinyl collection is clean, you can begin to think about vinyl record storage, both where to store your collection and what to store it in.

Best conditions for vinyl record collections

Remarkably, one of the world’s largest vinyl record collections is housed in the archives of the Library of Congress in America, and is owned by the US government. Their recommendations include:

Heat – vinyl records should be kept in a cool, dry place. Room temperature (15-25° Celsius) or below is ideal, away from radiators and air vents.

Pressure – always stack vinyl records vertically. They should never be stacked one on top of another as the weight can cause vinyl to warp badly.

Light – never keep vinyl records on a windowsill as exposure to direct sunlight or any intense light sources such as ultra violet light will damage records in very little time.

Humidity – effective vinyl record storage needs a relatively dry environment with little moisture.

Vinyl record storage ideas

Vinyl record album covers can happily be stored in the original outer plastic sleeve but it is best to replace the paper inner sleeves of your vinyl record with an anti-static inner sleeve which will avoid print-through.

When storing vinyl records vertically, ensure the shelving you choose is strong enough to take the weight. With the weight of a vinyl record collection averaging 35 pounds per shelf foot, it is vital to avoid shelf collapse. When stored on a shelf, vinyl records should have fixed dividers every few inches which will support the entire face of the record in its’ sleeve.

Once your vinyl record collection is clean and well stored, there are a couple of extra things that can easily be done to prolong the life of your records. Always wash your hands before handling vinyl (the oils found naturally on the skin can encourage fungus to grow on the record and the sleeves), and handle vinyl records by the edge and label area only. Finally maintain your record player, keeping it clean and well serviced.

Happy listening!

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