How to Clean Vinyl Records
Using Clean Records
The use of a Record Cleaning Machine is often perceived as a luxury, which is time-consuming and not strictly necessary. This perception overlooks the fact that clean records make a major contribution in maintaining long-term sound quality.
One of the biggest problems is that even brand new records have mineral oil left in the grooves at time of manufacture. This oil degrades the sound of your records unless cleaned using proper fluids which is why removing it makes a significant audible difference to new records, let alone old ones.
- It massively extends cartridge life, thus getting you the most for your money
- Improves your cartridge’s sonic performance by reducing stylus wear
- Further improves your cartridge performance by reducing the build up of gunge in the cantilever suspension
- Immediately increases the Sound Quality of all your records, new or old
- Preserves the life of your invaluable record collection
- Saves record replacement costs
Why use fluids to clean records?
Brushing records can simply force dirt deeper into the grooves. It’s been found through rigorous testing that there is only one way to reliably remove 100% of all debris and contamination. Firstly we need to use a specially formulated fluid to dissolve oils without damaging the vinyl surface. This fluid is most effective if agitated using a brush to lift the debris into solution. Lastly the fluid and all contamination is vacuumed away.
This process can be carried out in less than 5 minutes per record using a record cleaning machine.
If you buy used records then this is a virtual necessity and an excellent long-term investment.
Using the correct fluid
Any car cleaning expert will tell you that using a dish washing-up detergent instead of car shampoo will damage the paintwork, causing it to go increasingly dull. Records are no different – washing-up detergent is a bad idea. The idea of using isopropanol alcohol or industrial metalated spirits mixed with distilled water were very popular until better alternatives arose. Although isopropanol cleans effectively, it also leaches into the vinyl and gives a distinct change to the sound quality.
Fortunately, this effect can be reversed using a specially formulated fluid such as L’Art du Son. Amazingly this fluid dissolves isopropanol residue embedded in the grooves, back into solution, where it can be then vacuumed away entirely. You can read about this effect which was observed by a reviewer with long experience of cleaning records in a test conducted by Positive Feedback Magazine.
L’Art du Son cleaning fluid was painstakingly formulated using an optical cleaning fluid base that leaves no residue. It is biodegradable and extremely economical. A single bottle will clean up to 500 records.
The Differences Between Machines
Vacuum type record cleaning machines are all very similar and the quality of results are much the same. They all take around 3 minutes per side, to clean a record. You might well ask why there are big price differences between different record cleaning machines?
Differences come down to noise and the fact that some are able to operate in reverse which sometimes means that the record only needs cleaning once.
There are 2 types of machine vacuum extraction. Types such as the Moth and Nitty Gritty Machine use a powerful vacuum that sucks across the broad front on a line across the entire playing surface of the record at one time. These tend to be noisy (and we mean really noisy – not the sort of thing you can do whilst the family is around trying to talk or watch TV).
The other type are almost silent and do a more thorough job. They work by sucking over a focused area of the record surface and work their way across the playing surface. These are the Kieth Monks and Loricraft type models.
Don’t Leave it too late
Don’t allow your records to deteriorate and leave it too late before you realise the loss of sound quality. The sooner you address this problem the better.
Learning about how to get the best performance out of your records is a worthwhile investment of time. To help understand this important subject we offer a video to demonstrate cleaning and the various cleaning machines.
There is a great deal of misinformation on the internet about cleaning records so it is useful to hear what the professionals have to say. It is a distillation of knowledge given by absolute experts, one of whom has held seminars all over the world on the subject. It covers:
- How Records get Contaminated
- How Record Wear Occurs
- Improving playing surface performance
- Record Cleaning Methods
- Reducing Static
- Why using the correct fluid is critical to clean contamination, improve stylus performance and not cause damage
- How to choose the right record cleaning machine to suit your budget